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SSD's Impact on Family
Inspires Teaching Career

Shannon Combs began her SSD journey as the mom of two kids with medical issues and educational challenges.

Over the years as her children received services from SSD, she learned a lot about the District and its mission. And it eventually led her to go back to school and get her bachelor’s degree in special education so she could teach and advocate for all children.

This is Shannon’s story. She is now a teacher for SSD’s Community Based Vocational Instruction (CBVI) program at Hancock Place High School.

In November 1995, my life changed forever.

My 17-month-old little girl was given a diagnosis of mild to moderately deaf. How could that be? My daughter was not able to hear.

We began with hearing aids and speech therapy, and in 1997 she had surgery to get a cochlear implant. Her deafness was progressive and now at a moderate to profound level. Speech and language therapy was a constant in our lives.

Taylor mainstreamed in first grade and began receiving services from SSD in the Rockwood School District. It was scary to see our daughter adjust and grow in a hearing society after attending a school for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Having the supports in place and utilizing the services available from SSD was a major part of her success. By the time high school came around, there were less and less accommodations and modifications needed, just some itinerant services through SSD and that’s it!

I am not saying that it has been an easy road. There were many, many times I would cry myself to sleep and wonder why, why her and why us?

At the age of 6, Taylor was also diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes.

But nothing has stopped our daughter. Throughout high school she worked part time, played softball or lacrosse and maintained a grade-point average to enter and complete the A+ program.

And in May 2017, Taylor graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis (UMSL) with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in psychology.

How proud am I? Extremely! It was because of the vision and the motivation of my daughter as well as the help of SSD and the great teachers, staff and therapists along the way that contributed to her wonderful success.

I am continually inspired and amazed by my daughter and her achievements. She is definitely my hero.

Our son Austin was born in 2001 and his medical complications began on day one.

A heart defect and reflux were apparent at birth; however, developmental delays, and diagnosis of Kleefstra syndrome, autism and epilepsy were accumulated over a few years.

Austin has also experienced great success with the help of SSD services. His teachers in the Rockwood School District have been phenomenal.

He will be a junior in high school this fall and will begin the CBVI program to gain vocational and daily living skills.

He is also my hero. I am truly blessed with such amazing children. I have learned more from them than they will probably ever learn from me.

After going through these medical trials with my children and advocating for them, I had the determination and desire to go back to school and get my bachelor’s degree in special education.

I want to continue to advocate for other children. I graduated from UMSL in 2009 and began working for SSD soon after as a paraprofessional.

I eventually took a position with SSD in the Hancock Place School District as a high school CBVI instructor. I love my job and working with special needs students on a daily basis.

I have come to realize the truth to the saying “I had a calling.”

I certainly did. My children were my inspiration and my motivation for my career path and for what I love to do each day.

I hope to have many more years as an SSD teacher. I am lucky to have children who continue to inspire me – at home and in the classroom – every day.


Published July 2017

Photo of Shannon Combs and her familyShannon Combs and her family


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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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