Elizabeth Doney Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High School Special Education program is preparing its students to dream and to achieve those dreams with coordinated help and support of parents, teachers and school administrators. Karla Wohlwend, who heads the program, is very involved with every student. She retains a broad knowledge of the 13 categories of disabilities, degrees of severity and what the staff is required to provide the students with as mandated by the state. She is aware of Individual Education Plans and everything in those plans from strengths, weaknesses, goals and dreams to what type of environment they need to receive an appropriate education in a specially accommodated classroom setting. According to Wohlwend, the primary component of the program is to encourage annual progress in each student according to what is outlined in their plan. These students’ progress is accurately measured by the plan, not a one-size-fits-all grade level comparison with students who have no disabilities. Currently, the No Child Left Behind Act that affects all public schools decrees that all children need to be at a proficient level, but it makes it very difficult for students with identified disabilities who, if they could be proficient, wouldn’t need to be in special education. “As special educators, we are always working to help our children be successful,” Wohlwend said. “However, the success is not easily measured with a pencil and Paper test. We work with children from pre-school age to 19 years of age, over 300 students are currently identified as developmentally disabled. With each of those students come differences in categories of disabilities and in levels of intelligence.” “For instance, not all 17-yearolds with a disability are going to be reading at a senior level. If their disability is in a category will most likely only achieve functional life skills, then their reading will be geared toward safety and survival. They will learn words like stop, danger or poison,” she explained. “Certainly our goal is to improve their reading and their written expression skills. This is done by utilizing materials and methods that will match up with their learning style or needs. “ The program has discovered that for some kids, being in a smaller group with more opportunity for repetition will be a great help. Wohlwend firmly believes in having the students with disabilities immersed with students without disabilities. Havre Superintendent Kirk Miller took concerns of current progress measurements in students with disabilities progress measurements to the the Governmental Affairs Committee of the National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington, D.C., last week. Miller presented accountability for the progress of these students to the committee who is currently addressing the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Act on behalf of Havre Public Schools, Montana and other states with similar educational settings. With the local care, knowledge and support addressing special education, it is evident that these students are a very important part of the Havre Community. To help them make the transition from their high school setting into the real world, their teachers and parents begin concentrating on student’s dreams for their life as early as 16 years of age. Working together, individual education plans begin to take on a guidance and counseling role, a process that takes the interested listening, interaction and involvement to the next level. The students’ aspirations are discussed with careful, positive realism and teachers become the connection to college or careers that is envisioned with hope. Class schedules become geared toward their adult aspirations. Determination, hard work and perseverance is called success by their parents and teachers, no matter what the end result may be.