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Yorktown Teacher Helps Students Reach Potential

YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Instead of letting limitation stand in the way of success, Dotty Pascale helps students with special needs reach their goals by honing in on what they are able to do. The nine-year special education teacher at Yorktown’s Pines Bridge School for kids with disabilities said she then uses those strengths to help them learn.

“We focus on what they are able to do and expand it into other areas,” she said of her students.

Pascale says one way she does that is by using talking picture frames to prompt communication. The frames, which may have a picture of a snack to signify mealtime or a photo of the school's physical education teacher to represent gym class, encourage students to engage.

Since the 12 to 16-year olds in her classroom have delayed cognitive skills stemming from illnesses such as cerebral palsy and Rett syndrome, she said this teaching method is particularly useful.

Pascale partners academic studies including English, math and science with eye contact and concentration. She also helps her students learn to master daily tasks most of the world takes for granted—like turning on a light switch or waiting patiently in line.

Even though her students’ needs may prevent them from taking part in some activities, Pascale and her team want to help those kids experience the same joys others do. For example, students in wheelchairs or walkers use the school's pool twice a week, where its buoyancy allows them what it feels like to go for a swim.

“Some of the students cannot walk on land so using the pool helps them get out of their wheelchairs and just feel weightless for a while,” she added.

Pascale and her co-workers also want the kids to spend time outside. Three years ago, her team raised funds to build a track outside the Pines Bridge campus. Since Pascale’s husband is a pilot, he auctioned off a free hour of flying time and sightseeing to benefit the cause.

She celebrates all kinds of student achievement. She remembers one particular child during her career who suffered a stroke. After spending some time in her classroom, his mother said he was able to turn their home’s Jacuzzi switch on and off. Pascale said hearing victories like that are what make her career at the institution most rewarding.

“It gives you hope that they’ll continue to progress,” she added of her students.

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