'Different' isn't stupid: How Kenton County schools work to meet every student's unique needs

Posted at 4:30 AM, Aug 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-20 08:44:06-04

COVINGTON, Ky. -- When their alarm clock rings at 6:30, 11-year-old twins Gracie and Steven Wright have similar morning rituals: Eat breakfast, brush their teeth, make sure their bags are packed and ride the bus to fifth grade at Taylor Mill Elementary. Once they get there, however, the pair couldn't be more different.

"They've always learned very differently, even from an early age," mother Angie Wright said. "Steven has always been a hands-on, kinesthetic learner. He would always like to see things in motion and use his hands to figure out the environment. Gracie has always been a social butterfly; she's always wanting to interact with people, talk to people."

That allotment of traits has made Gracie well-suited for a traditional educational environment but presented some challenges for Steven, she added. Both children are smart -- it's just that they need different things from their school.

That's where Shelly Boutwell comes in. She coordinates positive behavioral instructional support -- PBIS -- for all students in Kenton County, helping ensure every one of them has access to the personal support they need.

"We have a tiered system," she said, with each successive tier representing a more intensive level of personal tailoring. "Tier One, everybody gets; Tier Two, some kids get, and Tier Three, very few students get."

The needs the two higher tiers address can range from those directly connected to the way the student processes new information to those that might initially seem more distant, such as the student's social, emotional and mental health. Every one of those factors can affect a child's ability to get the most out of school.

Angie Wright knows firsthand that every child is different, even those who come from the exact same household. She said she's grateful for the extra attention Kenton County schools sets aside for children whose learning styles are different from the norm.

"I think it's important that we give kids the opportunity to learn at their own pace, at their own ability, and make them all feel good about it," she said.