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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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?
Do you like what you see at DifferentDream.com? You can receive more great content by subscribing to the quarterly Different Dream newsletter and signing up for the daily RSS feed delivered to your email inbox. You can sign up for the first in the pop up box and the second at the bottom of this page.