Dec. 15, 2017

Special to The Achiever

Cynthia Eversole had a hunch about one of her newer students, a girl with whom she had just started working with this fall.

Actually, it was more of a “gut feeling,” said the IPS special education teacher who specializes in working with students with blindness/low vision or deaf blindness and is also certified to serve students who are deaf/hard of hearing.

Eversole felt like the student needed large print but previous assessments did not show this. After consulting the student’s parents, she called for another assessment and found the student did have vision loss. Eversole also noticed something different in the student’s speech. 

“I thought maybe I was being too careful, but continued to work with the student because I had a gut feeling that there was something more,” she said.

While Eversole worked with the student and her parents, the parents were also working with medical professionals to determine the problem — Optic atrophy type 1. It’s a condition that usually begins in childhood and causes slowly worsening vision and, in some cases, hearing loss.

Now that the condition has been identified, the student is receiving proper treatment and adaptive education within the classroom while additional medical tests are being done. 

“We were right there at the beginning of the process with the student and her parents,” said Eversole. “We were able to identify abnormalities and make adjustments to ensure she receives the best education possible.”

This story is not unique at IPS. The district’s Special Education Department (SPED) provides a variety of services to students with special needs every day. 

 “My favorite days are when I get to work with students all day,” said Eversole.

Brent Freeman, special education officer at IPS, said Eversole is an incredible asset to district families. “Her work can quite literally change the trajectory of a young person’s entire life by ensuring they can access academic content as a child, in light of their unique needs,” he said.

Prior to joining IPS, Eversole served in various teaching roles for students with special needs around the world since starting her career in 1980. She now works with students throughout IPS who have deaf blindness and serves students with blindness/low vision in the southeast part of the district. She is currently planning an after-school program for blind or low-vision students and their parents/guardians to learn Braille together. 

“If I identify a student need and take it to the building administrator, district leadership is always willing to support the project,” said Eversole. “Teachers and staff in the district want what is best for the students and do what it takes to make it happen. By learning Braille, parents/guardians will be able to communicate with their students by writing notes.”

According to statistics, 18.5 percent of IPS students have special needs. However, no matter the challenge, the district aims to promote the educational achievement of all students in a unified system. 

IPS Board of School Commissioner’s District 5 Representative Dorene Hoops is proud to be involved with the district’s SPED program with her son Cannon. 

“From the first moment my son Cannon was enrolled in IPS, I have been incredibly pleased with both his instruction and the genuine care shown for him,” said Hoops. “Our family is lucky that our schools place so much emphasis on helping students with special needs, and we are very grateful.”

For more information on IPS’ special education services, contact specialeducation@myips.org.