The Student Services Department of Crown Point Christian School in St. John, Indiana, was able to purchase iPads for student with special needs thanks to a grant from the Crown Point Community Foundation, a not-for-profit for the town of Crown Point. Becca Harkema, who oversees the Student Services Department, wrote the grant, which brought in $2,400 to fund the purchase of eight devices as well as protective covers and gift cards to purchase eBooks, apps, and programs.
Although the iPads were originally secured to provide reading support for students with special needs, the use of the devices has expanded so that students with learning disabilities use them for math as well as special projects that would be difficult for them to do without the benefit of technology.
The Discovery Program, which focuses on students who need learning help, has been in place at the school for several years, but this year it and other special services were brought together under the umbrella of Student Services, which now also includes the Excel Program for gifted students, speech and language services, social and emotional support services, and a sensory integration room.
Crown Point’s Discovery Program began with a conversation about how the school could be more inclusive. “For schools considering the inclusion of students with special needs, it’s important to articulate a vision and to be clear about why you’re doing it,” said Harkema. She also advocates for forming strategic relationships with experts like the Christian Learning Center, Elim Christian Services, and New Leaf Resources. “Having support from a variety of outside people is important, and it’s also important to get creative with funding: grants, donors, government money,” said Harkema. “We don’t have it all figured out, but it is an important ongoing conversation in which we continue to engage.”
Harkema also stressed the importance of equipping teachers to work with students with special needs and giving them the confidence that they can do this. “Most of them aren’t trained specifically in special education, so it’s important to spend time giving teachers the knowledge on how to be more inclusive and meet students’ needs,” she said. “Our students are learning to work with kids that may learn differently, and they are figuring out that while those students need help, they have something to offer as well.”