JiJi Furnishes Classroom for Students with Autism

Students in Ms. De Leon‘s SUCSESS classroom at Washington Elementary School in Santa Ana, CA got a big surprise last week when they entered their classroom to find brand new furniture and extra school supplies.

SUCSESSclassroom3.jpegMarissa De Leon started her first school year this September with the bare minimum in her classroom and no budget to create an environment that meets the sensory and pro-social needs of her students with Autism.

It is common that first year teachers don’t have many supplies. It’s even tougher for Special Education teachers who have a limited budget to address the exact needs of their students. Ms. De Leon and other teachers at Washington Elementary School use SUCSESS strategies (Systematic Utilization of Comprehensive Strategies Ensuring Student Success) to meet the needs of their students with Autism. One of these strategies inlcudes sensory integration, which requires certain equipment to implement.

Thanks to a group of creative colleagues at MIND Research Institute, the classroom is now furnished with beanbag chairs, a learning carpet, pillows, bookshelves and a Lego table. Furniture like this not only adds comfort to their learning environment but also provides a distinct area for sensory learning in the SUCSESS classroom.

“I am happy to say that the boys are thrilled!” said Marissa De Leon, after seeing her student’s reactions to the improved classroom. “They love the Lego table and the beanbag chairs; this area meets their sensory needs and I am so unbelievably grateful for all the support and effort from the team! I cannot say thank you enough!”


MIND Colleagues Give Back

washingtonelementary-1.jpg“When we as designers started to think about our work in the context of being a social benefit organization, I was trying to think, how can we personally go further than our ST Math program and make a difference in a local classroom?” said Young Lee, a Multimedia Designer and one of my colleagues at MIND Research Institute. Young was one of several artists (including Jo Zafra, Siwei Liu, Cass Cooper, James Huang, Christina Wu, Delicia Sepulveda and Jules Zafra) who created works of art featuring JiJi, the penguin from ST Math, and raised funds for the classroom makeover. This project was part of our OpenMINDs initiative, which enables colleagues to spend up to 5% of their work hours on volunteer work and projects outside of their normal job description.


“I don’t usually get to go to the classrooms, where I would be able to see the positive impact ST Math has on students every day. It felt really good to see the impact of this project firsthand, in a tangible way,” Young said.

Young and Siwei also created a JiJi 5-Point Scale so the students of Ms. De Leon’s class can express their emotions without having to speak right away. Based on the Incredible 5-Point Scale developed by Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis, each student has a button for each point on the scale, and they wear the button that corresponds with their current emotional state. This is one of the many innovative tools teachers like Ms. De Leon are implementing in the SUCSESS classroom.

Teachers are welcome to download the JiJi 5-Point Scale and JiJi emotion images to print as stickers or buttons for use in their own classrooms.

I am proud to share this story of colleagues going beyond donating money and using their unique skills and talents to create something new and make a difference in their local community.

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Maria Cervantes

About the Author

Maria Cervantes is the Community Partnerships Director at MIND Research Institute. Find her on Twitter @magucervantes1.


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