Diocesan education officials are working with 47 Catholic schools in the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland on Better Together, an initiative for exceptional learners. This group of schools in involved in a pilot program for the initiative.
The pilot program schools are being assisted with a strong foundation and understanding of the students being served through the initiative. Each school received a resource kit with teacher guidelines, resources for students and other items to help highlight the program in their school and/or parish.
A video was created to help showcase Better Together. It helps to explain that a typical learner and an exceptional learner are similar, but may have different needs in order to be successful. Schools have been educating students with exceptional needs, but now those programs are being expanded and different methods are being discussed in order to better serve all students.
At the crux of the program is the fact that Better Together aligns with the mission of the Catholic faith.
An advisory council was created to help ensure that the initiative is cohesive and effective. The council meets bimonthly. Members include parents, general education and special education teachers/principals, diocesan representatives and a special needs student.
A community resource list also was developed by county to assist educators, parents and students, as well as a list of interventions for each of the 13 qualifying disabilities and other health issues that could impact students in the Better Together initiative.
To ensure that principals and teachers receive the support and training necessary to implement the initiative, professional development opportunities will be offered, as well as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations and dioceses. Diocesan education officials also will provide ongoing support to schools involved with the program.
Four professional development opportunities are planned for locations around the diocese between September and next March.
In addition, a calendar also was developed to highlight special education awareness months and observances, including Down Syndrome Awareness Month (October), Epilepsy Awareness Month (November), Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month (January), Autism Awareness Month (April) and Better Hearing and Speech Month and Mental Health Awareness Month (May).