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Special School District of St. Louis County

SSD Services Evolve
to Meet Students’ Needs

For students receiving SSD services, success has many forms. Success can be graduation, learning the life skills required to live independently, gaining the job skills to start a career or pursuing higher education.

SSD provides individualized services that are tailored to each student’s specific needs to ensure that he or she is able to meet his or her goals.

Thanks to technology developments over the last several decades, the tools and services that SSD can offer students to help them be successful have improved dramatically.

“Devices are smaller now and more things are possible,” said Laura Hayes, an augmentative communication specialist. “Just think about early cell phones compared to what we’re using today — the same thing has happened with educational support technology.”

For teachers and facilitators, these improvements have led to better and more uniform services throughout the county. For instance, the augmentative communication department provides low-tech and high-tech systems to support students’ communication needs.

“Even in the 90s, communication boards had to be made by hand,” said Alyson Diaz-Kleine, an augmentative communication facilitator. “Every Sunday we would cut images and pictures out of the newspaper to use as symbols. Now we can use (computer) applications to create several communication boards at once, using the consistent symbols across the District.”

This doesn’t just decrease the workload for staff members, it also improves student learning.

“A lot of communication is done through the use of symbols — that means they need to be consistent so that we’re all speaking the same language,” Diaz-Kleine said.

“The systems allow students who are unable to communicate effectively and to have their wants and needs met throughout the day,” said Leslie McGilligan, an SSD augmentative communication facilitator.

Equally impactful technology changes over the years have been happening behind the scenes.

“Ten years ago we were a paper-based society,” said Kathy Lalk, an SSD assistive technology specialist. “Ten years ago, only a few students would be provided computers and electronic devices. Now that technology is ubiquitous, teachers are encouraged to integrate the technology throughout the day,” she said.

These improvements have increased the scope of services that the District can offer. For example, SSD conducts 75,000 screenings and diagnostic evaluations throughout the county, annually. Based upon these evaluations, department staff may recommend assistive listening devices for students. Without these efficient and effective communication processes, work on this scale would not be possible.

Efficiency also leads to faster service, which improves student outcomes. These screenings, especially early in a child’s development, increase the chances for student success throughout a child’s life.

“Obviously, the earlier an intervention can get started, the better the outcomes as the student gets older,” said Natalie Thiele, an SSD audiologist.

Interventions can take on a number of forms, from augmentative communication services, to music therapy, occupational therapy or one of the other services provided by SSD. Thanks to free-flowing communication, increased access to technology that supports education and access to additional digital resources, the services that SSD can offer to students and families are far more robust than even a decade ago.

These advancements over the last 60 years are driven by Special School District’s core value of continuous improvement.

While technology has rapidly advanced and our understanding of student needs has changed, the District’s goal has been constant — ensuring every student’s success.

Published March 2018

Catie Barnes, a student who receives SSD services at Steger 6th Grade Center in the Webster Groves School District, completes a writing assignment using assistive technology. Catie Barnes, a student who receives SSD services at Steger 6th Grade Center in the Webster Groves School District, completes a writing assignment using assistive technology.

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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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