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Ottawa Area Center students spend day on the water

• Jun 7, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Four Ottawa Area Center students with autism spectrum disorder recently enjoyed a day of learning on Lake Michigan while charter fishing with their instructors. 

The OAC students, who range in age from 19-23, joined five instructors and two captains in two boats from Holland for the students’ first-ever charter fishing experience. Students reeled in fish and helped the captains remove their catches from the lines.

Missy Meekhof, an OAC classroom instructor who teaches students with moderate cognitive impairments, said experiences like these are important because they expose students to different sensory inputs and engage them in a whole new way.

“We caught a lake trout right away and had a few bites afterward, which the students enjoyed,” she said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our students.”

“Outings like this give our students opportunities to experience new things and learn appropriate behavior in different public situations and environments,” added Tom Grant, adaptive physical education instructor for OAC. “Today they learned about water safety, first and foremost, when fishing. Getting outside the classroom also helps our students learn by our example, and through us talking with the students about what is taking place, and how they can help or conduct themselves in that situation.”

After the excursion, the students enjoyed a picnic lunch while the boat captains cleaned fish for students to take home, saving a few to cook at the OAC year-end picnic.

The outing was made thanks to the generosity of Powderhorn Sport Fishing and the Grand Rapids chapter of Safari Club International.

Ottawa Area Center is a service of the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and serves the unique educational needs of students ages ages 3-26 who have cognitive impairments. Dedicated teachers, aides, nurses, therapists, consultants and support staff provide students with creative academic, vocational and social experiences that develop the child holistically, promoting success in family and community life. 

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