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“Nationals October 2019

Harbour School teacher teaches a thing or two to Santa

| December 03, 2017, 11:25 AM

If you are the parent of a child with a disability that happy holiday Santa photo may not be so happy.  The experience can trigger a tantrum by child, parent and maybe even Santa.  Courtney Helmer, a teacher at The Harbour School at Annapolis has sought to change that dynamic. Helmer spoke at the school popularly known as the “Harvard of Santa Schools” to help the North Pole employees learn how to give these children the best experience possible.

Michigan’s Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School has been held annually since 1937 to train the men and women that work in Santa villages around the country in important Christmas knowledge like the history of St. Nick, hot new toys, and reindeer habits. In addition to these North Pole standards, this year the school offered a class entitled “Merry Christmas to ALL,” taught by Ms. Helmer. The class focused on understanding, communicating with, and providing a safe and accessible environment for children with a diverse range of needs.

Helmer designed the course using her research and experience in special education. She stated about the experience that she wanted the Mr. and Mrs. Clauses to understand that “their unique job gives them the opportunity—and the responsibility—to set standards for communicating with inclusive language that promotes the value of every child.” Prioritizing communication, Helmer stressed the importance of person-first language and shifting preconceived notions they might have before the beginning of the Holiday season.

The class was a huge success, being called “one of the most compelling classes ever taught at the Charles W. Howard Santa School” by the school’s dean, Tom Valent. Parents can breathe a sigh of relief this year as they bring their children to meet the new, improved, and educated Santa Claus.

The Harbour School at Annapolis is a non-public school serving students ages 6-21. Students at the school have been diagnosed as having learning disabilities, high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, other health impaired (primarily ADHD) and multi-disabled.

Severn Bank

Category: Local News, NEWS

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