High school student speaks about autism to future teachers

June 5, 2019

Posted by the Dreeben School of Education | June 1, 2019

Mark Martinez (front row, left to right), Elda Martinez, Ed.D., Ian Martinez, and Patti Martinez, with undergraduate students from the Teacher Education Program and Diane Fisher, Ph.D. (second row, far right).

For the past three years, high school student Ian Martinez and his parents have visited Dr. Elda Martinez’s class to share his story with future teachers. 

Martinez, who has autism, talks about the challenges and opportunities he experienced throughout his life. In his words, he has an “ability to learn differently.”

“We find it important to share Ian's story because it takes the scariness out of the unknown. Seeing, hearing, and having the ability to ask questions to someone who is living with autism, in addition to what is being read and taught in class, is an amazing teaching tool,” said his mother, Patti Martinez.

In his early life, his mother worried about how he would interact with the world. Ian’s communication was delayed, he often appeared disinterested, and he struggled with change. Non-profit organizations, such as Any Baby Can and Kinetic Kids were great resources. She also credits teachers and therapists along the way who offered support and encouragement.

“It was because of amazing teachers, family, friends, and a lot of hard work from a young boy, that we are here today,” Patti Martinez said. “It is important for future teachers to learn how to educate students with autism because the individuals on the spectrum have so much to offer our society.”

Dr. Elda Martinez invites her undergraduate students taking courses in “Special Education for Secondary Settings” and “Survey of Students in Diverse and Inclusive Settings” to attend the presentation to personalize their understanding and to help them realize how autism impacts the entire family.

“The purpose of the presentation is to enrich students’ learning with first-person experiences. In this case it is a family’s experience with autism, to promote understanding, advocacy, student-parent-teacher collaboration, and to consider strategies to support exceptional learners and their families,” said Dr. Elda Martinez.

In 2018, the CDC determined approximately 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Early intervention is recognized as the most important opportunity to provide support and benefit development. Therefore, it is becoming more urgent to prepare educators and other specialists with an understanding of ASD.

“While Ian's personal growth has been impacted by sharing our experiences, we hope the presentations have also made an impact on future teachers. We hope that when they learn they will work with a child with autism, they remember Ian and are more confident in their own ability to teach all students,” said Patti Martinez.

When asked about his favorite activities, Ian Martinez said, “My favorite activity is robotics and my favorite class is Spanish.” Ian is involved in both and is achieving academic success at St. Anthony’s Catholic High School. He is considering studying theology, psychology, or digital design as he plans forward to college.

For the Martinez family, spreading awareness of autism is an important part of the journey.

To learn more about the Teacher Education Program, visit the Dreeben School of Education.