Specialized Support at all Levels
Regardless of their ability, the District maintains high expectations for all students,
and in accordance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), ensures
access to the general education curriculum in regular education classrooms, to the
maximum extent possible.
To that end, there are multiple points of entry for students with disabilities in all
of Shaker’s schools, and the continuum of services is available to all preschool-age and
school-age students who live in the District.
Some students, like Nathan, begin their formal education as preschoolers on
an Individualized Education Plan and are enrolled at the Early Childhood Preschool
Program, an inclusion preschool that combines children with developmental delays
and disabilities with typical children. Currently, more than 60 students are enrolled in
the Onaway School-based program, which offers morning and afternoon sessions.
“In special education, we talk about educating children in the least restrictive
environment,” explains Noreen Smyth-Morrow, school psychologist at Onaway School.
“The research has held up that if you can take appropriate supports and bring them
into a general education classroom, then that’s the best way for kids with a variety of
needs to learn.”
The additional benefit of the Early Childhood Preschool experience is that children
are exposed to the District’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Curriculum, emphasizing
inquiry-based learning from the very beginning.
At the elementary level, children who have not previously been evaluated to
receive special education services are often identified through assessments and
collaboration between parents and teachers. This collaboration, Smyth-Morrow
explains, is essential to student achievement.
“We really strive to connect with the parents,” she says. “We don’t want parents
to feel like they have to fight for their children alone. We always take a team approach.
It’s helpful that a lot of our teachers have expertise in early childhood development
and they know the IB curriculum, so it makes for a strong program. Plus, our related
services provide a lot of direct intervention and support.”
These related services are administered through any number of the District’s
special education staff. Currently, the District employs 62 intervention specialists
(teachers who have earned a supplemental teaching license in serving children in need
of special education) and 84 aides, who assist teachers and intervention specialists in
implementation of Individualized Education Plan goals and/or behavior modification
plans. The Pupil Services staff also includes five occupational therapists, one physical
therapist, six speech-language pathologists, nine school psychologists, one hearingimpaired
teacher, and two part-time vision teachers.
Many students continue to receive interventions through their middle and
high school years, though some, thanks to early intervention at the elementary
level, no longer require special education. This is a decision made by each student’s
Individualized Education Plan team – which includes a student’s teacher, intervention
specialists, administrators, and parents – who assess a student’s progress on his or her
education plan and decide on next steps through a collaborative effort.
Students who require more specialized instruction and modifications not available
in a general classroom receive services in a Resource Room. Here, students with a
variety of disabilities are served in the same special class. Among these students is
14-year-old eighth-grader Zumyah Thorpe.
When Zumyah was 10 years old, she suffered a traumatic brain injury, short-term
memory loss and blindness when a drunk driver struck the car her mother was driving.
Zumyah’s pregnant mother, Maria, and two younger sisters Zariah and Zyanah were
killed in the accident. Only Zumyah and her older sister, junior Zulaikah, survived.
After the accident, Zumyah’s grandparents, Ronda and Alonzo Thorpe, became her
50 SHAKERONLINE.COM | FALL 2017
Zumyah Thorpe, front,
smiles her way through
morning exercises at
the District’s Extended
School Year program.
She is assisted by