The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 22, 2006

Teachers, guardians partner to help students with special needs

By Cass Rains

Meeting the needs of students to enhance learning is the goal of every teacher.

But if students can’t see what is being presented to them, it can make an already tasking learning process even more difficult.

Enid Public Schools director of special and gifted education said the school system wants each of its students to succeed.

“We give them whatever support they need to be successful in the classroom,” said David McCune, special and gifted education director.

McCune and special education teacher Pat Ritter said the process of providing the right help to students with special needs begins with a referral.

They said parents, grandparents, guardians, teachers or doctors could refer a student for special education services.

“Parents or guardians are welcome to contact us,” McCune said, “and that initiates the process.”

The process begins with determining if a student is eligible for special needs, by state standards, and a review of the student’s performance and academic history.

“Once all of the necessary information is gathered, an eligibility team meets to see if the student meets the (state’s) requirements,” McCune said. “If eligible, then, it is essentially turned over to the teacher.”

Up until two years ago, Ritter was a classroom teacher, the same kind she assists now with their special needs students.

“It’s really fascinating,” Ritter said about studying to help students with special needs. “Now I get to help an individual student on an individual basis.”

Ritter said there are 11 students with special visual needs at seven schools in the district.

“They range from ages 3 to 21,” she said.

Ritter spent two summers taking a state certification course to work with children with special educational needs at a school for the blind in Muskogee.

Ritter, along with other teachers and special needs students, spent two Junes in intensive graduate-level courses learning braille and how to interact with special need students.

Ritter said the school she attended those two summers provides outreach if it is needed.

“When I’ve got a question,” Ritter said, “I’ve got backup to call.”

Ritter said improving classroom experience of a student with a visual impairment could de done by providing special supplies, such as larger print texts or enlargements of assignments, or by having a paraprofessional aid translate or transcribe work on the chalkboard.

“It might be as simple as moving a child’s seat,” she said.

Ritter either works with the students directly or can consult with teachers if the problem is something simple, such as putting down the blinds or turning off a specific light.

McCune and Ritter said they try to use adaptive techniques and technologies to keep children in their classrooms.

“We try to keep the children in the same setting,” McCune said.

Using adaptive methods allows the methods to be applied to each child specially.

“There are no two children alike,” Ritter said. “No two days are ever the same.