Inside the Classroom: Helping Special Needs Students - 8 News NOW

Inside the Classroom: Helping Special Needs Students

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LAS VEGAS -- Governor Brian Sandoval has yet to sign the bill passed on Tuesday giving more than $700 million back to K-12 education. He has until early next week, but has said he would veto any bill that would raise or create taxes.

Local schools like the Clark County School District's special needs schools are counting on that money to save jobs and keep curriculum intact.

At the John Miller School, class sizes are small, around six students per class, with one teacher and two teachers aides. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday, Diana Pederson teaches the most severely disabled students in the district.

"All of our kids are multiply impaired -- mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, kids with cerebral palsy," she said.

By law, CCSD has to educate special needs children from age three to 22, so many of these students are like her children.

"Our progress is fairly slow, but we get to know the kids really well and get involved in their activities and what goes on so we know how they access different materials," said Pederson.

Pederson doesn't just teach them to read, write and color, she helps them use the bathroom, put on makeup, paint their nails and gives them medicine. She says the public doesn't realize she and her students get tested just like everyone else.

"We do have the same standards that regular ed students," she said. "They don't see the small gains that our kids are making, and you're getting evaluated on something that's totally unrealistic for our students."

Beside budget cuts threatening her teacher aide positions, she says she continually fights stereotypes.

"People think that it's a waste of money, I've heard that before. And I look at our kids and I see how much they gain. It may take time, but they do gain a lot. I started working in special needs in the 70's, when kids were in institutions, and you didn't see the kind of gains. This is kind of like a big family. All the kids love being here," she said.

The John Miller School is one of only four special needs schools. The principal says they have had very little turnover because so many of the teachers get attached to the students.

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