February 2022

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

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you and your students healthy and well. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind as we have navigated the surge in COVID cases and resulting staffing shortages. Our team of administrators and program specialists have been in schools daily, supporting teachers and providing emergency classroom and school coverage. It has been incredibly rewarding to spend time with your students. They remind us of the many reasons why we do this work and bring us so much joy. It is also a powerful reminder of the work our teachers and therapists do on a daily basis. Now that COVID cases are decreasing, and we have put in place more sustainable strategies to address our staffing challenges, our special education administrators and program specialists are able to return to their more typical responsibilities. We are so incredibly grateful for the amazing educators here in Lake Washington.

While we have been navigating the challenges of this school year, our focus on improving outcomes for students with disabilities has remained unchanged. We have been offering professional learning in Universal Design for Learning, inclusionary practices and positive behavior supports. Special education teachers have been engaged in learning our new K-5 math curriculum and supplemental reading curriculums. 

We have also been particularly focused on our goal of bringing inclusion to all schools within LWSD. Mike Van Orden, Associate Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services, recently presented an overview of our implementation plan to the School Board. You can view the presentation here. In summary, we are going to expand inclusion from our current pilot of three schools to nine elementary schools and one middle school for the 2022-23 school year. We will be working with these nine schools through the remainder of this school year as well as providing additional training in August. We expect to learn from our work with these schools and that knowledge will inform our implementation efforts district-wide. We plan to have the remaining elementary schools implement inclusion the following year (2023-24). In addition, we are collaborating with our secondary schools to expand inclusionary practices with a particular focus on co-teaching. We want to emphasize that this is not the work of special education. Inclusion is outlined in our district strategic plan and our board policy. It is a general education initiative that benefits ALL students. 

If you would like to learn more about our plans, please join us at the next Special Needs PTSA meeting (details below). We will be sharing the presentation we offered the School Board, and we would love your feedback. This has been an incredibly collaborative effort involving district leadership, principals, staff, families and our partners at the TIES Center, UW Haring Center and OSPI. This is work that is meant to be co-designed and we value your thoughts and perspectives. If you cannot join us at the upcoming meeting, stay tuned to our district webpage. We intend to provide bi-weekly updates on our work and share resources developed by our partners and team members. I could not be more excited to see inclusion becoming a reality here in LWSD. It is incredibly challenging work, but it is the RIGHT work.


Shannon Hitch signature

Dr. Shannon Hitch, NCSP
Executive Director for Special Services

Please remember to VOTE on February 8

Please vote

Lake Washington School District has three local education levies on the February ballot. You can learn more here.


Support and guidance

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, check out the website: Informing Families, Building Trust. It is an excellent resource that takes all of the complex information on supporting individuals with disabilities in Washington state and makes it easy to understand and access. They can also be found on Facebook! For more information and resources, visit their website: Informing Families, Building Trust.


Transition Academy award

The Lake Washington Transition Academy was recently awarded the 2021 Corporate Stride Award from Little Bit Riding Center. The announcement states: “Lake Washington School District’s Transition Academy has been an outstanding community partner since 2015, providing much-needed services to Little Bit while helping provide real-life job experience for its participants.” Congratulations to our students and staff!


King County Transition Fair

King County offers an annual transition fair, geared towards students at the secondary level. You can learn more about the upcoming 2022 Transition Fair at the King County School to Work Webpage, where two of our students are featured on the front page!


New resources to support students with intellectual disabilities and/or autism

The Health Care Authority has partnered with the University of Washington and the Seattle Children’s Autism Center for the purpose of advancing knowledge and training regarding individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and/or autism. There is a new Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) training starting every third Wednesday of the month, with the first training on February 16, 2022, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. This monthly training aims to provide evidence-based resources, support and information to assist individuals with IDD including autism and their families navigate the complex maze of IDD and autism resources, services and supports. Go here to sign up.


Scholarship opportunity

As part of their efforts to increase inclusion, Microsoft is offering a scholarship to 12th grade students with disabilities. Application deadline is March 15, 2022. Go here for more information.


Award-winning books

The American Library Association just announced the winners of the 2022 Schneider Family Book Awards, which honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for children and adolescents. Time to visit the library or your local bookstore!

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, February 15, 2021
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Location: Online via Zoom (see LWPTSA webpage for more information and Zoom link)

Save the Date: Mark your calendar for the 2021-22 PTSA Special Education Group Meetings

All meetings are 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

  • March 15, 2022
  • April 19, 2022
  • May 17, 2022