Watching her younger sister grow up with spina bifida inspired a graduate student to work with children – especially those with special needs.

"(My sister) is my hero all of my motivation," said Amy Jacobs, a graduate student in Special Education, shows a group of three year old children how to find shapes in a slash of paint on Thursday at the Ben and Maxime Miller Child Development Laboratory School in Fowler Hall.

Watching her younger sister grow up with spina bifida inspired a graduate student to work with children — especially those with special needs.

”(My sister) is my hero and all of my motivation,” said Amy Jacobs, a graduate student in Special Education, who works at the Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School located in Fowler Hall.

”We are really close, she actually graduates from high school on Friday — so best friends,” she quipped.

Jacobs has been working at the school since January 2012 and she plans to find a child life job working at pediatric hospitals. She wants to help children with special needs, as well as their families, understand what the children are going through.

”When (my sister) was in the hospital, the child life specialists would come and work with me and help me know what she is going through and help me understand,” said Jacobs. “Here, there are some kids who have special needs and being able to really work with them, challenge them and (be) there so they can be successful (is rewarding).”

The children at the school interact with students and teachers such as Jacobs on a daily basis. Jacobs explained she helps with art, food and outside play.

”We are getting ready for water day so I have things set up to interact with the kids and make sure that they are engaged,” said Jacobs.

The children at the school range from infants to five years old. The classrooms range in age groups, according to Elizabeth Schlesinger-Devlin, director of the Ben and Maxine Miller Child Development Laboratory School.

”It allows for a lot of things to happen,” Schlesinger-Devlin said. “The first (thing) that we like is that teachers get to know the child and their parents on a longer, more in depth relationship because they are with them for two, two-and-a-half years depending on their birth days.”

She added, “the other thing we see is that when you have older children partnered with younger children you have the ability and opportunity to create different social and emotional relationships and opportunities. With the younger children it also helps because they have a role model.”

According to Schlesinger-Devlin, the Ben and Maxine Child Development Laboratory School is a part of the human development and family studies program, which means that students taking early childhood education classes through HDFS would come to the school to do their practicals and labs.

Angela Giangiulio, a senior in Speech, Language and Hearing Science, said she decided to work at the school to get a feel for working with children, especially the ones with disabilities such as autism, like her cousin.

Giangiulio wants to become a speech pathologist after graduation, and work at First Steps, a school for children from birth to three years old who do not talk yet.

”They make house calls and you go there and work with the child and assess them and figure out from there if they have any different type of speech disorder,” said Giangiulio.

Giangiulio’s younger cousin was born with autism. She started going to see him a lot when he was about three or four years old, up until he was about nine.

She said that at first he went to a special school, but when he was in high school he went to a normal school.

”How he acted there, and then he actually with rehabilitation, got better and better each year was neat to see,” she said. “It was rewarding because in the end you get to see the outcome of it.”

Her passion for the betterment of her cousin inspired her to work with children and help others like him at the school.

Giangiulio reflected on a special interaction with a five-year-old girl at the school.

”One girl drew my name and her name together and then put ‘I love you, you’re my favorite,’” gushed Giangiulio, as she reflected on the memory. “It was just a really good feeling inside that she cared that much about me as a teacher and I had only met her maybe four times. It was nice to know that I had that much of an impact on her after just four days of working with her.”