December 2019

Message from the Special Services Director – Dr. Shannon Hitch

Dr. Shannon Hitch

Greetings! I would like to take a moment to thank all of the parents that attended our recent IEP 101 training and those that participated in our parent advisory meeting. We couldn’t ask for better partners in our work. There were many thoughtful questions asked and we hope that you enjoyed the presentation. Mark your calendars for our next parent education event on January 22nd from 11:30 – 1pm at our district office. Bring your lunch and enjoy learning about how to support your student with technology. Our assistive technology team will share a variety of tools and strategies for students as well as provide you with information and suggestions on how to support them at home. 

As we look forward to winter break, we would like to wish you a wonderful holiday season full of love and laughter. We hope you enjoy time with family and friends and we’ll see you in the new year!

Dr. Shannon Hitch
Director – Special Services


Support for Families

If you are looking for support, further knowledge on how to help your student, or are new to the special services programs and want to learn more about what to expect at all ages, we have got an incredible resource for you. Informing Families, Building Trust is full of invaluable information that will lay out how to navigate through multiple systems, provide helpful resources for grandparents or siblings of children with special needs, as well as sharing some emergency preparedness tips. This website is definitely one to explore!


Featured Articles

Disabled Student Can Pursue Her Dreams after Teens Build Her A Specialized Prosthetic

Middle school student Kayla Arqueta was born without a left forearm or hand, but that did not stop Kayla from pursuing her dreams of playing the cello. Researching how to make this dream a reality, Kayla’s orchestra director, Carly Addison, reached out to the engineering teacher at the local high school. With the blueprints Addison found online, and the high school’s newly acquired 3D printer, a group of volunteer high school students customized a prosthetic arm for Kayla to use to play her cello. Kayla “hopes that her story will inspire other students to pursue their dreams regardless of their disabilities.” 

Read the full article.


Congratulations Eastlake Unified Robotics Team!

Our Eastlake Unified Robotics team competed in the Special Olympics Robotics Championship at Seattle Center on November 17, 2019. Their ‘Wolf Pack Green Robot’ placed third out of 36 teams competing that day. In addition to third place, the 24 young athletes and partners, with and without disabilities, also won the Spirit Team Award and the Rising Star Ward. 

In front of 400 people, Becca Goldfarb, Jorey Anderson and Matthew Rogan opened the Special Olympics Ceremony by singing the National Anthem, followed by a parade of the athletes and partners. “It was a great day to remind us that living inclusive lives brings us all together as a stronger community,” said Eastlake teacher, Helly Harel. Special thanks to Eastlake Top Gun Robotics Team members: Alexia Follet, Alec Grassi, Lakshmi Rajesh, and Shreya Celes who partnered and helped build/program the robots.


Prom written by Redmond High School students, Ananya Srivastava and Faye Thijssen

Fourteen percent of students in the United States have special needs, meaning over 7 million students throughout the country are placed in separate classrooms for most of their education. 

In 2016, we founded the flagship chapter of AWARE club at Redmond High School as a part of the nonprofit organization AWARE. Together, we worked to form an inclusive environment at our school so students of all neurodiversity could interact without fear or judgement, fostering understanding and connection throughout the community. 

For three years we have led two AWARE meetings a month; one meeting focuses on educating students about various disabilities while the second facilitates friendships between members through pizza parties. In addition, we have hosted events such as cookie decoration for St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day cardmaking, and corsage making events. 

Our club’s advisor, Mr. Joffre, says he finds “students who are in AWARE to be some of the most competent, capable, empathetic, and driven students [he has had] the privilege of teaching… what has really impressed [him] about [them] is that they genuinely mean it.” 

As a testament to the genuine friendships our club has formed, one of our members describes her experiences with AWARE: 

“When I co-founded AWARE in high school, I was greeted by a student I had tutored in middle school as I walked into the special education classroom. 'Hi!' he exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. After three years, I was surprised he remembered me. 

Throughout the rest of the year, we bonded through AWARE, always exchanging greetings in the hallway after first period. One day, despite being late leaving class, I saw him waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me.” 

With each lunch meeting and special holiday event, we saw the barriers between the general education and special needs populations slowly disintegrating. However, after observing that many students with disabilities did not get opportunities to speak with general education students outside club meetings, we knew we had to take a larger step to make our school inclusive. 

Prom is the quintessential experience of high school, but many students with disabilities never attend. In 2019, we decided to change this by organizing a group to attend prom together, giving special needs members of AWARE a chance to interact with general education students while having a memorable experience that they would treasure for the rest of their lives. As the mother of a special education student said: “To have [my kid] do something that his neurotypical peers were doing was a humongous deal.” 

On the day of the dance, the excitement was palpable. Before prom, we all participated in another traditional prom experience: the fancy dinner (in our case, at Red Robin) and excessive picture taking. 

As the night progressed, the special needs students began to socialize with other students. They weaved between the dancers, stopping to converse excitedly with their peers. Even students who were initially disinterested by the loud music were shaking their arms to the rhythm by the end of the night. 

The inclusive prom didn’t only impact the special needs students, but it affected every one of the five hundred attendees that night. As other students saw the special needs students dancing to the beat, they formed crowds around them, cheering enthusiastically. The atmosphere of the dance transformed; an air of sheer joy came over the crowd. 

Ms. Love, the special needs teacher, emotionally recounted the events of the night: “You made the dreams of five seniors come true.” One of the special needs students in attendance came up to us afterwards, grinning as he said: “It was so much fun, I would live that night 100 times.” A special education parent contends “Even if [my son] went [to prom], he wouldn’t have enjoyed it if you guys hadn’t had a structured activity with his friends and a group of peers.” 

The next week, students outside of AWARE started smiling at the special education students in the hallway. After RHS’s first inclusive prom, our student body finally began to feel like a cohesive community. 

Our main goal for AWARE remains to spark a nationwide movement of fostering inclusivity for students with special needs. We want to continue breaking down the barriers. 

Special Services Newsletter – Available in Multiple Languages!

If you, or someone you know, would like to read our Special Services Newsletter in a different language, this is now possible! 

  • Follow the link for access to all of our newsletters here 
  • Select the month and year that you would like to read (Ex: December 2019)
  • In the top left-hand corner of the web page, there is a small globe icon/drop down
  • Click on the drop down and select the language that you would like to have the newsletter translated to  

Happy Reading!

PTSA SNG Meetings and Child Care Support

Our monthly PTSA SNG meeting (see schedule below) is a great time to network with other parents, learn more about resources in our community, and learn more about strategies and supports for students with disabilities. We offer student care during these meetings, to assist you in being able to access this wonderful opportunity to meet with parents. Please RSVP each month, by emailing For our January meeting, please RSVP by/before January 15. In your email, please include your child’s name(s), age(s) and any significant behavior notes so we can ensure we have enough staff to cover all the students. Please use the email subject line: Childcare at PTSA meeting. The Special Services Director and Associate Directors, participate in a meet and greet before each meeting at 6:30 p.m. We look forward to seeing you all there. 


Upcoming LWPTSA Council Special Needs Group Meetings:

Date: 1/21/2020
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Location: LWSD Resource Center – Board Room (1st Floor)
                 16250 NE 74th St
                 Redmond, WA 98052
Topic (Updated 12/16/19): One out of Five material, disability pride, UDL and allyship. 
Presenter: Sarah Arvey, University of Washington


Save the Date: Mark your calendar for the 2019-20 PTSA Special Needs Group Meetings:

*All meetings are 7:00-8:30pm

Networking Time: 6:30-7:00 – Parent networking and opportunity to meet Director of Special Services, Dr. Shannon Hitch and Associate Directors. 

  • Tuesday, 1/21/2020
  • Tuesday, 2/25/2020 (Resource Fair)
  • Tuesday, 3/17/2020
  • Tuesday, 4/21/2020
  • Tuesday, 5/19/2020
  • No Meeting in June 2020