Not so different

Cross Creek’s special education program is a shining light

Students in Cross Creek HIgh School's special education program

Keven Seidel

Students in Cross Creek HIgh School’s special education program

They are like the typical student: They go to school, they live a teenager’s life, and they have a delightful sense of humor.

They are like the typical student. Just a bit different.

Cross Creek’s program for special education students is of unique success in the whole county. Not all students are able to participate in regular school classes due to a much lower IQ. Having handicaps like autism or just intellectual disabilities of various kinds, they learn slower than the average student and are intellectually further behind.

But this should not be a reason to prevent them from attending high school and socializing with peers. Students with learning disabilities have the opportunity to make their own high school experience. Special education teachers are there to guide, help, and motivate them to learn things and achieve things in their life.

“I love my job and am so happy when my students make progress,”  says Ms. Sturgis, who is responsible for the students with the lowest IQ. “It can take a lot of time, but at the end it’s worth it.”

Sturgis focuses on teaching her students how to communicate and to become “as independent citizens as possible” after they graduate. Her students do not talk. They barely communicate at all, which is why teachers and parents come up with individual ideas to give the students possibilities to express their wants and needs.

Daniel, who is bound to a wheelchair, is a very happy and cheerful person. He loves to play games on the computer and also communicates through software just by clicking on pictures.

This spring he will turn 22, which means he will have to graduate from Cross Creek this year.

Tracy, who is a buoyant young woman with an excellent sense of humor, understands most of the things she hears. Her “Yes”- and “No”-Buttons help her to answer questions people ask her. This does not mean that she answers them honestly. Tracy really likes to joke around with the people around her:

Mr. Bailey and Ms. Wilson are teaching the students with a moderate intellectual disability. These kids are talking about the same things as traditional students do, just on a lower level. Their school day is much more flexible and they have less pressure.

Cross Creek’s special ed program focuses on doing very practical work so that some of the students will be able to have a job and earn some money. Another very remarkable aspect of Cross Creek’s special ed program is the interaction between the special ed students and the rest of the student body.

“We have so many psychology and sociology students in the mentoring program, who are constantly in direct contact with our students,” Bailey said, “that the special ed students are very popular within the school by now.”