January 2021

Message from the Special Services Executive Director – Dr. Shannon Hitch

Dr. Shannon Hitch

Happy New Year! I hope you and your students enjoyed a wonderful winter break and this message finds you all healthy and well. We are experiencing an extraordinary start to 2021. I sent the following message to our special education staff this week as they navigate current events with students.

Before I share a brief update with you today, I want to take a moment to check in. Yesterday was one of those days that you know you will remember in the years to come. It was an overwhelming day when you couldn't look away from the news but at the same time, you cannot believe what you are seeing. It was an emotionally challenging, deeply unsettling and difficult day for us and for our students. I want to wish you well today as you talk with your students. Educators around the country today, are on the front lines with our youngest Americans and I know you see first-hand, the impact of our country's violence and turmoil upon them and their families. Thank you for being there for them and for helping them navigate this moment in history.

If your student has questions or concerns regarding current events, there are some helpful resources provided by the National School Psychologist Association

The update I reference in my message addressed Dr. Holmen’s announcement that was shared this week regarding the upcoming return to in-person schooling. I informed our staff that with the return of elementary students, we will likely need to make changes to our current special education service model. We want our students to be able to participate in their general education classes as their peers return as well as continue to receive their special education services. Next week, we will begin working with our partners in the Lake Washington Education Association (LWEA) to propose potential models. I am extremely proud of the models we developed last August and believe we will be able to develop something even better starting next week. As soon as we have identified our service models, we will inform families. Our goal is to ensure that service minutes are maintained or increased and that our students have the support they need to participate in-person or remotely depending upon family preference.

Some families have asked which option they should select in the district survey (in-person or remote) and if the decision is dependent upon their special education program. Please select your preference and our staff will have access to that information in planning for special education services. We will work with families to ensure that your student receives the appropriate services based upon the model you select. I recognize that while a return to school is an amazing step forward, that it likely causes additional stress and challenge for our families. Potential changes to schools, schedules and teachers can be difficult to navigate for our students. I want to assure you that we will do our best to make this a successful transition for your students and ask again for your patience as we navigate all the details involved. You can expect an additional update from me during the week of January 18, 2021. This update will address preschool, center programs, resource and the transition academies.

Best regards,

Shannon Hitch signature

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. The Arc of King County’s website is a great resource for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. They provide direct support, both formally and informally, to any family impacted by disability. 

For more information and resources, visit their website: www.arcofkingcounty.org.


Listening sessions

We would like to hear from all members of our parent community regarding your experiences in special education, your thoughts and ideas for this year and the future, the challenges you have experienced, and anything else that would inform our practices. We have appreciated hearing from members of each learning community as well as our Black families. There are two remaining sessions this month. Please mark your calendars and consider participating. We will hold these listening sessions virtually. If you have any questions or need assistance, please email specialservices@lwsd.org.

Asian Families District Wide
Interpreters Available – Chinese, Hindi
JANUARY 12, 2021

6:30-7:30 p.m.
Microsoft Teams meeting - Join on your computer or mobile app 
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
+1 206-800-4750, 101621666#  United States, Seattle
Phone Conference ID: 101 621 666#
Hispanic/Latino Families District Wide
Interpreters Available - Spanish
JANUARY 14, 2021

6:30-7:30 p.m.
Microsoft Teams meeting - Join on your computer or mobile app 
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
+1 206-800-4750, 566751235#  United States, Seattle
Phone Conference ID: 566 751 235#


Inclusion Insight - Information from our Partners at TIES

Did you know that research shows significant positive effects of inclusion for students with significant cognitive disabilities? In a recent study by Gee, Gonzales, and Cooper (2020), researchers recruited 15 matched pairs of students with significant cognitive disabilities (one placed in a self-contained setting and the other in an inclusive setting, matched on 12 total characteristics including age, gender, disability, and communication) and then compared their progress in literacy, numeracy, and communication from the first to the latest student IEPs. Students who were placed in general education for 80% of more of their day demonstrated significantly more progress in all three areas: communication, literacy, and numeracy.

Gee, K., Gonzalez, M., & Cooper, C. (2020). Outcomes of Inclusive Versus Separate Placements: A Matched Pairs Comparison Study. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 45(4), 223-240. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796920943469


Featured articles

Athlete with Downs Syndrome Makes History as First to Finish and Iron Man Race

"Goal set and achieved." For Chris Nikic, this statement summed up his accomplishment – to complete his first Iron Man race. Not only did Chris finish with 14 minutes to spare, he earned the title of “First person with Down’s Syndrome to become an official Iron Man” in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Iron Man race has a 42-year history of showcasing amazing triathlon talent. 

Chris’s hard work, determination, training and support from friends and family where only part of the recipe for success. Chris set his goal, worked through the physical and mental challenges, and fought to the finish. In an interview with BBC, Chris’ dad said that “Ironman has served as [Chris’] platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion, normalcy and leadership.” 

Read the full article.

Studying ‘The Nutcracker’, Students Listen, Touch Move Like Snow

For the Filomen M D’Agostino Greenberg (FMDG) Music School, the coronavirus pandemic forced a change in how course study is presented and inspired teacher Jenny Seham to offer a five-week multisensory "Nutcracker Appreciation Course" for music students who are blind and visually impaired. 

The course was designed to explore the background of the story along with the history and cultural context of "The Nutcracker." Course materials were distributed to each student in the class to include objects inspired by the ballet used to learn a variety of lessons. "In the absence of physical touch as a teaching tool, the items in the 'Nutcracker' package offer a different kind of tactile experience."

Read the full article.

"Autistic" Boy Can Name Any Car Ever Made

Research has shown that people with autism are often hyper-focused. Since the age of two, Anthony Schmidt has had one singular focus – cars. For the last ten years, Anthony has learned everything he can about cars. His comprehensive knowledge of cars extends from the details surrounding the first car ever built and encompassing all the latest models today. 

Over the years, this knowledge has fueled Anthony’s creativity and has even come in handy for law enforcement. Anthony is organized, and mathematics comes naturally. He uses Excel to keep track of his model collection of over six hundred cars. With the help of his mother, Anthony has showcased his work on social media, and has now launched a product line on a website. 

Read the full article.

Navy Hires Special Education Attorneys as Part of Pilot Program for Families

Resources for military families are expanding. Each branch of the United States military has adopted a three-year pilot program known as the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) which aims to support the immediate family members of military personnel during the transition of order assignments. This program focuses on assisting families through the transition of special education program services from one post to another. 

While over 140,000 families are enrolled in this program, the resources and support available within the different service branches widely varies. Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia has recently employed two new attorneys to provide training for families and help increase the access to legal assistance for special education in public schools. 

Read the full article.


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
  • 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!


Upcoming LWPTSA Council Special Education Group Meetings

Date: Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Time: 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Location: GoTo Meeting

Please join our meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3122
Access Code: 838-112-685
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/838112685

Topic: Join us to share your nifty tips and tricks for facilitating and aiding in virtual instruction and general survival or find camaraderie in and perhaps even solutions for your education-related woes.

Please send in your questions, successes and challenges ahead of time to specialeducation@lwptsa.net and we’ll try to address and share as much as possible during the meeting.


Save the Date: Mark your calendar for the 2020-2021 PTSA Special Education Group Meetings

Meetings are typically held from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Note: All meetings will be held via online platforms until further notice.

  • Tuesday, 1/19/2021
  • Tuesday, 2/23/2021
  • Tuesday, 3/16/2021
  • Tuesday, 4/20/2021
  • Tuesday, 5/18/2021
  • No Meeting in June 2021