Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students earning an education degree at Western Kentucky University have had to stop visiting classrooms for observations and fieldwork. Maggie Smith is a 21-year-old junior majoring in education. COVID-19 brought school challenges for Maggie, but also personal ones. She is on medication for ADHD and online learning has been challenging. But her time working with a 17-year-old autistic client, Rush Renshaw, has been a gift, an oasis in the storm.
“I’m really happy that I’m able to do it because it gives me more confidence going into my field, knowing that I’ll be able to help [older] people who really need someone who understands them and is able to work with them,” said Smith. “Because I don’t think Rush gets that a lot, and it makes me very sad.”
The pandemic may have limited Smith’s ability to benefit from her classes, but her commitment to working with individuals with special needs has yielded her unique opportunities through which she continues to grow as an educator and as a human being.
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Smith has ADHD and spent most of her life trying to figure out how it affected her learning. “I think that my education wasn’t individualized the way education should be. I was expected to work at the same pace as everyone around me and I constantly felt stupid,” Smith said. “I’m not stupid. I’m pretty smart. I’m not able to learn the same way as everyone else, and that’s okay, but I was never told that that was okay.”