The Saturday Six “Special Education” Edition – December 2, 2017

As its core mission, Kingsport City Schools strives to provide all students with a world-class educational experience.  This is especially true regarding special education services provided throughout the district.  The KCS Special Education Department oversees all programming for students eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). Special Education services are provided in the least restrictive environment for students (ages 3-22) through a continuum of options. Teachers and administrators work collaboratively to develop individualized educational programs that provide support ensuring students can successfully access the academic, social, and emotional opportunities available at school.

This week in the Saturday Six, let’s learn more about all that is involved with KCS Special Education services!

  1. At its core, the KCS special education teachers and staff concentrate on five key areas of focus:
    • Identifying students with a need for specialized programming and support, creating opportunities to reach each child’s potential by setting high expectations.
    • Providing activities and an atmosphere conducive to the development and improvement of social and emotional well-being.
    • Encouraging, educating, and supporting all stakeholders to be actively involved in the educational process.
    • Promoting collaborative practices across educational settings for all KCS staff, community partners, and families to ensure continuity of programs and services.
    • Providing curricular programs and activities that provide continuity and help students prepare for successful transitions within and from the school environment.
  2. The KCS “Child Find” service is used to locate, identify and evaluate children (ages 3 to 21) who may need specialized programming and support in an education setting.  This is for children who reside within the Kingsport City School district, including those who may be homeless, migrant, homeschooled or attending a private school.  Educational needs are determined through parent interviews, with medical documentation when necessary, and evaluation of the student.  Areas evaluated may include, but are not limited to, vision, hearing, speech and language, motor, cognitive, and adaptive development.  Following evaluation, if a child is determined to be in need of special educational services or a 504 individual accommodation plan, an individual plan of services will be developed.
  3. What services are provided to children?  KCS special education services include:
    • Early Intervention Classrooms
    • General Education Classrooms
    • Speech and Language Therapy
    • Occupational Therapy
    • Physical Therapy
    • Vision Services
    • Audiological Services
    • Medical Support
    • Behavioral Support
    • Classroom Accommodations/Modifications
    • Specialized Learning Environments
  4. One unique program unique to KCS is “Tribe Games.”  Tribe Games were started several years ago with the mission of providing athletic competitions for individuals with moderate to severe disabilities.  KCS has a long-standing tradition of athletic excellence, and special education teachers within the district wanted students with disabilities to have the same opportunities to compete with one another in a fun, safe, and supportive athletic environment.
    • Tribe Games consist of three annual events (bowling, swimming and track & field).  On average, approximately 140 student athletes from across the district come together to compete with one another.  At each event, BUDS, or peer tutors, also come to assist students in the competition.  All together, there are over 200 individuals that attend each event as either an athlete, BUD, coach or administrator.
    • Kingsport Athletics have always had a tremendous amount of support from the local community and the same is true for Tribe Games.  Texas Roadhouse (Stone Dr. Kingsport) provides free meals at every event for all participants (including coaches, volunteers and BUDS).  Texas Roadhouse employees, including Manager Dave Batts, also attend each event and serve food to participants.  Daniel Kilgore, a former standout athlete in Kingsport now playing in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers,  contributes a significant amount of resources and time to ensure each event is a first class experience for all involved.
    • In addition, there are many others who contribute to the success of Tribe Games: Kingsport City Schools, The Palmer Center Foundation, Kingsport Chamber, Food City, Varsity Trophies, B&E Collision, Simply-Tee-Rific and Allen Greene Photography.  We are truly grateful to live in a community that supports ALL of our students!
  5. The use of new and engaging technology also supports the world-class efforts taking place.  Through an IDEA Discretionary Grant, KCS was able to purchase MILO, a humanoid robot designed to support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or in need of social emotional supports.
    • Milo is intended to be interesting and approachable for students.  He can walk, talk and even model human facial expressions.  Milo never gets frustrated or tired.  He consistently delivers lessons in a way that evokes student responses.  This recurring positive experience creates an environment in which learners can learn and thrive.  By working with Milo on a regular basis, students improve their social and behavioral skills and gain the confidence needed to succeed academically and socially.
    • Students working with Milo learn to tune-in on emotions, express empathy, act more appropriately in social situations, self motivate, and generalize in the population.
    • Currently, Milo resides at Washington Elementary School and works with eight students as often as three times a week.
  6. KCS special education teachers perform amazing work with our students!  What motivates them in their work?  Let’s ask!
    • “My main goal as a high school special educator is to prepare my students to be successful in life after high school and to be contributing members of society. Through the work of our Transition School to Work program, students are now career-focused and are being equipped with the skills they need to be successful in a work setting. I am encouraged and reminded of the importance of this work each time I go into a store and see our students working. They are excellent employees and are always proud to show off their work. The culmination of this hard work is evidenced by many of our students being offered a paid position within the company or business they’ve been training with. Words cannot describe the level of joy associated with seeing a student reaching their potential and accomplishing their goals.” – Jimmy Burleson, Teacher
    • “As an OT in the school system, I am motivated by the uniqueness each child possesses, by helping identify what the child can do, and by helping the child be the best he or she can be. Through this process, these children are teaching me, too.”​ – Kayla McCord, Occupational Therapist
    • “What motivates me the most about working with my students is the opportunity to make a difference through helping them communicate. I can help a nonverbal student have a voice though the technology of a communication device. I can help a student with Autism understand social communication, so that he is able to be successful on the job. I can help a student with language deficits to answer questions and find success within the classroom.   It’s the thought of giving these students the ability to achieve and grow by having a voice and the means to communicate that drives me!” – Andrea Bunton, Secondary Speech Language Pathologist
    • “As a teacher of students with different abilities, I am motivated by the notion of realism and idealism driven by innovation. Students motivate my teaching as I motivate their learning. Essentially, we are all learning together through boundless mindsets. I set the expectations high in my classroom and adjust to meet students where they are through innovative strategies. This practice creates an environment of responsiveness to help students with different abilities reach their potential. Serving them in that capacity and watching them exceed expectations to be as successful as possible… that’s what motivates me every single day inside and outside the classroom.” – Morgan Saunders, Teacher 

Next week in the Saturday Six:  Exciting things are happening in KCS through the use of cutting-edge technology.  We’ll look at the Makerspace at D-B EXCEL to learn about some great tools students are putting to use!

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