Empathy is one of college student Meg Moore's strongest traits. She was born with cerebral palsy, needs assistance walking and speaks through a DynaVox, a speech-generating device. When she enters a class at Fairfield University, where she studies creative writing, she understands that her teachers panic the first time that they see her. However, the 19-year-old is accepting of this and even jokes about it to make others feel comfortable. Her goal is for people to see her as a person, rather than a list of disabilities.
Ms. Moore was the guest speaker at Port Chester High School’s opening day on Sept. 1. Her keynote presentation inspired the staff to bolster its commitment to enhance instructional practices that accommodate students with disabilities.
The school’s principal, Dr. Mitchell Combs, thought that his employees would benefit greatly from hearing Ms. Moore’s inspirational stories. She discussed her struggles to live a fulfilling life both inside and outside of school. She also discussed the power that educators have to help students with disabilities meet high expectations and to feel fully included in the school community.
“Ms. Moore attributed much of her success in life to the dedication and skills of her teachers, support staff and school administrators,” said David Luhman, a Southern Westchester BOCES Special Education School Improvement Specialist for the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Special Education Technical Assistance and Support Center (RSE-TASC). Mr. Luhman invited Ms. Moore to speak in Port Chester, a school district that he works with.
Mr. Luhman’s work guides professional development in Westchester County school districts to promote the independence of students with disabilities through the growth of strong academic, social-emotional and self-determination skills. RSE-TASC provides a coordinated system of high-quality technical assistance, training and on-site support to districts throughout the region.
At Port Chester High School’s opening day, Ms. Moore and her mother spoke poignantly about the value of inclusion and how staff members can work with students in a the least restrictive environment.
“Meg’s presentation helped teachers understand that their approaches to teaching students with disabilities require a need for balance and perspective in order for every student to be successful in the classroom,” said Dr. Combs.
He added that Ms. Moore empowered his staff to enhance their services for disabled students and cautioned them to never underestimate the potential of any child. Port Chester special education teacher Chris Kazim agreed.
“Having listened to Meg speak about overcoming her adversities,” he said, “it became even more apparent that we as educators must extend our expectations to the highest level so that our students are encouraged to rise above their challenges and reach their fullest potentials.”
Following her presentation, Ms. Moore participated in a Q&A session. Many audience members shared their own stories about friends and family members who struggle with disabilities. Several teachers expressed that they were moved by Meg and her mother’s courage and spirit regarding facing all of life’s challenges.
“It was very well-received,” said Mr. Luhman. “Meg was a very material reminder of how faculty members have an impact on all students.”