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posted: 4/19/2012 11:49 AM

Specially trained staff plays increased role in education

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By Ed Rafferty
District 54 Superintendent

The expectations and additional requirements that are placed on schools continue to grow at an exponential rate.

Public school districts are required to provide an increasing array of services to address the needs of students who attend both public and private schools. Each year, new laws are passed at the state and federal levels that add mandates, usually without the necessary funding, to the list of services that we are required to provide.

The intent of every new regulation is laudable. Our state and federal legislators listen to the concerns of their constituents and work to pass legislation that aims to improve the quality of life experiences for, in our case, school-aged children.

Many of these laws have helped to guarantee the basic rights of children and assure that all students are provided with an appropriate education that best addresses their individual learning needs.

The services are often extremely costly to deliver. However, they have enabled many more students, who may otherwise not have been successful, to succeed.

When we think about people who work in schools, typically teachers, a secretary and the principal come to mind. To provide the types of mandated services that public schools offer, you will now find a variety of specially trained professionals working in our schools.

Special education teachers deliver individualized educational supports to students with a range of disabilities, including learning and behavior disorders, cognitive impairments, autism and physical impairments, to name only a few.

These supports are customized to address the unique learning needs of each student, with the ultimate goal of helping them to reach their full potential.

With the increasing number of English-language learners in schools today, districts need additional bilingual teachers who use specific instructional approaches to help these students learn English as quickly as possible.

School nurses play a crucial role in supporting students in school. In addition to providing emergency medical care throughout the day, these professionals develop individualized care plans to manage and address the diverse and complex health needs of our students.

For students struggling with social, emotional and behavioral issues, psychologists and social workers counsel, mentor and collaborate with teachers, parents and other mental health professionals. They proactively help to address the behavioral and social problems that interfere with school success.

Occupational and physical therapists work with students who have physical, developmental and other medical conditions that interfere with learning. The goal of these therapists is to improve students' abilities to function as independently as possible and effectively perform daily living tasks.

Communication is an essential skill that many of us take for granted. Speech and language pathologists treat all types of language, speech, voice, fluency and related disorders that interfere with a student's ability to communicate effectively.

Better Hearing and Speech Month is celebrated in May, with this year's slogan being Connecting People through Communication. Please join me in honoring this particular group of professionals and thanking all of our specially trained support personnel who provide these highly specialized services, which are instrumental in ensuring that our students are successful in high school and beyond.

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