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Miranda Beard works in the café at Flagler Technical Institute as part of the Transitions program, a school-to work-program for exceptional education students ages 18 to 22. PHOTOS BY SHANNA FORTIER
Palm Coast Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 7 years ago

Students and parents learn disabilities awareness

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by: Shanna Fortier Associate Editor

Third- and fourth-grade students in Suzy King’s classes at Old Kings Elementary School looked in the mirror at a maze and tried to work their way through.

The activity was designed to simulate having the reading disability, dyslexia, in honor of Disabilities History and Awareness weeks, Oct. 2 to Oct. 14.

“One of every five Americans is a person with a disability,” read a letter sent home to parents from Flagler Schools. “A person may be born with a disability, may acquire a disability through an accident or illness, or may acquire a disability simply as part of growing older.”

To incorporate disability awareness into Flagler County Schools at all grade levels, each school was provided with books relating to disabilities and YouTube videos starring famous people with disabilities and people overcoming obstacles.

“It is time for society to be aware of differences in people,” said Tracy Umpenhour, director of exceptional student education for Flagler Schools.

A student is in exceptional education if he or she is classified in one of 13 areas under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and needs specially designed instructions, as determined by a team of individuals.

Some of these classifications are emotional and behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, health conditions, autism, deafness and visual imparities.

“When you look at a student with a disability, you expect them to look different,” said Susan McVeigh, staffing specialist for Flagler Schools. “But most look like everyone else.”

Transitions
In addition, the month of October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Flagler Technical Institute’s Transitions program will be participating in employment awareness month by job shadowing at local businesses.

Transitions is a school-to-work partnership for students, ages 18 to 22, who have graduated from high school with an Option 1 diploma. The program provides vocational training and job readiness skills to help students smoothly transition into adulthood.

“We want our kids to go out and be productive citizens in the community, whether they work two hours a day or eight hours a day,” said Susan Brady, Transitions administrator. “It’s our focus.”

Local businesses participating in job shadowing are include Marineland, Target, the city of Palm Coast, Florida Hospital Flagler, the city of Flagler Beach, Hilton Garden Inn, Outback Steakhouse, Whispering Meadows Ranch, Publix and Lowe’s.

These businesses have hired students from the program in the past.

“The businesses are doing a really great job of opening up to us,” Brady said.

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