About Us

Erica PriceChristina Willoughby
Welcome to SpecialEdSimplified

Created by special education teachers,

Erica Price & Christina Willoughby

As teachers for the students with moderate to severe disabilities, we are blessed to spend our days with that very unique population who give back far more than they take. Though they are challenged with a variety of disabilities and what may appear to many as insurmountable barriers to learning, they are without question the most appreciative and caring souls to walk, or roll, down those long corridors inundated with classrooms filled to capacity with those ever spirited free thinkers. It is safe to say we love our jobs, feel privileged to be a part of their lives, but in the world of education few things are more frustrating than to love what you do, yet feel powerless to do it well.

When I became a teacher twenty years ago I was determined to change the status quo. In those days students with moderate to severe disabilities were to be unseen, silent fixtures barricaded behind closed doors. But I could see them for who they truly are, individuals capable of learning, and learning abundantly, and young adults capable of working and contributing to society. I needed my students to see the world as a platform of endless possibilities where they could achieve far more than they, and others, ever expected, if they simply had the initiative and perseverance to overcome the obstacles before them. I needed them to truly understand their worth and importance in the world around them and I needed others to see them in that same light.

To accomplish this I engaged my students in a variety of learning activities both in and outside the classroom. Modifying the curriculum became commonplace with years of materials overflowing storage cabinets, shelves and Tupperware bins. Technological advances and the use of programs like Symbolstix helped tremendously in increasing both their basic academics and communication skills, while community-based instruction helped increase those functional everyday skills most take for granted daily. Being involved in the Special Olympics with three state championships under their belt has increased their self-esteem and feeling of self-worth far more than I imagined. The Transition to Work program has sharpened their vocational skills and offered sustained employment beyond high school for several of my students. Pep rallies have been held in their honor. Those old enough attend the prom and, on occasion, have been voted king and queen by the student body.

And right when I thought I could kiss the status quo goodbye, in came No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and IDEA and in their wake, new state achievement standards in the areas of math, reading, writing, social studies and science that students with moderate to severe disabilities were to be held accountable to. Though I am pleased to watch and be a part of the exponential evolution of the quality of education in our schools today, those new state standards posed a real problem for both me and my students. Two unanswerable questions lingered in the air and hovered over us like a dark cloud. How was I going to teach my moderate to severely disabled students things like the Pythagorean Theorem? And, how were they going to learn it?

It didn’t take long to realize there were no materials available to help my students learn the content according to the new state standards and though I could continue to modify their work and presentation of lessons/ assignments, this was a horse of a completely different color, a color by which, at the time, was unrecognizable. Fortunately, in the fall of 2008 Christina Willoughby joined our special education team at the Powell County High School in Stanton, Kentucky. Though new to the world of education, she was energetic, enthusiastic, incredibly spunky, creative, artistic and above all, willing to go that extra mile to help our students achieve to the max. We put our heads together and after much deliberation, there was one unresolved factor that became abundantly clear. We needed specialized lessons and activities that not only went along with the new state achievement standards, but also provided an avenue for effective teaching and active learning for our moderate to severely disabled students. It was to this end that SpecialEdSimplified was born. After scouring over the standards for weeks and months on end and creating one lesson after the other to meet the educational needs of our students, we soon realized the lessons and activities we had created were highly effective as evidenced by the amount of information our students digested and were able to retain.

Christina then suggested that marketing our materials seemed like the next natural and exciting step. After all, if our students could benefit so greatly, maybe others could to and though our endeavor to enhance the educational performance of students with moderate to severe disabilities nation-wide seemed more like an unreachable fantasy than an actual possibility, we knew we had to try. We had something really special and amazing, state standards-based learning activities and lessons that truly worked. We owed it to ourselves and this remarkable population of students to get the materials we created out there. It is our heartfelt hope and prayer that all those who purchase our materials find them as beneficial, useful, and user-friendly as we have.

Erica Price