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Standing Up for Students with Special Needs


Credit to Photo Submitted by Victoria Woodworth

Senior Victoria Woodworth takes a picture with three students she works in class with.

By Jordyn Sgroi

Senior Victoria Woodworth has had a passion for working and volunteering with special needs since she was young, and it all started with a kid named Michael. In second grade, Woodworth met a boy with global apraxia and they soon became best friends. Global Apraxia is a speech sound disorder that affects brain pathways responsible for the movement sequences involved in speech production. Michael was attached to Woodworth at the hip. They had a bond like no other. They even hung out outside of school.

Now, 10 years later, Woodworth is kickstarting her career here at FHN by working as an A+ tutor in a special needs classroom. For an hour out of the day, she works with nine special needs kids in Juli Smith’s Essential Skills class. During this hour she tutors and helps her fellow classmates when needed. 

“I love teaching in general and I love working with them,” Woodworth said. “Special needs kids are usually easy to work with and super happy most of the time.”

Working in the classroom will count towards Woodworth’s A+ hours and earning her two free years of schooling. She plans to attend a college in Canton, MO called Culverstockton. She wants to continue schooling to get her bachelor’s degree in special education. With special education, there’s opportunities to work in many different places. There is a lot of opportunity with jobs and it is always in demand. Overall, 13.7 percent of schools are special needs kids, and they just need people like Woodworth to help further their education. Such as working as a teacher in high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools among other things. Another choice is also being a paraprofessional for kids who are in general education or smaller group classes. Paras go from class to class with kids or work one on one with them in smaller groups. 

“Volunteering is giving her a lot of real-world experience,” Smith said.

Woodworth has had this passion for a long time and she believes kids with special needs should not be treated any differently than others.  In public schools today, children with disabilities are more likely than their classmates to be disciplined or removed from the classroom. Unwelcome conduct against kids with disabilities can cause lower grades and an increase in an inability to concentrate.

“They have feelings too and when you sit there and make fun of them, they hear it,” Woodworth said. “They understand and they know when they are being treated differently.”

Woodworth agrees that sometimes it’s difficult to provide the extra challenge they need. They need extra help learning their material and processing information. Some kids need limited distractions to help concentration.

“Everyone has bad days and with special needs it can be really hard and you need to have a lot of patience with them,” said Woodworth. 

Deep down, everyone is all the same. Students learn differently compared to others and some just take more time to comprehend things. Working with special needs can be a huge responsibility. It takes patience, effort and kindness. With these things and while working with special needs kids during her school day to gain the classroom experience before graduating, Woodworth is on the right track to continue her career within special education in the future. Woodworth will be graduating this school year, then going to Culverstockton in the fall to start her education. She has a scholarship to Culverstockton and will be attending there for four years. After graduating from college, she plans to help schools in need of teachers and continue her education to get her masters. 

“Be a special needs teacher!” Woodworth said.