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12-6-05 Speech therapy -- Avon special education support group

FEATURE ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 12-5-99, By NORMA HIGGINS, Morning Journal correspondent

ELYRIA -- The 38 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Avon East Elementary School aren't ready to go out and enter the entertainment business right now, but they got a good head start if ever that becomes their chosen field.

The academically gifted students participated in the Nova I Program at Lorain County Community College recently, a program designed to challenge the students and familiarize them with performing arts, electronics and radio broadcasting.

At the end of the five-week program, the students had the opportunity to strut their stuff before family members with demonstrations and performances.

It was a very hands-on experience for the students. They had their classes in the same areas and used the same equipment as college students

As Kirsten Miller-Jaster, 10, put it, to describe the experience of using the college's facilities and taking classes in three different buildings, 'I loved it, but oh, is it big!'

Of 14 school districts in Lorain County, Avon is the only one that provides this extra challenging curriculum, Nova Coordinator Marcia Frank said.

'We usually learn in gifted classes you can challenge the student by interaction with college students. This is a marvelous opportunity,' she said.

The Nova I Program is an after-school enrichment program. The students are picked up at school at 2:40 p.m. and returned to Avon at 4:50 p.m.

College for kids: Timothy Collins plays a ringmaster in his performing arts class.

The students involved in the performing arts section of the program were encouraged to develop new ideas, learn the concepts of playwriting by developing a story line, creating a setting and two scenes. They created characters using one or two emotions from a handout sheet they were given.

For their performance, Sandra Strong, program director, cautioned them. 'Do not go out and buy anything. Your imagination is requested.'

Their pantomime, 'The Strong Men,' had four students posturing and moving about the stage, showing off their strength and striving to outdo each other. At the very end, Micaela Gecewich walked confidently out on stage, stooped quickly, and pretended to pick up the imaginary coins that hopefully had been tossed to the team in appreciation of their performance.

The delighted audience gave a sustained round of applause.

The broadcasting group spent their time learning skills in writing news scripts and how to use the studio's equipment, such as becoming familiar with cameras and microphones under the direction of LCCC's media instructor Paul Greer.

They built skills in public speaking and teamwork, and enjoyed the realism of broadcasting live over LCCC's campus radio station, he said.

'I think the students were so familiar with TV and radios that they assumed it would be easy to do what they see on the screen everyday, but as well as they did, they found out it was not as easy as it looks,' said Greer.

'We learned about the radio and how to play the discs, put them on the track and to speak on the microphone to the audience,' Kirsten said.

'We don't memorize the script. We introduce ourselves. We read the news stories we have. We can either cut them out of the paper or make them up ourselves,' she explained.

'It wasn't really scary to talk on the microphone, unless you were afraid to talk out loud to other people,' Jessica Kocel said.

'I thought the most fun was talking on the radio, and playing the music (CDs),' Alexa Crosby said, 'and the most difficult was finding the right button.'

Students in the electronic class were intrigued with some of the activities they were coached through by instructor Lawrence Atkinson that involved learning the basics about electronic circuits, and how to build projects demonstrating their new skills.

The instruction 'teaches them how computers think and operate, the use of logic, such as logic in math,' said Atkinson.

'We're 10 times smarter than the computer because we can count to 10, because the computer can't,' remarked Kevin Reisdorff, 9.

Lindsey Moffat, 8, sat casually in front of a small box with buttons and dials.

'We're learning how to play games we don't know yet. It makes the lights turn on,' she said complacently.

'If you look at the numbers that are going real fast, we're trying to guess which one it will stop on,' Colin McCauley, 9, said. 'It's very advanced. It's cool.'

Often times, the students had a puzzled expression on their faces, but their faces would become animated when concepts became clearer to them.

'I like their enthusiasm,' Atkinson said. 'They may not understand it now, but hopefully, when they take a science course they will know what an electron is. It should be fun.'

Angie and Rich Gecewich said their daughter gained more than knowledge by participating in the program.

'I think Micaela is on the shy side and this gave her a lot more confidence,' said her mother,

'I liked the creativity of the mime, the facial expressions, the body language, it was done very well,' her father said.

Stephen Hinchcliffe, father of Gin Hinchcliffe, said, 'I thought it was good, gives them exposure to the theater and let's their imaginations roll. I think she enjoyed it immensely,' he said.

The students will have an opportunity in the spring to take additional courses.

Those students who had perfect attendance for a particular session received a certificate for completion from the college.

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Press, 11-23-05, By Julie A. Short

[Speech therapy -- Avon special education support group]

``AVON -- ... Avon is no different than any other school district in the state when it comes to trying to meet the needs of special [needs] children. Federal laws require school districts to provide services for children with special needs. Every child is required to receive an educational program that is individualized towards his or her unique cognitive, physical, social or behavioral needs and challenges.

According to Avon's Special Education Director Deb Dennis, approximately 300 students from Avon's 3,000-student population are receiving special education services. That number is expected to rise as the district continues to grow. Dennis has been instrumental in enhancing the district's special education opportunities, which include the formation of a special education support group for parents. The mission is to increase awareness, provide support and create opportunities for children with special needs through partnerships of home, school and community.

"Our support group has begun to work at increasing and awareness of and sensitivity toward our special needs children," Tina Moreno, a parent of a special needs student, said. "We hope to work with organizations such as the recreation department, the Avon Soccer Association, the fire department and police departments to collaborate on ways in which our children can participate more fully in the many wonderful Avon programs."

Moreno's son, Mateo, is a kindergartner at Avon Village. He was diagnosed with severe verbal apraxia and dysarthria-two neurological disorders that make it difficult for him to speak. He receives several therapies through the district including speech therapy. To participate fully with his peers in kindergarten, he uses a voice-output computer to talk. He's the youngest child in the Avon district to use such a device.

"Another goal of the support group is to get families together to share ideas and experiences," Moreno said. "We would also like to help the peers of our kids better understand people who might be different from them. Mateo has great friends at school. The teachers are wonderful with the way that they have embraced our children and ..."

According to Dennis, the special needs support group is not exclusively a parent group. "We encourage anyone in the community interested in promoting the needs of special education to participate," Dennis said ...

The group hopes to begin setting up a lending library for parents or interested parties to obtain information regarding special needs or related topics. Dennis, along with Avon's Curriculum Director Vicki Fisher, has applied for a number of grants relating to educating special needs children. The district is already developing programs through an autism grant it received last year.

"We are also in the process of installing amplification systems in all our buildings," Dennis said. "We installed 11 systems this year. The teacher wears a microphone and his or her voice is amplified through the classroom. It's incredibly valuable for all our children."

Also in the works is the construction of a special needs playground, which is tentatively planned for Avon Village School where the district's Soaring Eagles Preschool program operates. The program is designed for children ages 3-5. Education services are individualized for each child, and the children are taught through a developmentally appropriate and multi-sensory curriculum aligned with the State of Ohio's Pre-kindergarten sanctioned course of study. The program serves both typically developing children and children with disabilities.

The children who qualify for these services as a preschool child with a disability are those who demonstrate delays in one of more areas of development. Areas of disability include speech/language delays, physical/orthopedic impairment, cognitive delays, delays in social and emotional development, and vision or hearing impairment.

Regal Entertainment Group recently donated $4,000 for the construction of the playground. Several other community groups have also contributed to the playground fund.

The special education support group is also planning to develop fund-raising activities to promote awareness of special needs. During the group's next meeting, Dec. 1, [2005] an Avon jewelry-maker (Class Creation) will be selling custom-made bracelets with 10 percent of sales that evening going to the group and used to support special education in Avon schools.

Also in attendance at the meeting will be Denise Sawan Caruso, a licensed SLP and education/parent consultant to address the topic "Managing your child's behaviors at home." The event is open to all Avon parents who are interested in learning strategies for modifying their children's behavior in the home.

The Special Education Support group will meet at Heritage North Elementary School on Dec. 1 [2005] from 7-9 pm. For more information on special education and upcoming meeting schedules, log on to www.avon.k12.oh.us\SpEdSvcs\family or call 934-4246.''

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