School Transforms Lives for Developmentally Disabled Students

A Massachusetts school is changing lives with the help of a teacher who's challenging students with sports and movement.

Students at the May Center School in Randolph, MA, have autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. They range in age from 3 to 22 and are able to learn and grow in an environment that gives them one-on-one attention.

"We look at the individual. Every student is unique. They have individual strengths and weaknesses in areas we try to target," said Jen Iverson, Director of Education.

Teachers like Alan Anselmi are tasked with finding those strengths. Anselmi has been teaching adaptive physical education for 14 years.

"What we do there is shape and change and modify the expectations or the equipment or the approach to meet the level of the students that we're working with," said Anselmi.

For many students, like 20-year-old Kyle, gym is the highlight of the day.

"I just play with Alan. I play with my best friend," Kyle said.

"He's a very charismatic young man. And one of the things we found very early on was that once he decided he wasn't doing something, that was it. He made up his mind and he wasn't going to do it," said Anselmi. "So I worked very very hard to let him know that not only was I his teacher, I was also his friend. I was someone who could keep him safe. I was someone he could trust."

Anselmi spent seven years working with Kyle to get him roller skating.

"Alan made it very clear," said Iverson. "The first thing we were going to do is simply get him to put the skates on. And that was an accomplishment for Kyle. And now we're going to get him to leave the skates on."

When Kyle finally made it from one chair to the other, Anselmi described it as magical.

"Nothing is better than a student rising to a challenge as opposed to me lowering my expectation to where I feel they should be," Anselmi said. "I am giving them a tool that now they can go forth and use that tool to reach out and meet more people. They can reach out and experience more of what life has to offer."

The May Center is a private, non-profit school operating 12 months a year so that students are continuously learning and building on their skills. It is part of the May Institute, which also has school programs in Brockton, West Springfield, and Woburn. For more information, click here.

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