All parents want their children to succeed in school. But when a child needs academic, emotional or behavioral support in the form of special education, parents want to be extra certain their school and district are equipped and ready.
“Parents want to know their kids are going to progress and get the correct support to be successful,” says Kevin Gabriel, resource room teacher and teacher consultant at Steenland Elementary School in the Roseville Community Schools district. “This is different for every child, and we recognize that every child is an individual.”
At Roseville Community Schools, robust special education is not new. The district first piloted a program for students with learning disabilities in the 1960s, and has a long history of meeting the needs of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI), according to Teresa Tomala, special education director. SDI encompasses many areas of need and is determined through a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
“A student’s needs may be in the area of academics, social-emotional or behavioral,” Tomala explains. “SDI may mean a student needs therapy in speech and language, social-emotional skills taught by a school social worker or academic instruction provided in a resource room.”
A team-based approach
What makes Roseville so unique is its multidisciplinary approach to special education. A wide range of expertise within its staff means students have access to individualized support. “One student may need a little boost to be able to make progress in the general education curriculum, while another may have a higher level of needs that include a program tailored to their disability,” Tomala says. The staff participates continually in professional development in order to best support students.
Roseville is the home of Macomb County’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Total Communication Program for students in preschool through eighth grade. “This program is unique because students require sign language as their primary method of communication,” Tomala says.
Several speech and language therapists in Roseville Community Schools are part of a Macomb County-wide assistive technology team and can help determine precisely what assistive technology might best help an individual student participate fully in class. “They may benefit from low-tech support such as a pencil grip or need a higher level of support, an augmentive communication device, for example. We strive to help the student participate in the least restrictive environment,” Tomala says.
Preparing differently-abled students for the wider world
For older students, special education prepares for life after high school, whether that means college, instruction in a trade or participation in another post-secondary program. Roseville begins planning with students in ninth grade and partners with Michigan Rehabilitation Services to offer students the opportunity to work summer jobs, when appropriate.
Support for students at Roseville Community Schools can also come from partnerships with community organizations, such as Michigan Alliance for Families, ARC of Macomb, Macomb Community Mental Health and, of course, the Macomb Intermediate School District, among others.
“We recognize that our students’ needs often stretch beyond the school day, but if these needs are not met, there is an impact on their achievement. Our students need to see and learn from others to gain an understanding of resources available,” Tomala says, offering the real-world example of how to navigate daily through the community. “Using SMART transportation can be a valuable asset to our students when they become adults to assist in employment and fulfilling basic needs.”
Trips out into the wider world offer students in the cognitively impaired program the chance to learn life skills, Gabriel says. “Taking kids to Kroger, for example, and showing them basic activities like shopping is something that maybe they won’t get at home but is very beneficial to development,” he says.
Like a close-knit family
Roseville Community Schools is a family-oriented educational community where parents want to get involved and work with staff to support their children individually. This close-knit, supportive environment celebrates progress, no matter how small.
“We have a student with autism and he’s had some great breakthroughs in the last couple of weeks,” Gabriel shares. “I work a lot with academics, and maybe a student is struggling to grasp a concept. I work with students until they have their ah-ha moment. That builds self-confidence in kids and it’s neat to see their successes.”
Ultimately, Roseville Community Schools is successful in special education because the staff is invested in its students and cares about their progress.
“We are working for one collective goal of success for the student, whatever the child needs,” Gabriel says. “This is a really great district and a really great department. We have a lot of people who care a lot about kids. This is where we want to be and that really shows.”
Content brought to you by Roseville Community Schools. For more information, visit rosevillepride.org.