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Central Kitsap special education is about connecting with one another

“What letter is this?” two elementary students were asked in their classroom Monday at Woodlands Elementary School.

Split into small groups of two or three, students in the district’s deaf and hard of hearing program spent part of the morning with a paraeducator as they worked on different things including reading, letter and sound recognition.

The Central Kitsap School District has a regional deaf and hard of hearing program that caters not only to Kitsap students but those in surrounding districts and counties as well.

Deaf and hard of hearing is considered a “low-incident” disability and bringing the students together only enhances their learning experience, said Bill Mosiman, the district’s director of special services.

“If you are one of a few, the chances of socializing and even forming friendships are greatly reduced,” Mosiman said. “Here, they have a wider social network.”

Currently there are 18 students in the program who attend Woodlands and 6 students who attend Klahowya Secondary School — where the program continues for older students. A total of 14 students attend the program from schools outside the district, which include Bremerton, North Kitsap, Peninsula, Port Townsend and South Kitsap. At Woodlands, kindergarten through sixth grade students are in one classroom together and may spend time in a general classroom along with an interpreter depending on their needs.

“As they get older, they move out to the general education classroom,” said Mosiman. “At the secondary level, they are in the general classroom all the time.”

Having the program open to the region has made it more cost-effective for the district since the other districts pay for the services, Mosiman said.

Aside from the deaf and hard of hearing program, the district’s other special education programs include Kitsap Achievement Program for those with social and emotional disabilities and the self-contained program for students with cognitive deficiencies.

From the self-contained program, students beginning in seventh grade move to a “life skills” program where they learn tasks such as how to go grocery shopping or how to cook that may come more naturally to students who are not in special education.

John Burch, co-chair of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council in Central Kitsap, said that 20 years ago, there was a stigma against special needs children but now schools provide lots of support.

“If you don’t look at it as a partnership, it’s very difficult for the school to do anything,” said Burch.

Burch has a 25-year-old son who went through the school district with cerebral palsy.  He remains involved with helping other parents with children in special education because “it’s hard not to.”

The Council was formed in 1992 and meets once a month. It’s a way for parents to learn from one another and gain resources, said Burch.

Angela Duncan has a son in ninth grade at Central Kitsap Junior High School, who is autistic and has ADHD as well as chronic depression. She said he works with a paraeducator and spends some of his time in a special education classroom and the rest in a general classroom.

“It’s valuable. It connects you to people you need to talk to,” she said of the Council.

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