BranchOut!'s Howard County Chapter has partnered with Howard County Autism Society (HCAS) since 2020 to provide a positive learning environment during the pandemic and beyond.
Don Barrick, Vice President of Board of Directors, Howard County Autism Society expressed his appreciation towards BranchOut! and said, "this partnership came at an especially critical time as families and students in the autism and disability community worked to navigate the special challenges of virtual learning. Having this kind of peer-centered, high quality tutoring program targeted for our families and young people was a great gift and we thank you very, very much."
Each year, before BranchOut! students start tutoring HCAS students, they first have to undergo training, which is conducted by Melissa Rosenberg, the Executive Director of Howard County Autism Society. The training is absolutely critical in making sure that BranchOut! students understand how to work with students with special needs.
Khan was one student who benefited from this partnership. "Khan got all As on his report card for the first time ever. This is a kid whose special educator in 6th and 7th grade wrote in his IEP that Khan refuses to use the laptop provided to him. Now he is completing all his work from his Chromebook virtually, he has perfect attendance for this year, an all As on his report card." Khan's mother shared excitedly.
She went on to thank Khan's BranchOut! tutor, "Thank you so very much for taking the time to work with him and to really help him. You have accomplished something with Khan that even an occupational therapist specialist in handwriting has never done before!!" Khan's mom further noted, "I can see that his skills in language have made a big leap this year because of the tutoring you gave him, and I thank you very much. I can see a child that is capable and prepared for high school and is capable of working for and earning his diploma. Khan is having a breakthrough year with his reading and writing skills, and his comprehension. He is actually reading grade level text independently. He is now writing (typing) sentences, and working on paragraphs, where the beginning of this year he would have just written a few words as his answer. Please thank the organizers of the tutoring program for everything. It has made a huge difference for this student."
Alex Cui, a rising 12th grader at River Hill High School, has been with BranchOut!'s Howard County Chapter for the last 3 years and found tutoring Khan a meaningful experience.
Alex said Khan had difficulty putting ideas in the form of words and often wrote in a stream of consciousness, neglecting grammar and making many spelling errors. He also worked very slowly, taking a lot of time to structure his thoughts. For the first semester, Alex did a general ELA lesson, focusing on grammatical conventions and vocabulary to give Khan a base to build off of. Then, they spent time reading a book, going over each chapter deliberately, helping Khan familiarize himself with analyzing writing. To write Khan's first project, a book report, Alex first spent an entire lesson going over the structure, so Khan had an easier time compartmentalizing his thoughts. Alex used this technique as they did further lessons. writing other things such as argumentative writing and a personal narrative. Alex shared that a lot of his teaching methods actually came from how his parents taught him, and it helped him reflect on his childhood.
Alex was very grateful to receive the positive feedback from Khan's mother. He was even more grateful to know that he had made a positive impact in someone's life.
We are very proud of Alex and want to encourage more students to branch out with us and make a difference. Every generous gesture helps and we look forward to branching out with you!