Diocese Hosts Conference for Exceptional Student Education

The Diocese of St. Augustine’s Catholic Schools Office, under the direction of Deacon Scott Conway, superintendent of Catholic Schools, is hosting for the first time a conference for Catholic educators on Exceptional Student Education at the Herbert Center at the University of North Florida, July 27. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Photo by Woody Huband

                       Photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband

The growth of Florida’s McKay Scholarship, which provides funding for families seeking private school options for their children who have Individual Education or Accommodations Plans (IEPs or Section 504) means Catholic schools are increasingly admitting students with differentiated learning needs.

These funding sources for families, along with Pope Francis’ imploring of schools and agencies to break the isolation and stigma for those with disabilities, is resulting in teachers finding ways to develop staff and equip them with knowledge and skills for meeting the needs of nontraditional learners in their parochial schools. The conference this month focuses on exceptional education and is just one measure of support for this endeavor.

“It’s a thrilling time for Catholic families who have children with disabilities and wish more than anything that their child could attend Catholic school,” says Beth Foraker, founder of the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion and keynote speaker at the conference. Her message to teachers and leadership in Catholic schools around the country is simple: “Any professional growth you make as an educator serves all students. You get better. You can’t help but have that expertise seep into the way you teach all the time.”

Other presenters at the conference include representatives of the Dioceses of St. Augustine, Orlando, Chicago and Toledo, as well as The University of Florida Center for Autism and Related Services (CARD), the Florida inclusion Network (FIN) and the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System (FDLRS). A panel discussion by diocesan leaders follows the keynote to highlight bigger picture ideas for schools about adopting support programs, meeting challenges head-on and embracing the growing neurodiversity of their student body.

The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) is collaborating with the Diocese of St. Augustine for the 2016 Catholic Educator Conference on Exceptional Student Education. Registrants for the conference will have access to online modules provided by IBCCES in advance of the conference.

While the optional courses are specific to teaching students with autism, the one-day conference this month hosts sessions on pediatric anxiety, ADHD, universal learning designs for varying exceptionalities, inclusive recreation and physical education, support program administration for both K-8 and High School, and most importantly, the ministry of inclusion as catechists working to inspire, teach and develop each unique child of God.

The conference website is www.certifiedautismspecialist.com/catholic-educator-conference/. For more information about other conference presenters and how you can attend, call Kelly Weedon Noda at (877) 717-6543, ext. 6.