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Chess transforms a difficult ESE student

Special needs (ESE) student has wonderful turn around due to the interesting game of chess.

Michael (name changed to protect the innocent)is an ESE student who came to my school two years ago that required special attention - to the point that he was required to be in a special room away from the other students with specially trained instructors. He was like many of the other students in the program who because of their uniqueness needed to be cared for differently.

In Florida, children who have special learning needs are called exceptional students. Exceptional students include children who are gifted and children who have disabilities. The purpose of exceptional student education (ESE) is to help each child with an exceptionality to progress in public school and prepare for life after school.

When Michael arrived at my school he had a special attendant whose only job was to follow him around school to insure that he would not - to put it lightly, get out of hand. He had several behavioral issues and a very short attention span to say the least. But Michael had one thing going for him, a teacher who was interested in starting a chess club. Mr. Dewberry was a very strict and to say the least a deferent type of teacher. In his desire to help his children in his special needs (ESE) class he also invited them to play chess - Michael was one who excelled greatly in the game.

In fact Michael improved his behavior in class and in his studies due to the realization that Mr. Dewberry had negotiated a deal with Michael - "behave in class and do well with your grades and you can join the chess club". That was his offer, of which he accepted and followed through with. Soon Michael did not need his supervised attention; he was doing well in class and in his grades - not to mention he was also one of our best players in the club. I was very privileged not only to be a part of the chess club but to be a part of the transformation chess caused in Michael. I was one of the instructors who taught him the basics of the game and like with all the children I instructed him in how chess can be used to excel in life.

Chess is a game of logic, patience, timing and focus - you have to plan, be flexible and adaptive and most of all, you have to be dedicated. These are things we all need; these are skills, tools and attributes we must acquire if we want to be successful in life. This is what I taught all of them, even Michael.

After two years I moved to another school and to my surprise Michael was also transferred to the school I started working at. He is still doing well in his grades and has no behavioral issues (that I know of), every time we meet he greets me with such warmth and always excitedly ask me "When are we going to start a chess club here". Because of Michael - it looks like the new school I am working at may have a new club - the chess club.

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