The annual South Dakota Special Education Conference is hosted by the Center for Disabilities in collaboration with the South Dakota Department of Education. The event is targeted towards special education staff and educators across South Dakota. This year the conference was held virtually due to COVID-19.
Ryan Groeneweg is the Director of Community Education. He oversees a team of training and technical assistance specialists at USD’s Center for Disability. Groeneweg said the event is to help professionals so they are better able to serve and work with individuals with a variety of disabilities.
“The purpose of this Special Ed Conference is to bring the latest, best practices and evidence-based approaches to work with children in the classroom,” Groeneweg said. “Especially those who have special education needs, but it serves as an opportunity for professional development and continuing education for many of the educators.”
Groeneweg said presentations lasted an hour and covered topics such as literacy, mental health issues and anxiety about navigating the pandemic. Attendees registered for different hour-long presentations a week prior to the event.
“We tried to cover ages ranging from pre-K all the way to twelfth grade so that they would have to choose topics that were relevant to their grade level,” Groeneweg said.
The committee picks a keynote speaker after a year of deliberation. This year, they picked Mike Veny. Veny gave a presentation about mental health and the statements associated with mental health disorders.
“What Mike Veny said is with stigma, if there’s shame that they’re silenced and that leads to greater problems,” Groeneweg said. “In order to address that, you have to be willing to talk about it.”
Groeneweg said that students who are pursuing a career in education should be reassured that there will be opportunities to expand their knowledge in whatever field they choose to work in.
“It’s important that those who graduate, they come out with a good foundation as an educator, as a teacher, but their learning and their ability to be a teacher doesn’t stop,” Groeneweg said. “They need to keep going back for professional development opportunities so that they stay current and informed.”
Educators can find more information about the Special Education Conference can be found at https://centerfordisabilitiessouthdakota.wordpress.com/.