New initiatives for students with diverse needs at IPSD 204 

IPSD 204 student using BlazePods.
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Indian Prairie School District 204 has updated its student services to include more initiatives to support students with diverse needs.

Curriculum resources, health safety kits, and technology like BlazePods, have already been added, with other initiatives coming in the future. The updates were presented at the district’s Board of Education meeting on Monday.

IPSD 204 special education numbers

According to IPSD 204 officials, there have been 3,069 special education students enrolled since last December, making up 12% of the total students in the district. 

This is slightly lower than the state average of 16% and the national average of 15%.

“Our two largest groups of learners with diverse needs are students on the autism spectrum and our students who are in need of speech-language support,” said Christina Sepiol, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at IPSD 204.

In the last three years, 105 students with autism and 73 students with speech-language support entered the district. 

New initiatives to support students with diverse needs

IPSD 204 has implemented new initiatives this year to support its students, including two new curriculum resources for students with autism.

Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research (STAR) was piloted in 15 elementary RISE classrooms. The program includes Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) methods, such as discrete trial training, pivotal response training, and others for teaching functional routines.

The Linking Assessment and Instruction for Independence (LINKS) curriculum was piloted at seven middle schools. It’s a web-based curriculum that teaches independence to upper elementary, secondary, and post-secondary students with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“We’re optimistic that we can expand the LINKS curriculum to the high school level, as well as STEPS to support independence across the community,” said Sepiol.

The district also hired new employees to accommodate. This included the addition of five full-time Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), five Behavior Support Assistants, and seven Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) to help with its shortage of teaching assistants. 

New technology was introduced this year with the addition of BlazePods, which are LED lights that change colors, used to improve cognitive and physical skills like reaction time, agility, decision-making, and motor skills.

ClassVR headsets will soon be coming to every IPSD 204 high school and STEPS.

“The purpose of this new initiative and this technology is to assist students who may not be able to leave the building for medical reasons or otherwise, and even for those who can, just to provide another experience for getting out to a place that they may not be able to travel to,” said Sepiol.

Adding new health resources at IPSD 204

The district has been adding health resources throughout the schools. 

Bleeding control kits with a Combat Application Tourniquet, North American Rescue Compressed Gauze, trauma dressings, gloves, shears, and a marker are stored in cabinets by the AED machines. 

As part of the Rescue Illinois Program, supplies for individuals in acute respiratory distress have also been added. These include Albuterol rescue inhalers, aero chambers, valved holding chambers, and masks.

New to the district are Life Vac Kits, which are portable suction devices used for airway clearance during choking emergencies when other procedures are unsuccessful.

Classroom emergency bags are also arriving at all schools.

The district established a partnership with VNA Health Care to provide faster access to physicals and immunizations. VNA has set aside special scheduling times for IPSD 204 students. 

STEPS program updates

This year there are 104 young adults in the district’s Supportive Training Experience Post-Secondary (STEPS) program. 

STEPS is partnered with 33 sites to offer work experience to its students, adding the Crafty Bean Cafe & Studio in Bolingbrook and the DuPage Children’s Museum this year.

A new in-house lunch program was also created to train students in separating and shopping for food, as well as other skills for those who want to pursue jobs in the food industry.

“As far as future goals for the Student Services Department, we want to continue to look at new initiatives, especially technology, that make learning accessible for those with diverse needs,” said Sepiol.

Photo courtesy: IPSD 204

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