Conference attendees focused on making sure students in special education receive a quality education and have as similar as possible learning experiences as their peers.

“I have a daughter who has Down Syndrome, she used services from the time she was born all the way until she was done with public schools,” said President of the Bismarck/Mandan Council for Exceptional Children, Roxane Romanic.

“There’s so much in special education, whether it’s paperwork, to high need students that require a lot of individual planning which takes time, and you have to think outside the box,“ said Mandan Public Schools Director of Alternative Education Carly Retterath.

Thinking creatively includes ideas such as fulfilling the needs of academics, inclusion, socio-emotional behavior, and students requiring physical accommodation.

“Continuing improvement and continuing movement to include all kids, that we’re not going to separate kids out. You go to this classroom, and you go to that classroom and work with just this teacher. Whether you are a part of third grade or whether you are part of 10th grade,” Retterath said.

Romanick said because of her daughter’s disability she became a supporter of the cause.

“We’ve gotten more sophisticated with our support. I think we know what we need to do. We don’t always have the resource that we need,” said Romanic.

A bigger challenge is finding more support such as paraprofessionals.

“They’re hard to find. There are more jobs than there are people. We continually try to include paraeducators in this and provide them with training and skills. They’re asked to do some of our toughest tasks,” Retterath said.

Another challenge educators say they face is funding to adequately provide school resources.