Ross School - Senior Projects 2011
Mentor: Marty Cooper
Domain(s): Science and English
Title: Understanding Expression
For my senior project I wrote the book Understanding Expression. The summer before junior year I volunteered at a special needs camp. I realized that this was not just a summer camp; it was a place where children with special needs could feel ŇnormalÓ. I listened to stories about the constant staring, shaking heads, confused looks and taunting from other children these campers had to deal with. I thought to myself, why did these kids need places where they could feel normal? It was then I decided to do my senior project on children with special needs.
My book focuses on the pervasive developmental disorders of Autism and AspergerŐs syndrome. I interviewed a family with an autistic child, observed students at the Charter school and read books and articles on the disorders. I hope that my book will help educate others about these disorders and remind people to think twice before passing judgment on individuals with special needs.
The summer before junior year I volunteered for the first time at a special needs camp. It was difficult for me to watch girls my own age that could not speak, walk or go to the bathroom without assistance. I was able to have conversations with some of the girls that could speak. I learned about what they go through everyday, the constant public scrutiny, ignorant people staring at them with confused looks, sometimes laughing and occasionally taunting.
After this experience I knew that I wanted to devote my senior project to children with special needs, specifically autism and AspergerŐs syndrome two disorders that afflict many people.
At the end of junior year I completed a preliminary and formal proposal for what I thought my senior project would be. I decided to create a non fiction book that focused on expressive therapy, autism and AspergerŐs syndrome. I also wanted to include my own formal field study. I left for my summer vacation thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my senior project.
The summer before junior year I began my preliminary research in the field. First I volunteered again at another special needs camp. Second I watched the film Autism is a world. This movie inspired me to include a family section into my book. Lastly I completed my summer reading book The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacon .
Before I knew it senior year was here. I had a rough start to senior project at the beginning of senior year. I thought about changing my senior project medium to just about everything. I was still convinced that I wanted to do anything but a research book for my senior project. However after conversations with my mentor, teachers, family members and myself I decided to continue doing a book with a few minor adjustments. I wanted to add more creative components rather than just research.
I then finalized my rubric and decided on a final senior project. I decided to do a non fiction book that included sections on expressive therapy, autism, AspergerŐs syndrome and family. It also included interviews and a field study from the Child Development Center of the Hamptons.
As soon as I finalized my final product I began working. I started by doing a ton of research. I read several books and articles, watched YouTube videos and visited as many websites as I could find under the key word autism and AspergerŐs syndrome. This was a challenge because it was the first time I read a lot of confusing articles and websites for formal research. I also had to learn how to pick and chose important information in my research.
Completing my formal field study proved to be one of the hardest components of my book. It took me almost a month to contact a person at the Child Development Center of the Hamptons. It was weeks of phone tag before I actually made contact with Mary Jo Malone. After I got in contact with Mary Jo Malone we were able to arrange a meeting and I began volunteering the next week.
I also had to conduct formal interviews. Luckily I learned how to conduct an interview in newspaper class junior year. However, it took me a while to find the right people for my interview. I wanted to do a face-to-face interview. Some people were only able to do a phone interview or could only do a quick interview. I found two lovely people to interview. One was the mother of two autistic twin boys and the other was the sister. The interviews turned out to be one of the best components of my book.
After I had completed all of my sections I had to begin editing. I first submitted a copy to my mentor Marty Cooper. After a meeting with him he thought it should be looked over by other people. The second person I had edit my work was Patricia Lein. She provided very detailed and helpful edits. On some sections rather then changing the edits it was easier to rewrite the section. My father did my final edit. His edits helped to make it ready to publish.
After editing I knew that I was close to the finish line, I was wrong. BookSmart was the program I decided to use for the layout of my book. BookSmart proved to be a very challenging program to work with. I had completely underestimated the time it would take to design my book. I initially thought it would take a few hours. I was wrong it was something that had to be done over a course of a week. It was impossible to work with BookSmart for more than an hour before going insane. I was happy with the layout of my book regardless of the amount of time it required.
My final product is a 42-page book. It includes chapters on classifications, AspergerŐs syndrome, autism, treatment, expressive therapy, family and an observational study from the child development center of the Hamptons. In the autism and AspergerŐs syndrome chapters of my book I described what it was, the symptoms and the causes. In the treatment section I discussed the medication that some people are prescribed with autism and AspergerŐs syndrome and some of the alternatives. In the family section I decided to only use interviews. I wanted the interviews to speak for themselves. They were extremely powerful on their own. The last part of my book was the field study. I included observations from second, third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms. I also wrote a description of the child development center of the Hamptons curriculum as well as provided their mission statement.
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Holmes, Carrie. 2010. Photograph. Southampton.
Isaacson, Rupert. The Horse Boy: a Father's Quest to Heal His Son. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.
Jones, Ajiah. "Interview with Sibling of Autistic Brothers." Interview by Lyndsey A. Fridie. Print.
Jones, Kimberly. "Mother of Autistic Children." Personal interview. 1 Dec. 2010.
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Vancura, Cliff. "Autism's Effects on the Brain." Seattle News, Sports, Events, Entertainment | Seattlepi.com - Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Web. 16 Dec. 2010. <http://www.seattlepi.com/autism/info15.shtml>.
Welcome to Expressive Therapy Center! Web. 12 Nov. 2010. <http://www.expressivetherapycenter.com/>.
Year, By. "High Rates Of Birth Defects Found In Autistic Children." Medical News Today: Health News. Web. 11 Dec. 2010.
Wilson, D'ashley H. 2008. Photograph. N/A.
Mary Jo Malone
Behavioral Analysis at the Child Development of the Hamptons
She enabled me to observe students at the Child Development center of the Hamptons that had autism or AspergerŐs syndrome. She was also very knowledgeable in the field of special needs. She helped me to decide the components of my observational study and to finalize it.