ABC13+ ALVIN: Distinct Abilities program helping students with special needs through inclusivity

ALVIN, Texas (KTRK) -- A classroom in which children can grow to be their own person while learning in a healthy environment is a parent's dream.

That's why Distinct Abilities is so important to the Alvin community.

Located near Highway 6 in Alvin, the school prides itself in practicing a full inclusion concept.

That means blending students with special needs with those with non-special needs in the same classroom. Parents like Mindy Rios, whose son Jacob attends the school, say the program is helping immensely.

"It helps for him to be around children that are developing normally, so he gets to see the good role models in the other children," said Rios. "So, for him, the inclusion is the most important part."

Founder Valerie Connatser developed the program years ago. With more than 33 years in the child care industry, Connatser said she realized many day cares or private schools were hesitant to accept children with special needs and give them the guidance they needed on a daily basis while being integrated in a classroom.

That's when Distinct Abilities blossomed.

"It's a win-win situation," she said. "The children of special needs get to emulate other children, other than special needs children, and the children of non-special needs get an opportunity to mentor other children. It gives them a great sense of responsibility and caring for these children."

Teachers like April Hightower believe the program works very well for her students.
"With bullying being such a big issue in the world nowadays, the fact that these children are together all the time, it lets them know that everybody is the same, even though they may not work at the same pace," said Hightower. "Everybody is the same"

Michelle Vera's son Aiden has Down syndrome. She has seen improvements in her son's growth.

"There are milestones," said Vera. "Just knowing how to stand in line and wait your turn to go down a slide. He picks it up. He knows how to do it by himself without the cues."

Distinct Abilities has two locations: Clear Lake and Alvin.

"We really would like to be able to see us put this type of a program in place in all kinds of communities," Connatser explained. "You think it would really be beneficial for all communities to have this type of program. Distinct Abilities or not, the main core concept of Distinct Abilities will do well all throughout, anywhere in the world."

For more information, visit distinctabilities.com.

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