The Central Effort

Naperville Central prides itself on its programs that help students with special needs integrate within classes and foster relationships with regular students. Central offers a multitude of programs in and out of the classroom that helps these students socialize with each other and other students in the school.

Ana Turner and Madeleine Chan, Editor-in-Chief, Profiles Editor

The Individuals with Disabilites Education Act was first implemented in 1990 throughout the United States. The legislation ensures that students with disabilities will have an education experience tailored to their needs. Naperville Central’s special education department follows this legislation, but goes significantly beyond what is required to create the best environment possible for its students.

There are 13 different identified areas of disability within the state of Illinois as defined by IDEA. The identified areas include a specific learning disability, other health impairment, autism spectrum disorder, emotional disturbance, speech or language impairment, visual impairment, deafness, deaf-blindness, orthopedic impairment, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury or multiple disabilities.

Eventually, if one or more of these identified areas is adversely impacting the education of a student, then specialized services will be provided to that student. Services provided to students with special needs include assistants in general education classroom settings, direct instructions in specialized classrooms, therapists available to students, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language therapists, as well as counseling.

These services are required by state law, but Central works to improve them above and beyond what is required.

“Because we have a larger district, we are able to provide more,” Special Education Instructional Coordinator Nancy Wiora said. “Many students with autism in gen-ed classrooms would be typically be outplaced to other programs.”

Some families with students requiring special needs will move within District 203 boundaries specifically because of the services provided here.

“We typically have two or three families call a year,” Wiora said. “We typically set up an interview with them and their student and have them tour the school and our services.”

There are 25 learning behavior specialist teachers at Central, along with 24 paraprofessional assistants, who work daily with students in and out of the classroom. The administration throughout District 203 is also supportive of the services provided at Central.

“I’ve worked in various schools before and this school had a good feel,” Wiora said.

In recent years, the special education department has tried to integrate students with special needs into gen-ed classrooms.

“Research shows that students will make more progress when placed into a gen-ed classroom,” Wiora said. “There is more opportunity for growth and other peers to look up to as role models, both behaviorally and academically.”


Sensory PE:

Another PE class offered to students with special needs is Sensory PE. In this class, peer leaders work on personal relationships as well as motor skills like a regular gym class.

“Sensory PE is a very structured, visual class,” Sensory PE teacher Kristina Hagenbaumer said. “They use task strips and work on individualized motor skill development with each students’ ability level.”

Students in Sensory PE work in smaller groups, with one or two peers being assigned to one student. They work on motor skills like a regular gym class.

“Being in Sensory PE has changed my life,” Amato said. I have a whole different view on how fantastic these students are.”

“The special needs programs at Central are fantastic,” Amato said. “They not only affect the kids that are in the classes, but they affect the Central student body as a whole.”

“No matter who the students are at Central, whether they are the varsity athletes, the kids on speech, in theatre or just regular academic students. Everyone is surrounded by students in special needs classes and this inclusivity changes people for the better.”  

Adapted PE:

The goal of Adapted PE is to work on personal relationships between regular students and their classmates with special needs. The class is taught by Pat Adamatis, who operates with one goal: to get everyone involved. No matter what you’re capable of, there is a place for you.

“It helps you break down barriers,” Adapted PE leader Laasya Poola said. “It’s hard to talk to someone out of the blue but when you’re playing team activities, it’s easier to do.”

As the name suggests, the course provides students with adapted versions of typical physical education activities like bowling and swimming, meant to suit all students and foster community.

Adapted PE differs from Sensory PE as Adapted focuses more on peer relationships. Adapted PE has “tribes” of four to five peer leaders to one peer. Sensory still builds relationships, but focuses more on the basic tasks and motor skills.

Adapted Art:

After Adapted PE was introduced at Central, a new class called Adapted Art was created and modeled after the Adapted PE program.

“Rather than throwing [students with special needs] into a drawing class that’s over their heads, they’re being taught at their level,” Adapted PE teacher Pat Adamatis said.

In Adapted Art, the students and their peers make arts and crafts similar to what students did in grade school and hang their pieces around the school and in art shows.

“[The students with special needs] love to be able to express themselves, especially when they can’t communicate easily…so they love the art class,” senior and Adapted Art leader Olyvia McGuire said.   

FUN Club:

Meeting every Tuesday in the auxiliary gym, F.U.N. Club is a social club that provides opportunities for students with special needs at Central to interact recreationally with their peers. In addition, it keeps students who move on to Naperville 203’s Connections program connected socially with their friends who still go to Central. F.U.N. Club stands for Friends Uniting in Naperville and students can come hang out, play games and sing. One activity F.U.N. club participated in recently was go to the fire department, police department and Naperville Park District to sing.

“It’s to keep connected with the community,” F.U.N. Club adviser Pat Adamatis said. “It’s to let the fire department, police department, park district know that there’s this population of kids that need to be served in our town.”

Adamatis lets whoever wants to come, come and there can be upwards of 50 or 60 students there every Tuesday.

“Students want to be with other people whether it be other special needs friends or regular students,” Adamatis said. “F.U.N. Club is a place where they can do that.”

Special Olympics:

For students with special needs interested in participating in sports, Naperville Central sponsors three special olympic sports: bowling, basketball and track.

Special Olympics is a national program designed to provide students with special needs with the experience of athletic competition. It’s both a fun and competitive program. Students work with peer leaders after school during their practices and any student at any level can join.