Jackson schools taking week to raise awareness about disabilities

Monday, October 4, 2010
Disabled second-grade student Ellie McCadams and classmate Sam Nispel practice their knowledge of digits Thursday in Bobbie Reagan's classroom at South Elementary School in Jackson. (Laura Simon)

As the Jackson School District celebrates its third annual disability awareness week, associate superintendent Dr. Beth Emmendorfer said the observance is about celebrating the worth of every child in the district.

"It is just reinforcing that we are all valued members of our school community. By bridging and partnering with the community, the different businesses, it reaches out to show that we are all valued members of our school community, but we are also valuable members of the Jackson community," she said.

While it is easy to become caught up in labeling disabilities and how they can separate elements of society, Emmendorfer said another goal of the week is to highlight the similarities people share.

"For me, the biggest focus is to show even though you have this disability, you still have so many abilities, and that each of us have things we are very good at and things that we are not so good at. It is just really focusing on that we are more alike than we are different," she said.

She said educators in the district keep that in mind as they constantly adapt to meet the needs of all students.

"You have to look at them individually. What we do is constant professional development. We are constantly looking at new methodology, new strategies, what's out there and the latest research, bringing in experts to help us and work with our staff, modeling and coaching," she said.

Emmendorfer said several activities are planned throughout the district to create awareness and understanding among students. She said all students received "Everybody Counts" brochures and bookmarks, while younger students were given stickers. Students also had the option of purchasing T-shirts.

Guest speakers will be visiting schools this week, and those presentations will be used as prompts by some students to write papers in language arts classes. Emmendorfer said during advisory periods in the upper grades, there will be sessions and activities offered by special education teachers and therapists focusing on different disabilities. She said students will also have the chance to familiarize themselves with some of the aids their disabled classmates use.

"SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence will come, and they are going to go through the different elementary buildings and also to the junior high. They will bring different assistive devices and let the kids use them and learn about those devices," Emmendorfer said.

More than 500 students in the school district have disabilities. They require a range of special services, including therapy, special education instruction and paraprofessionals, who attend class with a student and offer assistance.

Emmendorfer said one technique the district uses to reach special-needs students actually benefits other students and reinforces the idea behind "Everybody Counts." The "class within a class" is when a special-education teacher goes into a general education class and co-teaches. While the special-education teacher may be there to provide assistance to one student, others receive help, too.

"We all have different learning styles," she said. "As part of the differentiated instruction that we focus on as a district for all of our staff, that is just an extra person to bring in other ideas. They can say 'I can see this group isn't getting it, do you want me to take them over here and do some reteaching with different strategies?'"

cbartholomew@semissourian.com

243-8600

Pertinent address:

614 E. Adams St., Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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