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Photo from Getty Images
Photo from Getty Images

KELLY and TERRA programs guide special-needs students back to the classroom

Posted On: 2017-11-02 12:33 PM
From AZCentral.com...


By Cara O'Donnell, Edkey® Inc.

Students who are emotionally disabled or on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) often feel like they've been forced into a path for their education that they don't want.

By being separated from the general education population, their progress in reading, writing or math can be stifled. They can also miss out on important milestones of growing up.

But charter school system Edkey® Inc. provides a program for these students that not only offers K-12 education, but also gives students the coping and management skills they need to successfully return to general education classrooms.

The KELLY program for emotionally disabled students and the TERRA program for students on the autism spectrum provide the resources, expertise and attention these special education students need.

"Our entire program is therapeutic," said Keri Gregory, director of special education services for Edkey® Inc. "We want the children to self regulate and learn to manage their behaviors on their own. There's an on-site counselor who works with us daily to coach on behaviors. Our philosophy is to rehabilitate and get them back out to general ed as quickly as possible."

Edkey® Inc. operates 18 charter schools throughout Arizona. It offers resources through KELLY and TERRA for students, regardless of whether they are currently enrolled at an Edkey school.

To enroll in the programs, students must be on an existing Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and eligible for special education services.

"We're open to anybody who would benefit from this program," Gregory said. "We've taken the most difficult cases and have helped. Every child is different. This is a team effort on working with different schools and principals to make sure the child gets what he or she needs. We're setting them up to be successful."

Through the program, students interact with a team of coaches and teachers. They learn to self-regulate, self-cope and understand empathy, as well as how to communicate appropriately with adults and their peers.

There are 42 students currently enrolled in the KELLY and TERRA programs. The goal is to help give the student a successful conclusion returning to the general classroom, and with the skills and tools they need to become a productive adult.

"Our high school students get transitioned out into the community for postsecondary things that they're interested in," Gregory said. "We have students who want to become chefs, who want to work in game and fish, who want to become business owners. We provide opportunities for them to go out into the community."

Gregory said that bringing in guest speakers and taking students out to field trip helps them understand what could be possible. The classroom and counseling sessions provide the interpersonal skills they need to make those dreams achievable.

"The parents are thrilled," Gregory said. "They're so happy because that's the ultimate goal. With the behavior coaching we have in place, the student can be successful. We start it in phases. They never thought their child could go back into general ed."

Current program participants are located all across the Valley. Location doesn't matter, Gregory said.

"We provide transportation to and from," Gregory said. "Some of them are coming all the way from San Tan Valley. Some are in Phoenix, some are in Mesa. We work really hard with the transportation department to make sure that we can provide every student the opportunity to come here. We don't hold back."

Gregory said parents are welcome to contact her to learn more about KELLY and TERRA, and to arrange a tour.

"There's a job for everybody," she said. "There's a purpose for everybody."

To learn more about the KELLY and TERRA programs, call 480-461-3200 or contact kgregory@edkey.com.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

Photos: Photo from Getty Images