What are special needs?

What are special needs anyway?

Here is how I see it: all children are special and all children have needs so basically all children have special needs. We are a society of labels…what is yours? ADD, ADHD, OCD, ASD, PDD, and the list goes on and on and on! What if some of these charming “man-made” labels were focused on the strength of the child (or adult) verses their weakness?  What if instead of ADHD/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, they called it CMMA/Creative Multi-Thinking Movement Ability?  How cool would it be for children to see themselves as creative thinkers who learn through movement verses seeing themselves as not being able to sit and focus for a solid 45-50 minutes in a chair requiring teacher-guided thinking?

The term “special needs” encompasses a whole array of children – children with dyslexia or other learning disabilities; children anywhere along the Autism Spectrum; children with severe multiple disabilities; gifted children with extremely high IQ’s; developmental delays secondary to health conditions; Apraxia and other speech deficits; dysgraphia and other fine motor deficits; visual processing deficits triggering an array of reading, writing and coordination issues; anxiety-driven learning challenges; genetic abnormalities encompassing a whole array of syndromes… The list is endless.

Where does your child land and does it matter?



Of course, it matters in some regard, but what matters most is we are all human beings created uniquely by one amazing creator with value and purpose! It disturbs me when a child identifies him/herself by a diagnosis. Each of us is blessed with strengths and challenged with weaknesses, but where is our focus? I am pretty confident that God focuses on the beauty of the person He created. It is my hope that each child, each person views him/herself through God’s eyes rather than the eyes of man.


– Angie Knight
Founder of Marian Hope

“Inclusion” versus “Successful Inclusion”

For years I have been trying to figure out “successful inclusion” for children with special needs. Inclusion

is when a child is included into the same activities as other children despite their challenges.  This

does not necessarily equal successful inclusion. Successful inclusion varies depending on the child’s

needs. In my eyes, successful inclusion is when a student is learning to their God-Given potential;

thriving socially, emotionally, spiritually, and academically in a setting with “neuro-typical” peers.

Oftentimes, it is the typically-developing peers who can “make or break” successful integration.


Christ- Centered character development is the key to our success at Marian Hope Academy. At the

beginning of last year (our first year), many students separated themselves from fellow students who

seemed quite “different” from them. This year, these same students no longer see the “differences” with

fear but rather embrace the “differences” with love. Through focused prayer and helping students realize

that God created each person for a special purpose, we have seen transformation in the character of

many of our students.  It is priceless! Thought provoking questions such as, “How would God view

him/her?” has really helped shape the character of our students. For the first time in my life, I finally get

to experience the daily blessing of “true & successful integration” and it is beautiful.


– Angie Knight
Founder of Marian Hope

Inclusion is Challenging, but…

Just because inclusion is challenging

Just because inclusion is challenging, does not mean we deny children the opportunity to be included. Marian Hope Academy is a school that is rooted in Christian principles, has high standards and expectation for all children and includes children of all learning abilities. The reason many schools do not accept those with various learning needs, is because they lack the education, training and supports to make inclusion successful; and let’s be honest, it is hard.

Because 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with some developmental learning disability, I believe it is paramount that all schools find a system of  “successful” inclusion, even if on a small, limited scale. We have connected with a few Catholic and Christian Schools who have also embraced Marian Hope’s vision for inclusion and are doing a fantastic job at including children with special needs into their schools! So I say again, just because inclusion can be challenging, does not mean we deny children the opportunity to be included.

– Angie Knight
Founder, Marian Hope

Books are Brain Food

Books = Brain FoodBooks are to the brain like food is to the body.

The food choices available today include “fake” food such as Skittles, fast food, and processed box foods as well as God-made food such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.  When a child is accustomed to “fake” food, he or she will likely become addicted and therefore lack the desire for God-made food. When the body is able to absorb God-given food without the insult of processed “man-made” foods, it will likely heal itself of ailments.  It will eventually reject (through headaches, tummy aches, etc.) the “fake” food that is heavily marketed in our society.

Books are the same way. “Twaddle” books that do not contain depth of learning will not feed the brain. If a child only reads “worldly” books that keep attention through nonsense humor or dramatic unrealistic story-lines, the child will not likely crave great classical literature that fuels the brain and allows it to soar beyond all possibilities.

Parents can control the choices! If the choice is between apples or Skittles…the child will likely select Skittles. If the choice is between the Junie B. Jones series or Little Women, the child will likely choose Junie B. Jones. Most of us only have our children under our care for 18 years. We are setting the standard for them to follow for the rest of their lives. We need to take advantage of the ability to control what is available to them while we still have that chance. We must ask ourselves, “What choices for food and books would God give?

Similarly, if you give technology as a choice, it will likely win every time. Please use wisdom in the amount of screen time that you allow your child to have. I challenge you to try taking all technology away for a few days and see the transformation that occurs. Idle time and boredom often lead to innovative thinking, and that will set a child apart from his or her peers! Let’s not stifle a child’s creative growth!

So…what are you feeding your child’s brain today?

P.S. For lists of suggested books, check out SimplyCharlotteMason.com

What is Marian Hope Academy?

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Last year, Marian Hope added a small Christian School to our programs in order to truly fulfill our mission of inclusion. The Marian Hope Academy Christian School for Creative Learning (MHA) is unique and is different from the traditional model of education. The schodownload (34)ol is for children of all abilities and skills. MHA desires to immerse students in their strengths and build their confidence in the person God created them to be.

We want students to be intrinsically motivated to learn as this produces a LOVE for learning and sparks curiosity beyond imagination.

Curiosity leads to deep thinking.

We use multi-sensory teaching strategies to foster each student’s learning style.

Our standards and expectations are high and we do not set limits on a child’s potential.

Our focus is on the whole child….social, emotional, spiritual, health and academic development in a Christ-Centered environment.

download (3) Angie Knight, MA, CCC-SLP
Founder of Marian Hope

You can follow the events and progress at MHA by liking the Facebook page and continuing to read our blog.

Get Your Child Excited About Reading!

Reading plays such an important part in character formation. It’s the heart of education, says William J. Bennett in “The Educated Child.”

“One of the most important goals in the preschool years — from an academic standpoint, your most important goal bar none– is to get your child excited about reading,” he writes.

Begin reading to your child and encouraging a reading atmosphere in the home early. I always say have a book basket or shelf in every room–including the car and bathroom!

iPads, TV and DVDs should play second fiddle to reading — in the car and at home. As a parent, model reading behavior: everyone gains in the long run!

mothergoose1. Cultivate the classics. Expose your child to great Bible stories, folk and fairy tales, Mother Goose and Aesop. Raise your child on wonderful tales and poems with rich language and unforgettable characters and stories that stimulate the imagination.

2. Use the library well. Help choose books and keep in a special place at home. Snuggle up and read.

3. Make puppets and games from some of their favorite books and tales.

4. Spend more time on books than electronic. Carry books in the car, in a backpack. Don’t pull the tablet out. Pull the book out.

5. Subscribe to a children’s magazine: Highlights or a similar type.

Books shape us, just as all forms of media can do. You are raising your child to follow God’s will for his life: you are called to be choosy about what types of books your child reads. They shape character; books shape their view of the world and their place in it.

What is Classical Education?

IMG_4503   According to The Well-Trained Mind: A Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise , it is language-intensive, not image focused. It demands that students use and understand words, NOT video images. It is history-intensive, providing students with a comprehensive view of human endeavor from the beginning until now. It trains the mind to analyze and draw conclusions. It demands self-discipline. It produces literate, curious, intelligent students who have a wide range of interests and the ability to follow up on them. To read, write, calculate, think and understand. FYI: regurgitate was nowhere in that list.   ~ Maribeth Samenus-Chambers Teacher, Marian Hope Academy