Dona Lloyd, Jacksonville City School’s special education director, told the small room full of Kiwanis members at the Jacksonville Community Center about the needs of children with disabilities. Much of Lloyd’s remarks focused on the system’s budding pre-school program but her remarks also touched on the personal conflicts grappled with by families that include children who enter special education programs.
“Parents have a hard time with that,” Lloyd said. “Getting them past what they see as a stigma in special education can be difficult.”
The public schools are responsible for students with special needs for a longer length of time than they are children who are not part of special education programs. Beginning at age three and ending at age 21 students with disabilities are eligible for public education services, Lloyd said.
“They are our responsibility,” Lloyd said.
Educators develop individual education plans to help each student with special needs reach their potential. That plan, which is required by federal law, is regularly updated to meet the needs of the child.
“Our goal is that the plan should be so well written that a stranger can pick up that plan and know that child, Lloyd said, referencing each child under the watch of her department.
Lloyd also discussed the increasing number of children with a form of autism and the new preschool program developed to help them. Through the program, which began in the fall and includes an equal number of children with autism and without autism, some of the system’s youngest children with autism have made great gains academically and socially.
Kiwanis Club members said it’s important for the civic organization to hear from people who, like Lloyd, have their fingers on the pulse of the community’s pressing needs.
“We have little concept if we’re not involved personally as to what the challenges are for those little guys and gals,” said Velden Bennett, a Jacksonville Kiwanis member. “We should be compassionate to all levels of social, economic and physical problems in the community.”