Liverpool: Students with disabilities speak to Special Ed PTO

On Wednesday Nov. 7, six students gathered in the Willow Field Elementary School library to give a presentation before nearly 40 parents, teachers, administrators and peers.

This was no ordinary presentation, and these were no ordinary students. The students -- four high schoolers (Kris Grobsmith, whose resource teacher is Chris Spring; Jeanna Bayley and Lexi Eddington, whose resource teacher is Pam Casamento; and Brianna Burns, whose resource teacher is Julie Spillett), a seventh-grader (Jeremy Corsaro, whose resource teacher is John Sheridan) and a sixth-grader (Marissa Brockway, whose resource teacher is Sue McDonald) -- each have a learning disability. They had come to speak to the Liverpool Central School District's Special Education Parent-Teacher Organization about their disabilities and to give advice to parents, teachers and students on learning with a disability.

The Liverpool schools host a presentation like this every year. Students from all levels typically speak at a school and tell "typical" students what it's like to try to learn with a disability. This is the first time the group has spoken before the Special Ed PTO. The Special Ed PTO was formed last year by LCSD Board of Education member Dee Perkins, whose son, Taylor, a seventh-grader at Soule Road Middle, is autistic. It invites speakers to advise parents and teachers on students with special needs and meets every other month.

The event was organized by Pam Casamento and Chris Spring from Liverpool High School.

Topics discussed included different learning styles, alternative programs like BOCES and hardships for the students.

One activity involved two volunteers -- a parent and another student in the audience -- receiving a long list of instructions and having to comply with them without them being repeated. The task, the volunteers agreed, was almost impossible.

"How would you feel if you felt this way every day, every time you tried to follow oral directions?" Casamento said. "This exercise was designed to let you know what it's like every time a teacher gives oral directions for a disabled student."

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