Meet Miles: A child with a physical, mental or emotional challenge gets custom support in Iowa public schools through special education services. More than 1 in 10 Iowa students faces these challenges. Meet Miles, whose story reminds us that our commitment to equity enriches us all.
Miles, a third grader at Tri-Center Community Schools, enjoys playing with friends and recess. He is a special young boy who is beating the odds. His mother, Sherri Lee, said that when Miles was born with hydrocephalus, “we were told he might not talk, walk or even live. Every new thing he does now is just icing on the cake!”
One to two of every 1,000 babies are born with hydrocephalus, making it as common as Down’s syndrome and more common than spina bifida or brain tumors, according to the Hydrocephalus Association.
The Lee family lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, when Miles was born. He started receiving in-home physical therapy and occupational therapy at three months old and speech therapy at 18 months. His anti-seizure medication was costing $400 a month with insurance. In Nebraska, Miles wasn’t eligible for Medicaid, so the family moved to Iowa.
After a few years in Council Bluffs, the Lee family set out to find a home with small-town charm. Neola fit the bill and Miles started second grade and sister, Greta, fourth grade, at Tri-Center. Lee admits she and her husband had mixed feelings about whether his needs would be met in a smaller district. It didn’t take long for the community, as a whole, to fall in love with Miles, and vice versa.
“When Miles came to Tri-Center, we knew very little about him,” said Rachel Eikenberry, Green Hills Area Education Agency (GHAEA) school psychologist. Upon learning of Miles’ hydrocephalus, his team of teachers and GHAEA staff contacted Julie Stessman with GHAEA’s Brain Injury Team. She offered insight and served as a liaison with the medical team.
Miles spends part of his day in Teacher Machenzie Hoffman’s resource room. He gets a portion of his reading, along with science and social studies, in a regular education classroom taught by Amy Mathias.
Some of his goals this year are to read a book (currently he does sentence reading), as well as build on his phonemic awareness, phonics and comprehension. In math, Miles is working on 1:1 correspondence and learning life skills, time and money. By using specially designed instruction, the team works to ensure that Miles’ goals and objectives are being met.
“Miles has taught us to be thankful for every little thing on the journey — not to focus on the things in life that don’t really matter,” Sherri Lee added. “He has the very best team with AEA staff and his teachers. We are so fortunate.”
As for Miles’ future? “We want him to be respectful, kind, have faith and be happy,” Lee said. “Do we want him to get a job? Absolutely, if that’s what makes him happy.”