Part five of a series focusing on how Cherry Creek Schools is meeting the needs of all children.
Like any parent, Kelly Yoder was a little nervous about her son’s transition from elementary to middle school. It can be tough for any child to adjust to a new school, new routine and new kids, not to mention the physical and social-emotional changes middle schoolers go through. Her son, Jackson, had to deal with all of that, plus the fact that he has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. As a result of those conditions, he uses a wheelchair, an indoor bicycle and a communication device. The equipment allows him to get to class and talk with teachers and peers – things most other students do with no trouble at all.
“He’s dependent on a lot of equipment, but he likes to be independent,” Kelly Yoder said.
She and her husband, Bret Yoder, were pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of Jackson’s move from Rolling Hills Elementary to Falcon Creek Middle School, where he was warmly welcomed by students and staff alike.
“The transition to middle school was quite wonderful,” Kelly Yoder said. “We’ve really been well taken care of.”
Jackson is supported by a team that includes special education teacher Michelle Gardner, general education teachers, therapists and para-educators. They are helping Jackson grow academically and expand his speech and language skills. He didn’t start speaking until fourth grade, when his body was finally strong enough to support the demands of speech.
“For us it’s just thrilling,” said Yoder about her son’s emerging language skills.
Because of Jackson, the Yoders have learned a lot about the special education services available in the Cherry Creek School District. That knowledge was useful, but inadequate, when they began to notice some unusual things about their younger son, Grant, a fifth-grader at Rolling Hills Elementary. Kelly describes him as “an extremely enthusiastic learner.”
“Grant is completely interested in the acquisition of knowledge. The things he talks to me about are already over my head,” Kelly Yoder said.
For example, as a first-grader, Grant said he didn’t want to play basketball because he “couldn’t calculate the trajectory to make a basket.” The Yoders discovered Grant could solve complex math problems as long as there was no time limit, but a timed test of simple math facts caused him great anxiety. They worked with district experts in both Special Education and Advanced Academic Services (Gifted Education) and discovered that Grant is “Twice Exceptional.” He was formally identified as gifted and talented and placed on an Advanced Learning Plan. But because of his challenges with speed processing, he also has a 504 Plan through Special Education to accommodate his learning needs.
“I feel like with both Grant and Jackson, we’ve never had a request that wasn’t met with a willingness to address it, to take care of it,” Kelly Yoder said. “My kids have been well taken care of. We are really, really grateful for that.”