Special education program in high demand

By Nancy Gutierrez

Lindsay Unified School District's Special Education program is leading the pack in student outreach and is slowly becoming a model for other school districts to emulate.

At a recent school board meeting Suzzane Terrill, director of pupil services, told board members about recent projects that the district will start next year.

Fresno Diagnostic Center Grant:

LUSD was selected to receive a grant that would allow Beverly Long, an educational specialist with the Fresno Diagnostic Center, to visit the school and act as a coach to staff who deal mainly with students with degrees of autistic behavior.

"She has been working with autism for 20 years," Terrill said. "She is who we go to when we don't know what to do with a child."

There are only three diagnostic centers in the state. Located in northern, southern and central California, the centers conduct individualized diagnostic assessments on students and make educational recommendations to schools. Diagnostic centers also provide technical assistance and consultation when a district is required to implement recommendations as well as consult with a student's physician and other service providers when necessary.

Long and the diagnostic center will work with LUSD to ensure the access of all students in the district to a proper education.

Long will be observing classes that have students with autism and related disabilitiese.

After she has observed classes with autistic students at each of the sites she will meet with special education staff to discuss what could be changed and what to keep the same.

"We are ready for a coach," Terrill said. "Someone with years of experience who is willing to coach our student support teams and teachers and provide ongoing feedback."

Terrill and staff have attended many inservices provided by the Tulare County Office of Education.In this collaboration with the State Department of Education, LUSD will look at ways to be more effective with special needs children and recommend interventions for children who begin to exhibit characteristics that fall in the autism spectrum.

"They want to be collaborators," Terrill said. "They recognize that they don't have all the answers in regard to autism."

Once the project has finished the diagnostic center will use LUSD as a guide and refer those districts who are trying to set up programs for their students to Lindsay.

Foster Grandparents:

At the next board meeting the trustees will decide whether or not to approve the implementation of the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP). FGP program offers men and women, 60 years of age and older the opportunity to serve their community by sharing their time with children who have special needs. The grandparents devote 20 hours a week to helping these children lead a more independent and productive life.

"It is a win-win situation for the students and the foster grandparent," said Adele Emery, FPG coordinator. "Both get an added sense of value to their lives."

Instead of formal education the grandparents impart wisdom that comes from age and experience. The foster grandparents volunteer in classrooms, Head Start centers and other developmental centers. They read with the children, go for walks, play and even give hugs to the children during the school day.

LUSD already has three seniors willing to volunteer for the program should it receive board approval. Emery said Marilyn Johnson, Carol Schneidewind and Ernest DeCoito are all interested in helping students in Lindsay. In return for their services they receive a small stipend, transportation reinbursment, one meal a day, paid holidays an annual physical and monthly inservice training to help with tutoring.

"They might help them learn to tie their shoes or work with the child's social skills on the playground. Whatever is appropriate depending on the disability," Emery said.

FGP is available through the National Senior Service Corp and is funded through a federal grant from the Corporation for National Service and the California Department of Developmental Services.

Fresno Pacific Research Study:

Fresno Pacific University contacted LUSD to be a part of a research study concerning special education students in the classroom. They will conduct their research next year. A more in depth article on the study will be in next week's Gazette.

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