Raising a child with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities often comes with a unique set of challenges for parents.
That’s why the folks at the (MISD) connect with community schools and organizations to provide local families with free programming and services that support families and empower kids with disabilities to achieve their goals — no matter what those goals look like.
“It’s important that our local schools, the ISD and our community of teachers and families provide multiple services for our students,” says Justin Michalak, the assistant superintendent for special education and student services with the MISD. “The ISD helps provide those services.”
Services and programming offered through MISD provide a continuum of services for individuals with special needs. Services are geared toward student’s kindergarten – though some programs start even before the child enters school – and follow kids through high school and into young adulthood, until age 26.
A statewide program called Early On assesses young children from birth to 36 months who have developmental delays to discover what services they need and which of the county’s programs will be most beneficial.
“The programs we have ranges based on disability,” Michalak explains. “We have specialized schools that work with students who have significant disabilities, and we have students with medical conditions that need specialized care. We also have programs for our autism students that have severe autism, and we have programs for emotional impaired students.”
In addition, MISD also offers a transition school so that older students and young adults with moderate cognitive impairments can work to build skills that they can use in their careers.
“Our students work at hospitals, nursing homes, in the shopping malls, at the township clerk’s offices, at restaurants and as a grounds crew and many other work sites,” Michalak adds. “There’s a variety of different programs all working on transition skills and job development.”
“Throughout the county, many of the communities are trying to build inclusive playgrounds for students and adults with and without disabilities,” Michalak says. “They also have summer programming. Some of those range from summer camp experiences (or) it can be activities a couple nights a week, and it just varies.”
And even more programming was developed to help support families during the COVID-19 pandemic, too.
“There were multiple services that were developed and put into action during COVID,” Michalak explains. “One of the first things, the ISD along with the county helped to coordinate PPE for school districts – we immediately put in an order for 7.5 million masks and products for cleaning.”
MISD also coordinated professional development training to help Macomb County teachers make the transition to remote learning and created programs to help support the mental health of students and families during the pandemic.
Now that there’s a vaccine, MISD is doing even more work to ensure that local families of kids with disabilities who want the vaccine can get it.
“The ISD has partnered with Walgreens and worked with local districts to provide vaccine clinics and vaccines to educators throughout Macomb County,” Michalak says. “On April 17, we’re having a vaccine clinic for students and families with disabilities.”
Families already registered for a special needs program in Macomb County will receive a sign-up to join this clinic.