Making sure that special ed students receive an academic education is usually the goal of teachers, but one group has realized that social skills are special skills.  They’ve made it their goal to learn and understand how to get along with each other and interact with people. 

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One example of this new strategy for learning was found in one of the 29 classes for special education students at Matt Arthur Elementary School, where seven children between kindergarten and second grade took turns contributing to the same drawing.

Learning to take turns is a lesson that often eludes children, so setting goals for working on social skills and learning to take turns is a big step, along with learning reading and multiplication.  In KImberly Walmer’s extended school year class, students are being reinforced to work as a team, cooperatively, and taking turns.

While focusing her students on this skill during the drawing exercise this week, Walmer also reinforced their understanding of colors by asking them to choose and identify crayons. Once the Houston County children finished their group drawing, they took turns arranging dominoes to build a castle and later worked on drawings in pairs.

“I love it,” Walmer told her students. “Y’all are being good friends.”

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About 10 percent of all students enrolled in the Houston County school system have been diagnosed with at least one disability. Of those more than 2,800 students, about 10 percent are found eligible for the county’s extended school year program, which serves 162 elementary school students and 150 middle and high school students.

“These are the students that need us the most,” said Jenny McClintic, special education program specialist. “They obviously have a very specified, very severe disability or a very specified weakness that needs this additional service.”

The three-day-a-week program that’s now in the second of its three-week run is hosted at Matt Arthur for elementary school students and at Thomson Middle School for middle and high school students.

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