By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — One year after its implementation, a program at the Shenendehowa Central School District that focuses on students with disabilities has helped those students to thrive.
The Mobility Opportunities Via Education (MOVE) program is a nonprofit effort that encourages full participation and integration of people with disabilities both at school and in the working world.
MOVE started in the ’80s in California, and has since become an international program. In a school setting, MOVE provides occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, music therapy, and vision therapy to low-mobility students.
Shen officially launched the MOVE program in September.
MOVE is designed to take students from kindergarten to age 21. The program takes a team-and-activity-based teaching approach, with students using different pieces of equipment and floor mats for therapy every half hour.
They are integrated as much as possible in lunch, physical education classes, and other extracurricular activities, but the main point is that the students in the program will receive constant one-on-one stimulation support.
The district repurposed one classroom at Tesago Elementary School for MOVE, as that was the building with the lowest enrollment and the space to house the program.
The students taking part in the MOVE program go through a full-length school day. In the morning, they get ready for their day and then proceed to homeroom with their peers.
Of the course of the rest of the day, each student focuses on his or her own individualized academic program, which varies based on each student’s different abilities.
To help familiarize students and teachers already at Tesago with MOVE, the school psychiatrist and guidance counselor created a curriculum that was presented that showed them how to interact with the new students.
Michelle Mylod, director of the district’s special education department explained that the transition of the MOVE program had been nearly seamless into the building routine.
“Everybody in the school has just welcomed our students, and our staff, and we are very proud of that,” she said at a recent board of education meeting.
There is a nurse on staff in the MOVE classroom to deal with medical emergencies, and the school nurse helps as well.
Students who are not enrolled in the MOVE program can also participate via volunteer activities, including the Best Buddies program and Reading Buddies program.
Best Buddies is a program that aims to promote friendships and mentorships between students with and without mental or physical disabilities, and Reading Buddies pairs students together to boost reading skills.
Bill Casey, board of education president, noted that the MOVE program is particularly special because it’s a program that has an immediate and positive effect on students throughout the district.
“This is one of the things where are a board member, we can have an impact, This is one of the things that makes me proud,” Casey said.