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Special education teachers propel program to become more inclusive

Thanks to the department, students with special needs have more opportunities than ever before

Unified+Coaches+Meghan+Miller+and+Alvin+Delgado%2C+and+Unified+Advisors+Emily+Turner+and+Robyn+Maddess+are+a+few+of+the+dedicated+leaders+who+have+helped+push+the+program+forward.+Unified+sports+has+been+a+huge+success+since+they+were+first+implemented+in+2012.++
Unified Coaches Meghan Miller and Alvin Delgado, and Unified Advisors Emily Turner and Robyn Maddess are a few of the dedicated leaders who have helped push the program forward. Unified sports has been a huge success since they were first implemented in 2012.

Unified Coaches Meghan Miller and Alvin Delgado, and Unified Advisors Emily Turner and Robyn Maddess are a few of the dedicated leaders who have helped push the program forward. Unified sports has been a huge success since they were first implemented in 2012.

Henry Jowaisas

Henry Jowaisas

Unified Coaches Meghan Miller and Alvin Delgado, and Unified Advisors Emily Turner and Robyn Maddess are a few of the dedicated leaders who have helped push the program forward. Unified sports has been a huge success since they were first implemented in 2012.

Henry Jowaisas, Staff Reporter

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Unified coordinator Robyn Maddess sits down for lunch with her clipboard and energy bars in front of her. Her blonde hair lands just above her shoulders while her chocolate glasses rest on the bridge of her nose. Around her are a small portion of the 200 special needs students the department supports everyday. These are the kids that she and many other passionate teachers and students create new and exciting opportunities for.

Because of programs created, supported and supervised by Maddess and the special education staff, students are not only enjoying the same activities as their peers, but they are also experiencing a much more inclusive community.

“I’m always thinking, how can I get my students just as involved as their typically developing peers?” Maddess said. For her and the special education department “Inclusion is always the goal,” Maddess said.

Unified sports, which combine general education students with special education students, has been a huge success since Unified Soccer was first implemented in 2012.
“To be supporting each other, to be growing from each other, to be learning from each other,” Principal Keven Wynkoop said. “That is really powerful for all the students involved.”
Many other unified opportunities such as basketball, robotics and drama have been put in place since Unified Soccer.

The Life Skills Bistro is another recent addition to the special education curriculum and was pioneered by Emily Turner, another case manager at Ballard, and Maddess.

“Kids buy the food, make the food, make up the menu, deliver the food and teachers participate in it,” Wynkoop said. The bistro is more than just a lively day of preparing food every month, it’s preparing for their future.

“One of the places where a lot of students with special needs end up working, in general, is in the service industry,” Wynkoop said. “She’s teaching them life skills and employment skills.”

Since 2012, special education students have also been able to participate in Link Crew as leaders and as links. This year, senior Natasha Lawson heads the specialized Link Crew group, which includes all incoming special needs students, with two special needs students.

“The whole point of Link Crew is for freshmen to feel welcomed and included at our school and feel comfortable with our environment, so why wouldn’t you include everybody?” Lawson said.
Even with the innovative opportunities available to special needs students, our community is not fully inclusive just yet.

Eileen Yardley, a Spanish teacher, has a son in the special education program.
“I still think that there’s a lot we can do to make sure that our Special Ed students are seen as just Ballard students,” said Yardley.

“It starts with little steps like having some people say ‘Hey, can I sit with you guys and get to know you?’” Wynkoop said. “These are the happiest kids in the world.”

Unified Coaches Meghan Miller and Alvin Delgado, and Unified Advisors Emily Turner
and Robyn Maddess are a few of the dedicated leaders who have helped push the program forward. Unified sports have been a huge success since they were first implemented in 2012.

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The student news site of Ballard High School
Special education teachers propel program to become more inclusive