Nursing Students Observe Special Needs Students

SWBOCES Nursing Students Learn from Visit to Tappan Hill School

SWBOCES Nursing Students Learn from Visit to Tappan Hill School

Students in the SWBOCES Licensed Practical Nursing Program had the benefit of gaining some real-life experience when they spent a day observing physical therapists and other nursing staff at the BOCES Tappan Hill School recently.

A group of five students, all participants in the 10-month program, spent most of the day with the school nurse, Carrie Alvanza, as well as physical therapists Joanne Ottomanelli and Margaret Pope.

The school has a range of students with various disabilities, including those in the Multiply Handicapped Program and others who are on the autism spectrum and have speech and/or physical delays.

During the morning hours, the nursing students watched as both physical therapists performed a variety of exercises on two students who are unable to walk independently.

On a daily basis, the physical therapists at Tappan Hill are tasked with guiding such students through a variety of different exercise routines and activities, with the goal of increasing and maintaining their muscle strength and endurance, their joint range of motion and their coordination.

“We try to have our young adult population acquire some functional skills despite the fact that they are fragile,” said Principal Phyllis Rizzi, as she explained the complexity of delivering healthcare to children with special needs.

The nursing students were also invited into Kathy Knudsen’s classroom. On this particular day, Ms. Knudsen was giving a lesson in addition. All of Ms. Knudsen’s students are in the BOCES AIIM Program, which caters to students with autism spectrum disorders.

 “What’s after 18?” she asked the students. “What’s after 20?” “Yes, yes, yes, you got it,” she said to a student who was using a counter to help her make the right choice.

Ms. Rizzi said the observation was intended to give the nursing students an insight into the special education classroom setting and to emphasize the importance of a teacher’s interactions with his or her students.

“Understanding what it’s like to educate in an academic setting and to observe how the children are participating is so important,” she added.

Licensed Practical Nursing Program Supervisor Will Guterman said such experiences are invaluable to nursing students since working in a classroom setting is different from a clinical environment like a nursing home or other facility.

“It is also really helpful for them to see the nature of the various disabilities that can be significant in many BOCES students,” he explained.

“The exposure also provides valuable insight on how medical staff can function in a school setting,” he added.  

Nursing Students Observe Special Needs Students at the Tappan Hill School