Addressing and Meeting the Needs of Special-Needs Students



(photo by Kole Gorney)

Earlier this month, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention announced that recent studies discovered a 30% increase in Autism. According to the report, the chance of a child being diagnosed with Autism is now 1 in 68. The chances of Autism are much higher for boys at a ratio of 1 to 48, as opposed to a 1 to 189 chance for girls.

To address the needs of Autistic students, as well as those with other learning disabilities, St. Paul’s School has already put programs into place to accommodate special learning difficulties.

“I think that there are other things that will affect St. Paul’s sooner, but [the rise in the rate of Autism] will indeed have some impact,” said Mary Pierson, SPS Student Services.

According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, Autism is defined as “a variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by stereotyped behavior patterns.”

Though the school may be impacted in the future, special needs are nothing new to campus. SPS has experienced and helped students with Asperger’s syndrome, Autism, chronic illness, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, auditory processing disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, and difficulty with working memory.

“The academic care for our students with learning difficulties puts into practice one of the central vows of the earliest Brothers: to work ‘together and by association,'” said Pierson. “Students who need additional help have the usual resources of teachers’ office hours, NHS tutors, and Study Supper, but they also have an additional support system.”

Pierson went on to commend the Physical Education coaches for their cooperation with the program.

“Health involves attention to all aspects of a person’s life. In that vein, the coaches give students with learning disabilities one class per week to come to the Counseling Center to work with a mentor. Often, the mentors can relate to the struggles of their students and demonstrate coping skills necessary for future success.”

Parents with students with special needs should contact Student Services Coordinator Mary Pierson in the Counseling Department.

One parent described how taking advantage of these opportunities can make a difference in the educational life of a student with special learning needs.

“My son has struggled academically for years because of ADD and deficiencies with his working memory. Through a combination of out-of-school therapies and in-school support by mentors, NHS tutors, his teachers, the guidance office, and even the school administration, he was able to go from a 1.8 GPA in his 8th grade year to now being recommended for two honors classes for his upcoming junior year,” one parent said. “It’s been an amazing transformation.”

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