Approaching disability with a positive and inclusive mindset is a foundational element of a healthy school system. Yet, even with that said, the concept of “inclusion” has a far broader reach than placement in the regular classroom in school. Approaching disability with a desire to embrace and involve allows for ALL students to be an active and valued participant in the school community, using their abilities to contribute in a multitude of ways. In October, as we observe Disability Awareness Month, and we look to highlight and celebrate the many ways that students with disabilities enrich our schools.
In order to “kick-off” Disability Awareness Month, Greg Swartz (DPSD’s Director of Special Programs), Pricilla Gonder (Special Education Paraeducator at Deer Park High School), and Elijah Rollins (Deer Park High School Senior) were all present at Deer Park’s regular meeting of the Board of Directors on September 25th. Mr. Swartz shared a brief presentation about the many ways educators in Deer Park Schools work to serve the diverse needs of our students with disabilities.
Mrs. Gonder and Elijah Rollins followed Mr. Swartz’s presentation and shared a little about Deer Park’s bowling team. For years, Mrs. Gonder and staff at Deer Park High School have worked in conjunction with Special Olympics to organize a bowling league for Deer Park’s special education students (hosting students from surrounding districts as well!). This activity provides a fantastic opportunity for students in our Special Education programs to come together for fun, camaraderie, and a little good-natured competition. The highlight of the board meeting was hearing from Deer Park High School senior, Elijah Rollins. Elijah shared the joy and excitement he experienced while participating in bowling and, when asked, divulged that he was able to bowl and an amazing score of 213…from his wheelchair! Way to go Elijah!
In addition to sharing about his positive experience as part of the bowling team, Elijah also gave the Board of Directors (and everyone in attendance) a look at the artwork he created for the bowling team t-shirt, which was created as part of a project he completed for marketing class. While the artwork was excellent, the thought that went into the design concept was equally impressive. Everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed hearing from Elijah – his passion and enthusiasm were truly infectious. Special thanks to Mrs. Gonder for her role in working with Special Olympics to organize the bowling league.
Deer Park Schools strive to provide equal educational opportunity, high-quality academic development, and a safe learning environment for ALL students – even those with disabilities. We work hard to foster a positive mindset regarding inclusive practices and provide strategies to ensure appropriate inclusion. Appropriate inclusion is characterized by practices and programs which provide for the following:
- A full continuum of placement options and services.
- Appropriate and ongoing professional development.
- Class sizes that are responsive to student needs.
- Active participation in school events and activities.
- Staff and technical assistance that is specifically appropriate to student and teacher needs.
- A system-wide understanding that inclusion is a process, not an event.