By CONNIE J. MANGIN / Executive Director of Special Education

The Soundwave Handbell Choir is celebrating their 40th anniversary. These 40 years have been filled with multiple opportunities for our Special Education students to participate in musical activities at local, regional, state and national competitions and performances. Travels include two trips to Washington D.C. where the choir played at the Capitol and multiple trips to the Texas State Capitol for rotunda performances.  A 40th Anniversary Celebration will be held later this year with former members joining our current members for a concert. Watch for more information – you will not want to miss this event!

In October our Special Education Department along with Region 14 and United Way 211 hosted the Tenth Annual Community Resource Fair.  The Fair is a collaborative effort of community connection which focuses on local education, social, health and wellness resources and services which positively impact parents, students and the entire Abilene community. The fair brought together 77 agencies and over 850 people with common interests from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, ages and socioeconomic levels.

Christmas Programs were presented at One AISD Center and community locations by elementary and middle school students and the Soundwave Handbell Choir. The students’ enthusiasm and cheer brought many smiles and much admiration for their talents and abilities.

 Special Olympics continue to be extracurricular opportunities for our students. Early Childhood, elementary, middle school and high school students participate in bowling, bocce, basketball, soccer and track and field.  Athletes have excelled in all of these events and have not only participated locally but have gone to state competitions. All commit to the Special Olympics Athlete Oath – “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

AISD was recently recognized as a 10-year participant of Project Unify/ Meet in the Middle, another Special Olympics program, designed to involve students of all ages and all ability levels in meaningful activities that promote inclusion, youth leadership and advocacy.  High schools and middle schools implement this program to increase awareness of the gifts, abilities and value of all individuals in our schools and community. General Education and Special Education students participate side by side in service projects, athletic training and competition, and other school related projects. Students build peer relationships while having fun, developing new skills, and serving their schools and community.

The AISD Transition Program has grown tremendously over the past several years. Both AHS and CHS students participate in transition courses which allow on-job training in various locations in our community. These community-based learning opportunities assist our students with the development of positive work skills that will lead to full or part-time employment upon graduation from high school.  AHS students also participate in SkillsUSA with students advancing to state competitions. Abilene individuals and businesses have been the key in the success of the AISD Transition Program through partnership and by allowing students to train in the natural work environment. Graduates continue to be successfully employed through the community in business, industry and public service.

Our Special Education students contribute immensely to our district and carry their enthusiasm to not only the Abilene community but well beyond. My hat goes off to the students, teachers, paraprofessionals and other campus staff who not only educate our students but provide acceptance and encouragement to be the best.