The Karen Gaffney Foundation
Academics For Total Inclusion
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Fourth Grade - Eighth Grade

The Swtich to Private Education
At the start of Karen's fifth grade in a public school, her parents made the decision to enroll Karen in a Catholic parish school, St. Pius X, in Portland, Oregon. At the same time they determined that Karen would benefit from repeating the fourth grade. The fourth grade teacher at St. Pius X had received her training in Special Education and was very willing to work with Karen and her family.

The decision to make the switch to private school centered around a few key factors. It became increasingly difficult for her parents to get the focus and cooperation they felt they needed to ensure a successful environment for Karen. Planning meetings would be scheduled, then rescheduled due to a staff members inability to be present, etc. When they did occur, it was difficult to get to the key issues with ten to twelve "team members" present, many of whom had not even reviewed Karen's file. The faculty began to resist providing extra information to help Karen stay up with the class. The extra set of books became a source of contention for some faculty members. Her parents began to realize that the sense of urgency to ensure forward motion to Karen's learning was not there. They realized that they were spending a great deal of time on administrative issues and not at the core focus for Karen's education. A change was critical to enabling Karen to continue forward progress.

Funding a Teachers Aide for the Classroom
The family contributed the salary for a teacher's aide to work in the classroom, assisting the classroom teacher and providing supplemental support to Karen and any other student who needed assistance. This proved to be a communication and prioritization of Karen's education plan for the remaining grade school years.

The classroom teacher, the teacher's aide, Karen and her family formed the team that enabled Karen's success. They worked together to set the priorities for Karen, to communicate plans and changes, to measure success and celebrate progress!

The Binder System
The teacher's aide put together a binder with a divider for each class (subject) to enable regular note taking and sharing from the classroom, to home and back to the classroom. She would take notes on the subject that enabled her parents to get and understanding of the material covered, information, homework (so they could determine how well Karen understood what was expected of her) and advice on what to work on if there was not a homework assignment. The parent would add notes each night. The binder would travel back and forth with Karen.


Regular Communication
A set time was agreed upon for a weekly meeting with the aide, the teacher and her parents. The meeting usually lasted about 30 minutes. Although a weekly schedule was set up, in practice there were probably only three meetings held each month, given the school calendar.

Regular Exercise
The regular swimming routine was kept up for Karen. This had a double benefit. A record was kept and sent to the school for verification, so Karen was able to satisfy her PE requirements. This left PE time at school open for one on one time with either the teacher or the aide to help reinforce a concept or cover new material. The second benefit was that Karen actually got more exercise each day than she would have had taking a PE class.

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