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Special School District of St. Louis County
 
Family Navigates Special Education Services with Collaboration

Faith Wildshuetz is a happy 5-year-old little girl who loves people, playful interaction, silly sounds and music. 

Faith is also deafblind and receives special education services through the Ferguson-Florissant Early Childhood program as well as support in the areas of vision, behavior and augmentative communication from SSD.

The well-being and success of all students is dependent upon collaboration among parents, students and staff. The journey that Faith and her family are on is a great example of how joint efforts can help a student reach his or her full potential. 

“We are very grateful to SSD, all of the local agencies and resources, nurses, doctors, teachers, and therapists that are a part of Faith’s team,” said Bridget Wildshuetz, Faith’s mother. “It truly takes a village to help us ensure that Faith has the best quality of life possible and that we are doing everything we can to help her reach her greatest potential.”

Faith was born with a gene mutation and her eyes didn’t develop. She is completely blind. She also has mild-to-moderate bilateral hearing loss as well as other developmental delays and medical issues. 

On a typical school day, Faith keeps busy with occupational and physical therapy, speech-language therapy, vision, hearing and music therapy services along with her other classroom activities.

“She is learning how to explore her world as a child with combined vision and hearing loss,” said Wildshuetz. “She continues to work on cause and effect, and communicating preferences and choices.”

SSD staff collaborated with a project coordinator from the Missouri Deafblind Technical Assistance Project and received special training to work with Faith and understand the deafblind approach.

“The training they received along with consulting with the vision and hearing teachers has helped Faith’s teachers implement best practices and activities for our daughter,” said Wildshuetz.

Wildshuetz and her husband keep in close contact with school staff and know they are an integral part of Faith’s education. She has also worked with other resources in the community to further Faith’s education and opportunities.

While receiving support at the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments, Bridget learned that the number of deafblind children has increased and there is a need for more resources and support. Jo Russell-Brown, a teacher of the visually impaired at the Delta Gamma Center, discussed the need and they began a local support group.

Russell-Brown said she knew that Wildshuetz would be the obvious choice as the parent coordinator. “Bridget is organized, informed, resourceful, friendly, compassionate,” she said. “And she is a teacher, friend, peer, daughter, wife and a fabulous mom who has lived through the struggles of raising a child with complex challenges.”

The support group meets three to four times a year and has up to 10 active families.

Betty Davidson, SSD area coordinator, said Wildshuetz is an outstanding parent who is devoted to helping all children.

“Bridget is an educator herself and always works to collaborate with others in a kind, caring and respectful manner,” said Davidson. “Faith is only in preschool and her mother has already been involved with making our state a better place for our children and their families.”

Wildshuetz serves on the Missouri State Deafblind Advisory Committee. She was also recently awarded the Marcus Velazquez Service Award from the St. Louis Deafblind Task Force for her dedication and efforts for the families of students who are deafblind.

Wildshuetz said that SSD is an invaluable resource for a child like Faith who has multiple disabilities.

“We are very grateful for all of the resources that have been shared with us so far,” she said. “Next year will be a big transition year for Faith as she will start kindergarten. I know that SSD will help us through each new challenge and stage of her educational path.”
Faith Wildshuetz and her mother Bridget
Faith Wildshuetz and her mother Bridget

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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