"Sensory Tree" Gives Special Needs Children Special Holiday Experience - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/14/04-Tyler

"Sensory Tree" Gives Special Needs Children Special Holiday Experience

It's the season for giving, and the season for children. Kids' faces light up at the sight of Santa Claus, but for some special needs children, something we might take for granted is an incredible learning experience.

"Being able to use their ears to hear, and if they don't have that, using their hands to feel," says special needs teacher Kathleen Potichko.  Her kids are hearing impaired and are feeling the music of the season, feeling the vibrations in a harp.

"[They] use their senses to gain information about the environment and about Christmas," Potichko says.

They're using their hands, and it touches their hearts. Kids with special needs have a special day of joy.

"They can do anything that they put their minds to, and if they have the support of school and their families, they can do anything," Potichko says.

This is the seventh year for the Sensory Tree experience. People learn different ways. For these children who are so special,  to see, hear, and participate can mean all the difference in the world.

Teacher Ethel Young: "Different textures are throughout the Discovery Science Place, and different smells. And the ones that can see, they can see all the things, and it's just a very good experience for them."

Kathleen Potichko: "They are so excited. When we go on field trips and this one, their language just jumps leaps and bounds. They're signing [using sign language]. And they're excited about the world and what they see."

Learning about the season isn't complete without Santa. Their emotions are expressed differently, but through any setback in life, they learn and they grow.  They have fun like every other child.

"It's a wonderful classroom outside of the classroom."

Sensory Tree is sponsored by Discovery Science Place and the Smith County Medical Society Alliance.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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