Berkeley schools awarded grants for exceptional child programs

MONCKS CORNER, SC (WCSC) - Exceptional children who attend Berkeley County Schools will receive targeted instruction that serves their unique needs, thanks to four grants recently awarded to the district.

The S. C. School for Exceptional Children awarded grants totaling $196,000, in the areas of
preschool, service learning, professional development, and model demonstration.

In the area of preschool, the district will receive a "Visual Supports in Preschool Grant" of $46,000 for educators and speech language pathologists to develop visual supports that provide inclusiveness for preschool children with disabilities.  In addition, educators will be trained in the 'Picture Exchange Communication System,' 'Implementing Boardmaker,' and 'Video Modeling,' three research-based practices that achieve results when working with exceptional children. 

For exceptional children entering middle school, the district will receive an "Engaging Students through Service Learning Grant" of $50,000 for service learning projects that assist these students in the transition to middle school.  Staff from all thirteen Berkeley middle schools will be trained on the components of effective service learning projects, while designing service learning programs for their schools.

"I commend our Department of Programs for Students with Disabilities in seeking and being awarded this substantial amount of grant money," said Dr. Karen Whitley, Chief Academic Officer for the district.  "I am confident that the funds will enhance the educational opportunities for these children and make a difference in their lives."

Through a $50,000 "Sharpening our Skills to Serve Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders" grant, educators will also receive specialized training for working with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

"ASD's are increasing at a dramatic rate," Whitley explained.  "The prevalence of ASD's is now 1 out of every 110 children in the United States. The goal of the grant is for each school to increase the use of positive behavior support and effective instructional practices for students with ASD's." 

Special educators will receive training on eleven effective treatment practices and data collection procedures for children with ASD's, according to research conducted by the National Autism Center.

Administrators will also receive training on designing appropriate environments to support these practices. In addition, parents of Berkeley County youth with autism can receive training on facilitating effective home and school partnerships.  

Finally, a "Job Awareness and Community Connections" grant of $50,000 will go to establish a state model demonstration site here in Berkeley County.  The Job Awareness and Community Connections Program (JACC), located at Cane Bay High School, will serve students ages 18-21
with mild to moderate mental disabilities. 

"The purpose of JACC is to encourage student engagement in learning through a comprehensive approach that addresses employment, training and independent living by focusing on functional skills," Whitley noted. "We are partnering with South Carolina's Vocational Rehabilitation Department to implement a six-phase curriculum that emphasizes
functional skills, natural environments and age appropriate skills.  Our goal is for these students to master these skills, so when leave the Berkeley County School District, they are able to obtain employment and live independently."

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