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South Bend schools gets creative in serving preschoolers with special needs | Education

South Bend schools gets creative in serving preschoolers with special needs | Education

SOUTH BEND — Being an educator means being able to adapt to any situation.

They’ve seen it it all. Open a teacher’s desk drawer or cabinet and you will find a solution to any problem that you can think of — and a few that never crossed your mind.

Most of those classroom adaptations are the result of a teacher, school nurse or counselor having years of experience in meeting the needs of their students. That’s why the average teacher’s desk or cabinet is filled with pencils, pens, erasers and facial tissue. If a teacher has faced a problem, that teacher likely has an answer.

What happens when educators confront a challenge that no teacher has seen in at least 100 years? That has been the problem confronting educators since March when COVID-19 closed school buildings and has kept them closed until districts cautiously began reopening over the last few weeks.

Educators working in the South Bend schools’ preschool program for special needs students adjusted when the pandemic stopped in-person classes at schools throughout the area in March.

Even though schools had closed, staff members still had a legal obligation to assess students for special education needs, and come up with individualized education plans for those who need them.

So the team adapted by moving the classroom, desks toys and materials, outside into the courtyard at the Studebaker school building. Moving the program outside, combined with wearing masks and social distancing, allowed the assessments to be conducted in a safer environment.

Sybil Snyder, special education supervisor, said the team, which consists of a psychologist, a special education specialist, a speech therapist and a social worker, has to meet with students in person to get the best snapshot of a student’s needs.

Each team member evaluates the child. For example, the

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