Special education programs seek to improve dropout, employment r - KCTV5

Special education programs seek to improve dropout, employment rates for students with disabilities

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Megan Hensley, who has Fragile X Syndrome, graduated from Oak Park High School and now works at Aunt Mary’s Cookies in North Kansas City. (KCTV5) Megan Hensley, who has Fragile X Syndrome, graduated from Oak Park High School and now works at Aunt Mary’s Cookies in North Kansas City. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

The disability dropout rate has schools in high gear, trying to help students with disabilities graduate and gain employment.

Special education programs at the North Kansas City School District are showing success for people with disabilities.

“High school is just challenging to begin with, and then if you have a learning disability or an intellectual disability, that can be compounded,” said special education teacher Rita Richards.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities collected data from the 2015-2016 school year showing a 14 percent dropout rate for students with special needs in Missouri and 17 percent in Kansas.

Nationally, 18 percent of kids with learning disabilities – like ADHD or dyslexia – drop out. That’s nearly triple the rate for all students, which is just 6.5 percent according to NCLD.

What about life after school? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17.9 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2016.

The numbers appear bleak, but special education programs like the one at the North Kansas City School District are making a difference.

Megan Hensley, who has Fragile X Syndrome, graduated from Oak Park High School and now works at Aunt Mary’s Cookies in North Kansas City.

A school program called Project SEARCH, led by Richards, allowed her to intern at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Truman Medical Center. The average successful employment after Project SEARCH is 94.5 percent.

“It makes me proud every single day to have a job here,” said Hensley.

Another work study program through the district led to Caleb Clark’s first job out of high school at the North Kansas City Hospital cafeteria.

“My disability is a reading and writing disability. I jumble up words and letters sometimes, and my handwriting is horrible but I'm trying to get better,” said Clark.

Clark said he’s happy to be a success story but sad for those who might not have received the same help he did.

“Don't give up and keep trying. You'll get better,” said Clark.

Support from special education programs is key to help kids with disabilities beat the odds.

“Everybody has value and needs to be appreciated for who they are and what they contribute to society,” said Richards.

We all have something special to share.

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