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WITCC class meets student's needs

Monday, October 30, 2006

Vision impaired MMC student studies auto mechanics

Western Iowa Tech Community College, Cherokee Campus, is meeting the educational needs of all those who wish to attend classes there.

Justin Dixon, a Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn junior, has special needs with his vision being impaired since birth. But that doesn't hold Dixon back from trying what interests him.

This semester, Dixon has been enrolled in the auto technology class at WITCC and is the only MMC student coming over for the mid-afternoon sessions every day of the school week. There is a similar WITCC session held in the morning whose numbers are larger.

The instructor, Nathan Woodford of Storm Lake, has been teaching for WITCC for 12 years, with eight of those being in Cherokee. It is more convenient for him to teach here.

Dixon is the first visually impaired student he has taught but he has found it to be rewarding. Woodford has found Dixon to be quite intelligent and said he catches on quickly. Dixon also has a great attitude and looks at it as somewhat of an adventure.

Dixon said, "I found the class to be rewarding, interesting and nice to be in. I learn by listening to the instructor and listing to a CD which has the text on it, plus using hands-on tools. The class is pretty cool. I just went over the schedule of everything I could take and thought why not give this a try? I may even follow up taking the next class that follows on next semester's schedule."

The class meets every day for an hour as would any semester class. Dixon usually uses Braille text (in this class a CD) and he has a personal aide, Chris Bush, who has been at his side for six years now. He has his own computer to write with in Marcus but while at WITCC, he uses Bush to record his answers to written questions. Woodford tries to make everything equal to the other students. The class is accepting of him and it has been a two-way learning street.

"I have found ways to get Dixon around his handicap," explained Woodford. "Yes, there are a few things he can't do such as sharpen a chisel. I wouldn't want him to cut himself. But he can change oil through the sense of touch. He is good at whatever I have shown him and catches on quickly. He is very knowledgeable and smart.

"He can take tools in his hands and can feel whether they are short or long, what size, and also notes the weight of the tool. He can take things apart and put them back together with no problem," commented Woodford.

"I had another hearing impaired student who also made it through the class. He was able to pick up on vibration of sound and could tell a Chevy from a Ford motor. When a person is missing one sense, the others seem heightened to get around the loss of the other," said Woodford.

Dixon is not a quitter and wants to fit right in with whatever the learning situation calls for. WITCC also has the desire to accommodate all students. It is a good match.

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