Local school breaks barriers.
Gayle Abril, Principal at Valley View Community School got an email in late January that began with the word; congratulations.
As it turns out, Valley View was determined to be a finalist for the California Advisory Commission for Special Education’s GOAL Award.
GOAL stands for Grazer Outstanding Achievement in Learning Award, and it looks for schools with the top Special Education techniques.
Valley View’s Win-Win program caught their eye because it integrates the Special Education population in with the rest of the school.
“We just came together and started brainstorming ways of inclusion,” said Abril. “It could be buddy classes, birthday card buddies…just any way you can imagine.”
The buddy programs put classes together for a scheduled time once a week. Here you could see a 5th grade class join with a 1st grade class, or even a 6th grade class joining with a disabled class. There, the students help each other, be it by reading to younger kids, or helping special needs kids paint.
The mere act of bringing different students into the same classroom stimulated a response that Mrs. Abril and her staff did not foresee.
“We always knew that our special needs kids would benefit, but what we found was the extreme benefit for everyone else,” said Abril.
“It's very easy to have compassion for the child who’s in the wheelchair, it’s difficult to have compassion for the kid sitting next to you who bugs you. That’s where the compassion transfers over.”
And one week ago when Valley View students were united in the process of painting a mural for the special needs department, it was clear that the barrier between the two different groups of students was gone.
Mrs. Abril says that the students are at a point where the disability doesn’t even come up in conversation.
“They start talking like typical 6th graders, and they name every student in the program, and instead of saying ‘oh, this kid’s in a wheelchair,’ they say things like ‘oh, she’s such a drama queen’ and things like that. They really have seen past the disability.”
There was a time when many remember the Special Education children being kept totally separate from the rest of the school.
In fact, a few years ago the entire Special Education Department was a County run program, with a different principal and administration office.
When the special needs students integrated into the school districts, each one took a different segment. Sulphur Springs School District, of which Valley View is a part of, took the medically fragile students.
So it’s a big step forward in just a few years. The program doesn’t just aid the special needs children by adding a quality of life. It also changes the everyday student, perhaps forever. It’s not complicated, although it is brilliant. A simple dose of humanity, by way of the buddy system.