O’Neil, S. (2017, July 9). Interview with Sharon O’Neil [Personal interview].
Sharon O’Neil is an Education Specialist who has worked primarily with the moderate/severe population. I was introduced to Sharon about five years ago during which time I was a TA in the special day class at my high school. At that time, Sharon was one of the teachers in the transitional program in Castro Valley. Although Sharon has since left the district, she was the perfect person to talk to as she has recently completed her doctoral program and she wrote her dissertation precisely about this topic! We met at Starbucks and she was very willing to give her insight. Sharon told me about how self-esteem can be increased through natural opportunities to make decisions. When an individual has the autonomy to make choices and indicate their desires, they feel that their dignity is being honored which leads to higher self-esteem.
A notion that I had that was reinforced in my conversation with Sharon is that self-confidence is very closely linked with self-advocacy. In order to advocate for yourself, you must be confident in your knowledge of yourself, your situation, and your rights while simultaneously having the means to express your message. From Sharon I learned that the latter (having the means to express your message) is usually the most difficult part for students with disabilities. Some students have an inability to communicate effectively (or at all). Furthermore, many students struggle with understanding social norms and how to express frustrations appropriately. This experience greatly contributed to my content inquiry in providing me with alternative insights about the two constructs from the perspective of a veteran teacher and of students with varyious levels of disabilities. Through this experience, I also feel as if I gained another mentor and form of support as a new teacher going into the field.