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Posted November 4, 2016

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Supt. Reedy recognizes those in the APS family who work with students with disabilities.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This old adage came to mind recently as I visited the APS Autism Center, one of the many wonderful services provided for our special education students.

The center housed on the Highland High School campus has been specially designed for students with autism-spectrum disorders. There are quiet rooms in every classroom, a sensory room, colored lights, floors that don’t make sound, adaptive technology, a lovely and secure outdoor play area. And of course there is a dedicated staff, led by principal Roberta Casados, of teachers, EAs and behavior management specialists who work in partnership with occupational and physical therapists, speech and language pathologists and community services.

We’ve come a long way from when I started teaching special education four decades ago. We didn’t understand many of the challenges faced by students and families. We didn’t have the technology, research and data to help create learning environments that best accommodate student needs.

What we did have then – and what I saw at the Autism Center – was passion, empathy, patience and caring. What drove us then, and what continues to drive all of you who work with children who have disabilities, is a desire to help students prosper not only academically but also socially. It’s what we want for all of our students – an opportunity for a bright future.

There are so many in the APS family who work in special education. Nearly one in five of our students has a disability, whether it be learning, speech-language, health impairments, autism, development delays, cognitive or emotional disabilities, or something else that can impact their learning. We also have 5,000 students with giftedness who are served by the special education department.

You all understand that it’s about making connections. You all know that it takes patience and understanding. You all want what’s best for these children. As Roberta put it, you work from the top down – in other words, you see the potential, the possibilities, and you strive to get our students there.

It’s not easy work. It’s not always appreciated, unfortunately, But I want you to know that I appreciate you. I am grateful for our special education teachers, educational assistants, therapists, social workers, diagnosticians, psychologists, sign-language interpreters, audiologists, rehabilitation counselors. I acknowledge our resource teachers who support special education teachers with training and coaching. I recognize the hard work of administrators who deal with more than 800 federal and state regulations, compliance, accountability and litigation.

To all of you who work with our special education population – and really, that’s all of us at some point – I say thanks for caring. Thanks for your empathy, your patience, your passion. Keep up the good work.

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