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‘Exceptional children’ conference held at L-EMS

Posted: July 11, 2013 4:50 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The S.C. Department of Education’s (SCDOE) Office of Exceptional Children (OEC) held its 10th annual Research To Practice (RTP) Institute at Lugoff-Elgin Middle School (L-EMS) this week.

This is the fourth time RTP has been held at L-EMS. RTP launched in 2003 as a result of a state improvement grant with about 15 workshops, OEC’s Program Assistant Marlene Sellers said. This year, the program will provide more than 100 sessions for more than 600 registered participants, she said. RTP works to provide evidence-based practice, state of the art information on how to positively impact children with disabilities, OEC Director Cathy Boshamer said.   

L-EMS is a “great place” to host RTP, because it has the audio visual capability RTP presenters need, Sellers said.  She said RTP is a “great” opportunity each year to see the people they’ve been working with throughout the year on the phone and through e-mail face-to-face. The OEC, a staff of 27, serves the entire state, with the commitment, resilience, capability and attitude necessary for people who service children, Boshamer said.

Participants can attend a session each of the five days of the institute or participate in just one session. This week, RTP saw more than 550 participants each day, Sellers said. RTP offers sessions in 16 “strands” or categories related to helping children with disabilities, including awareness, counseling, learning strategies, communicative competence and strategic instruction models. RTP provided autism diagnostic observation scales this year, which helps diagnose and assess autism. It also offered sessions related to Common Core and strategic intervention in regular classrooms. This year’s speakers included internationally-known trainer Rachel Hundley, of Vanderbilt; Dr. Patrick Schwarz, of National-Louis University in Chicago, Bradley Whetsell, of Winthrop University; and Pamela Stecker, of Clemson University. Each session lasted from half a day to two days. Participants registered online and created their own schedules based on the population they serve. Many school districts require teachers and administrators to attend the program each year, Boshamer said.

The OEC will start preparing for a new RTP on Monday, Boshamer said. Each year, they ask RTP participants to fill out a survey so to help them prepare for the next year’s session.

“We provide information to equip them with the tools they need to do a difficult job. We make it accessible, provide quality information to give teachers, assistants and administrators with context, perspective to make a difference,” Boshamer said.

Boshamer said that in order to work with special needs children, school faculty needs adequate training, a professional network and the opportunity to hear what others have to say about what has and hasn’t worked for them. The OEC’s office makes sure students with disabilities have access to information and an equal and appropriate opportunity to learn in ways that they can understand, regardless of disabilities, Boshamer said. RTP helps people see what is “appropriate” in regard to special education, she said.

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said “it’s great” that the OEC is able to host RTP at one the district’s schools.

Not only does hosting it at L-EMS make it easier for district personnel to attend the sessions, Morgan said, it brings more than 600 teachers and administrators into Kershaw County, once again showing how the school district can impact economic development.

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