The Amazing Shrine School for Children with Special Needs

The Shrine School in Memphis, Tennessee is one of a kind. During a recent visit, I watched a child speak for the first time. This school is amazing.

The Shrine School in Memphis, Tennessee is one of a kind. I visited it in late September of 2017 and was blown away by the building, the teachers, the staff, the parents, and most of all, by the 150 students served there.

I knew this school was something special after spying this multiple child carrier in the preschool hallway.

The school, part of Shelby County Schools, has a unique history and collaboration with the Shriner Organization. The Shrine Board of Control provides funding for special services that benefit the students who attend the school. To be eligible to attend, students (who range from age 3 to 21) must have an IEP, and the need for nursing services must be written into their IEPs. The services offered are amazing. Here are pictures of a few.

Breakfast and lunch for all students. The little girl in the chair is eating breakfast. The cafeteria provides special meals for students who require pureed food, thickened liquids, gluten-free and the like.

Full time, on site physical, occupational, and speech therapists who do some work in the therapy room above or in the classroom.

Special changing tables in the locker rooms for students whose IEPs include water therapy in the pool shown at the top of the page.

Adaptive PE equipment for tots,

tweens,

teens, and young adults.

A fully stocked library run by Ms. Posey, which I think is the best possible name for a children’s librarian.

A life skills area where students learn cooking and housekeeping skills.

The Shrine School also has a full time RN who works with students and oversees numerous LPNs that serve each wing of the school (preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school). Class sizes range from 8–13 students. Each classroom has a full time teacher and at least 2 teaching assistants. The principal has been there 18 years and is passionate about the students. The full time guidance counselor, who first contacted me about speaking at their fall parent resource fair, knows every student by name and is constantly searching for resources for children and families.

Here are a few of the Shelby County resources at  the Resource Fair.

Meet Brittany, a Shrine School Alum, who now works for The Arc in the Memphis area and represented the organization at their booth.

Speaking of families, the Shrine School parents are dedicated and involved. Here are a few of the over 100 who attended the Fall Resource Fair.

The work being done by and with the students dropped my jaw more than once. In 1 classroom, a little boy operated the smart screen with his foot.

He knew exactly how to get to the channel he wanted.

At the end of the day, I visited a middle school classroom. The speech therapist wheeled one of the students into the room and announced that the young girl had “found her voice” that day. “Say hello to everyone,” she instructed a girl with dancing eyes and a radiant smile who was unable to use her limbs or speak because of cerebral palsy.

Then, for the first time in her life, the young girl used her gaze-activated communication board to say, “Hi, how are you?”

Gaze-activated communication board in use!

I watched the teachers and associates lovingly gather around her chair to chat with the student and listen to what she had to say. They kept their cool, but I was in tears.

“This school is amazing,” I told the guidance counselor later as I recounted the story.

“Miracles like that happen here all the time,” she said. “Children take their first steps, start talking, and learn to use the bathroom.”

At the end of the day, I went back to my hotel room grateful to the Shriners for their commitment to children with special needs. But my gratitude pales in comparison to that of the parents.

One after another said, “My child loves it here, and so do we. This is the best school ever.”

And do you know what I think?

They’re right.

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3 Comments

  1. October 20, 2017    

    This is amazing! We live in Nashville and my son attends a special needs preschool there that we love, but there’s really nothing other than public school once he goes into kindergarten next year.

  2. October 20, 2017    

    What an amazing school! Wow.

  3. October 20, 2017    

    You should check it out, Jamie. Just remember the eligibility requirements: every child must already have an IEP and the IEP must include the need for nursing services while at school. Jolene

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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