Connie Amedore has a knack for touching children and helping them find their voice.
Amedore works with autistic students in kindergarten through second grade at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Schenectady, bringing compassion and music into the classroom.
“All she sees is the potential of her students. They are not handicapped; they are differently capable,” said school principal Kristin Munrett. “She is one of the most generous and caring [and] compassionate teachers that I know. She is humble and has the temperament that everyone wants to be around.
Amedore grew up in Glenville and attended Schenectady Christian School (now called Mekeel Christian Academy). After graduating in 2001, she studied at Roberts Wesleyan College before transferring to Russel Sage College. She earned a teaching degree as well as a certification in Applied Behavior Analysis, a therapeutic approach that focuses on how behaviors are affected by the student’s environment.
She has worked with autistic students for 17 years. As the new school year dawned, she told the Daily Gazette why she loves working with students and why believing in them makes all the difference.
Q: How did you get into this field?
A: I started working a summer job at Crossroads [Center for Children]. They gave me a child and he was already in residence. I fell in love working with children with severe autism. I succeeded and I managed to get him to talk. It went from 300 assaults to zero.
It was an ABA [Applied Behavior Analysis] Classroom. I really liked its structure. I was just determined to teach him and he did. After that, I was like, maybe I’ll go to school and major in ABA and I did. I’ve been doing it for 17 years. I love it.
Q: Why this method?
A: I believed in this way of teaching children and I always fought for it. You’re always trying to think about the antecedent, the behavior, and the consequences…You’re always trying to get them to behave in a desired way. Usually with positive reinforcement and praise. You believe they can do it and they do.
Q: How do you use music in class?
A: I do a lot of YouTube videos. My team will always upload these YouTube videos. I play the piano and the violin. So I’ll bring my violin to play songs for them.
We try to integrate the music. I write songs and I produce them. The songs have a lot of [opportunities for] learn from each other so that we always stop the songs, always ask questions. It’s something we use to get them to react and make sure they’re paying attention.
It’s just amazing what you can get these kids to do when they start with nothing…and what they can become by the end of the year.
Q: Do you think there are any misconceptions people have about students with autism?
A: I think the biggest misconception is that people don’t realize what’s on their minds. My goal is to work for equity for students with disabilities by empowering them to access their world with communication and life skills.
Q: Is the start of the year usually the hardest part?
A: This year it’s more because we have some new [students]. In kindergarten, usually, they come in and the parents are very nervous. They send their child who cannot speak to school. It’s not like they can say, “Oh, it happened at school.” So, I just have to develop a very good relationship with the parents. It’s a big thing.
We do parent training. They can always text me. They can ask me anything and I always answer. So I have a very good communication with the parents.
We work with a very good team of professionals. Everyone buys into the program and sees how much these kids are improving. I always tell them, you’re going to see progress. Just give it three months. You’re going to be touched, but once you get past those first two months, you won’t believe what these kids can do.
You just have to believe. Every child is different. You really need to understand, how can I get this child to communicate his needs and what does he need to [be able to] learn. Everyone has their own individualized need.
“Getting to Know…” is a weekly feature highlighting people who are making a difference in the lives of others. If there’s anyone you think we should feature, let us know by emailing us at [email protected]
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