With disability services offered in almost every district school today is it really worth the hassle?
Maple Valley teacher Kristy Barchers says yes it is.
“I am a big proponent of state schools,” she said. “I think that state schools focus more on the individual student. They don’t focus on the district, they don’t focus on the rating of the school they focus on who the child is and they focus on the uniqueness of the child.”
Barchers goes on to explain what she feels a day is like for disabled children in the Maple Valley State School where she works.
“It’s a day of fun, challenge, reward, motivation, reinforcement, praise,” she said. “It’s a day full of pushing yourself, it’s a day full of friendship, it’s a day full of people who care for you and it’s a day of being proud of yourself.”
Sound slideshow by: James A. Garrison
Maple Valley Principal Tina Pike agrees that state schools are better equipped to help students with disabilities but says that sometimes having C.P. isn’t enough.
“That’s not typically their main diagnosis here,” she said.
Pike explains that C.P. doesn’t necessarily cause cognitive disability in children and that usually a child with C.P. would need multiple diagnoses other than C.P. to be accepted into the state school.
One seven-year-old boy who has such a diagnosis is Kirin Peters. He has been attending the Maple Valley State School for over two years now.
Kirin was diagnosed with C.P. but also has severe retardation and autistic tendencies.
Progress in State Schools:
Kirin’s mother, Athena Peters, says that Kirin has made a lot of progress since leaving the public school system in Lathrop Missouri.
“He has a ton more movement in his hands now,” she said. “His hands and, really, his whole left side; his left side…he has always had issues with that side being weaker. His right side is definitely his dominant side. But I have seen a lot of improvement in the last two years.”
Video by: James A. Garrison
In addition to motor skill therapy, Kirin also receives speech therapy at the state school.
“He only knew about…I would say about six or seven words when he started going to Maple Valley,” Peters said. “Now he probably knows, I don’t know, probably like 25 or 30 words. So he really has come a long way.”
Speaking is one of the biggest obstacles children with C.P. often face says Special Education Bus Driver Debbie Beaverson.
“I think probably just the communication barrier,” she said. “They can’t speak and I think that’s probably the hardest thing, because sometimes I just can’t understand what it is that they are trying to tell me. That’s probably the hardest.”
Pike explains that hitting goals throughout the day is one way that the state school keeps disabled children on track.
“Well they get off the bus around 8:45 or 9 and they all have benchmarks they hit from the time they get off the bus until the time they go home,” she said.
Pike goes on to say that using group time to talk about everyday things with the children also helps to keep a structure in place for all of the children regardless of what disability they have.
“His (Kirin’s) classroom has mixed abilities so some of them need to get out right away and do some gross motor stuff while some of them stay in there,” she said. “They typically have a group morning time where they work on benchmarks through group activities such as talking about the weather or talking about attendance you know who is here what friends are here and what friends are not. And then a lot of times they may have a P.E. time or an activity at the table that they are working on and then it just goes from there.”
Care Rankings by State:
According to The Cerebral Palsy Foundation Missouri currently ranks number ten in overall care according to a 2013 study they conducted with Arizona ranking number one and Mississippi rank the lowest at 51.
In addition to having the equipment on hand at a state school, it is also fully staffed with qualified teachers, aids and therapists.
This is another benefit that a state school has over a district school as some of the therapy involved with a child that has C.P. is usually handled outside of the school in public schooling situations.
Pike explains that they try to balance the staff and the student ratio carefully.
“Each room has at least two teacher aids and one teacher,” she said. “A couple of the rooms have three teacher aids because a couple of the teachers need more support. We try not to have more than two therapists in a room at a time because it just gets too crowded.”
Sometimes the question of public versus state school for children is not as simple as it is in Missouri. As mentioned previously, Arizona is currently the best state for a disabled child to receive education according to the study conducted by The Cerebral Palsy foundation.
One may be surprised after finding that out that Arizona also does not have an official state school for the disabled.
Arizona’s schools simply have that good of a disabilities program that they don’t have the need for a state school and they still topped the list of states.
The way that they have integrated the best of both facilities, both the special care needed for handicapped children, and the more social aspects of public schooling are working and may very well be the direction that other states soon start to emulate.
Arizona even goes so far as to guarantee that if a person’s child is used to a certain kind of therapy then they will find a way to make sure they still get that therapy in the public school setting according to Director of Mesa West Elementary School Deborah Kincaid.
When raising a child with C.P. there are many resources and a lot of support available to you both from the state and from private sources. For more information on children with disabilities and schooling choices please go to http://www.ucp .org and for more information over Arizona’s special education programs go to http://www.raisingspecialkids.org.
In addition, state schools for the disabled also offer many therapy options that typically are not offered in public schools.
Maple Valley State School often takes their students to a near by YMCA so that the students can participate in water therapy.
They also take their students on trips to local bowling alleys so that the students can participate in bowling which helps students like Kirin with motor control affecting disabilities to work on their issues while still having fun and sharing group time with other classmates.