SSD/Maplewood Richmond Heights

January 2022

Dear MRH Families,

I hope this finds you and your family healthy and well and I hope the winter break was a good one for you.

As the pandemic continues on beyond what any of us would have hoped, the stress levels of students and adults remain high. At the end of the newsletter there are tips one can implement to support mental wellness.

In other sections of the newsletter you'll find multiple opportunities for you as caregivers to learn and grow. While some folks may already feel like they are at their limit, consider engaging with one or more of the opportunities available through SSD. Learning and gaining new skills can be empowering.

We look forward to continuing to partner with you to ensure your children are learning and growing in a safe, supportive learning environment.


Ben Gleason

Lead Special Education Coordinator


January 13- Last day of first semester

January 14- No School-Teacher work/Record day

January 17- No School- MLK Day

January 18- First day of second semester

February 1- Early release day

February 7 and 9- ECC and Elementary Parent/Teacher Conferences

February 8 and 10- Middle and High School Parent/Teacher Conferences

February 11- No School- Professional Development day

Special Education Foundation Scholarship Opportunity

The Special Education Foundation (SEF) sponsors the John Cary Scholarships for high school seniors, as well. Applications are due Jan. 24, 2022.

For more information, please contact Deana Parsons, SSD internal communications coordinator, at or 314.989.8102.

Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP)

Through the program, students hold a summer job in their community and receive job-coaching support. They are paid an hourly wage for their work. SWEP is funded by the Productive Living Board of St. Louis County and is open to county residents with a qualifying disability. It is conducted through a collaboration of six area agencies - MERS/Goodwill is the Lead Agency.

A few important things to remember about eligibility for the SWEP program:

  • You must be a resident of St. Louis County.
  • You must be between 16 and 20 years of age and planning to return to a school program in the Fall of 2022.
  • You cannot participate in SWEP while participating in the Extended School Year Program.
  • Your teacher needs to submit a Teacher Input form before the program begins.
  • You must be available for the entire 8 weeks of the program.
  • You must have your own transportation to participate in the program.
  • Not everyone who applies to the SWEP program will be able to participate this summer.

If your student is interested, please reach out to her/his case manager for the application.

Family and Community Engagement

Mental Health First Aid Training for SSD Families - Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, and others to help adolescents experiencing mental health and/or addictions challenge or crisis. It is designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

Nationally this course is valued at $170; due to a grant from Missouri's Department of Mental Health and a collaboration with the Ferguson Community Center, you have the opportunity to attend at no cost.

Saturday, March 19th from 9 – 1:30 PM at Ferguson Community Center. 1050 Smith Ave, Ferguson, MO 63135

Space is limited. To register click here. Registration will close on Monday, March 7th or when all seats are filled.

The Family Resource Hub located at North Tech High School is a space dedicated to families and our community stakeholders. The resource hub offers families computer and internet access, a satellite food pantry, and support navigating community resources. The space is also dedicated to supporting families by hosting learning labs, community events, and a safe and supportive environment to learn with and from one another.

OPEN HOUSE January 18- January 21, 2022 from 9 – 4 PM

You’re welcome to visit during these times or to set an appointment to meet us there.

Please call 314-989-8311 or email

Parent Education and Diversity Awareness

What To Do This Summer?

Join us Tuesday, January 18th at 6:00 PM to learn about summer recreation programs available to school-age children with developmental disabilities and funding options to assist in paying for those programs.

The workshop, hosted in collaboration with the Recreation Council of Great St. Louis, will be on zoom.

Presenter: Susan Fleming, Executive Director of the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis. The Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis is a not-for-profit organization which serves as a "clearinghouse" for information on leisure, recreation, and socialization opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities who reside in the Greater St. Louis Area. The Council works to ensure that individuals with disabilities are aware of and have access to activities and programs of their "choice."

To register or request the more information about summer programs please contact, the SSD Parent Education and Diversity Awareness program at 314.989.8460 or email

Parent Leadership Institute

If you are a parent or family member who makes the educational decisions for a child with a disability, investing the time to attend these four Wednesday evening sessions will provide:

Vision for the future of your child.

Knowledge to help you to effectively participate in your child’s education.

Leadership skills to improve the educational climate for all children.

Access to new resources, friends and experts to help you on your journey.

The Institute will be held on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on February16, March 2, 9, and 16, at the SSD Central Office, 12110 Clayton Road, 63131. The institute is offered at no cost and dinner is provided.

Learn more about this opportunity or download the application at: Parent Leadership Institute

PEDA would love your feedback!

Please complete are PEDA Communications survey here: PEDA Survey

Virtual Lunch and Learn

Special School District’s Family and Community Outreach, Social Work, Parent Education and Diversity Awareness (PEDA), and Communications Department have teamed up to offer a virtual Lunch & Learn series for SSD families and stakeholders. The series, which will involve community organizations sharing information about their work, will take place on the first Wednesday of each month during the 2021-22 school year, from 11:30 AM - Noon.

Representatives from community organizations will participate to increase awareness about their agency and make connections with those in our SSD community who may benefit from their programs and services.

Organizations represented in the Lunch & Learn series include:

· The Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis – Feb. 2

· Team Activities for Special Kids (TASK) – March 2

· St. Louis ARC – April 6

· St. Louis County Library – May 4

Each event is held virtually through YouTube Live and will remain on our channel for future viewing.

MRH Parent Advisory Council

The MRH Parent Advisory Council had its first meeting last spring. This group offers an opportunity to connect with other parents of students with disabilities and to learn about topics of interest. The group is actively planning for this school year. Please contact MRH parent Mrs. Kim Gifford if you are interested in participating.

Health and Wellness

January is Mental Wellness Month

The SSD/MRH team would like to remind you that January is Mental Wellness Month! Focusing a few minutes every day on enhancing mental wellness can increase resilience, help manage stress, and build on an overall sense of well-being. Mental Wellness also helps combat symptoms of serious mental illness. If the concept of mental wellness is new to you, consider the following steps that can easily be added to your routine:

Develop an attitude of gratitude: Focusing on the people and things we are thankful for can help build a positive sense of self. It is often said that while every day may not be good, there is something good in every day. Take a moment or two to focus on the good things and draw your attention away from what might be dragging you down. Some people find it helpful to keep a list of what they are grateful for, others find it helpful to express appreciation through prayer, conversation, or writing a note.

Set aside time to do the things you enjoy: Often, we can become overwhelmed by the things we feel we “have” to do and lose sight of those things that give our lives joy and meaning. Set aside time each day to engage in something pleasant and meaningful to you; take a walk, hot bath, or engage in a hobby. Your pleasant event does not have to take a lot of time out of your day to add a feeling of well-being to your day.

Take a break from stress: Try eliminating or reducing those things that are not healthy or helpful to you. Take a break from watching the news or unfollow negative people on social media. Set appropriate boundaries in your life and learn to say no sometimes.

Slow down: Notice with intention the things you are doing. Drawing your awareness to the moment, especially those moments that are pleasant, enhances our ability to be mindful, and connected with ourselves and others.

Take care of yourself: Enhancing our physical wellness also improves mental wellness. Exercising, eating well, and treating physical illness are all important steps to take to help build an overall sense of wellbeing.

Ask for help when you need it: Seek support and talk to people who care about you. If you are feeling overwhelmed, Hope Haven can help! Our licensed mental health counselors are trained to work with people who are struggling with everyday stressors, as well as working with people who may have serious mental illness.


Featuring Tips from The Family Institute's Therapists

The Family Institute has provided 50 actionable tips for taking care of your mental health. Some of the strategies include practicing mindfulness, overcoming perfectionism, nurturing your relationships, and shifting your mindset.

Nurture your relationships

1. Value and cultivate the relationships in which you can be both imperfect and loved.

2. Stay connected. It takes effort to connect with people amidst a busy life, but taking the time to visit, have people over or send a thoughtful text is beneficial in the long run.

3. Take a risk with someone you trust and share about your struggles. Be vulnerable and ask them to just listen and understand.

4. Remember that no human interactions are perfect. It is a process of "Tear and Repair" to preserve your relationships.

5. Share something beautiful, especially if it doesn't cost anything, with someone else.

6. Calming yourself down takes a lot of energy. Calming yourself down with the help of someone you trust takes a lot less energy. We exist in relation to other people. Without talking about relationships, we miss one wall that's holding the roof up. If you want to be mentally healthy, you should have some good friends.

7. Have realistic expectations about your romantic relationships, friendships, family connections, etc. and establish clear personal boundaries regarding what is reasonable.

8. Take time for yourself as individuals and as a couple. Plan date nights, take a yoga class once a week, go for a walk, etc. Make time for the activities you enjoy and for activities that help you feel closer to your partner or spouse.

9. If your relationships are experiencing some road bumps, consider seeking couples therapy. Therapy can help couples strengthen their relationships, but success depends on when they come in.

Practice mindfulness

10. Be curious about your emotions, especially the hard ones such as fear, anger, shame and sadness. Ask them questions and be patient with trying to understand and learn from them.

11. Accept what you feel as a feeling, not a fact. Step back and notice it, accept it, breathe, watch it move through you. Feelings are information. You have to gather quite a bit to get a useful picture.

12. Set the intention to pay attention. Studies show that for most of us, our minds are wandering more than half of the time and that we're unhappy while it is doing so. You can do this either from a top-down approach (by giving yourself gentle reminders to pay attention) or bottom-up (by tuning in with your senses to what it feels like in the present moment).

13. Take several breaths in which the exhalations are twice as long as the inhalations. In doing so, you're activating the calming, centering parasympathetic nervous system and telling the fight-or-flight-prone sympathetic nervous system that it doesn't need to work so hard.

14. Cultivate a "resourcing" practice by thinking of the things in your life that support you and make you feel cared for. Examples could include nature, a pet, an engaging hobby or music. Call these things to mind to serve as a resource during times of challenge.

15. If you find yourself having a positive experience, stay with it. Really savor that experience and take it in. Since "neurons that fire together, wire together," you are using your own attention to integrate these new feeling states into your body-mind.

16. Breathe. It's so simple, it's an automatic function, and yet sometimes when we're overwhelmed, we forget just how in control we are. Breathing deeply and slowly for a few minutes throughout the day can make a world of difference, and you can do so at any time/place.

17. If you're overwhelmed/anxious with everything you need to do or emotions you're having, write them down. Jotting down your feelings, thoughts and even tasks left undone can help you harness some control and feel more grounded.

18. Take a break. Having a rough morning? Take a minute to do something else, like watching a funny YouTube video. When we rush ourselves into productivity mode, we can end up feeling like we aren't doing enough and then we become overwhelmed. Taking breaks throughout the day or during large tasks can help you remain focused and not forcing your brain to work at full speed for the entire task/day.

19. If you attach something like a mindfulness exercise to a habit you already have — like brushing your teeth — it can be easier to build the new habit.

Remember that self-care is important

20. Make time for exercise, try to have physical movement every day.

21. Play, do things that you enjoy to entertain yourself. After a long week, you deserve to destress.

22. Get enough sleep — seven to nine hours is recommended for young adults and adults.

23. Eat healthy. You are what you eat!

24. It's great that you put your kids or other beloved friends and family members first, but it shouldn't be at the expense of your own emotional well-being. Find ways to take good care of yourself or "secure your mask first" before you do that for others.

Pay attention to how you communicate with others

25. Find healthy ways to assert yourself. Not speaking up in productive ways can lead to bottled up emotions that will fester and leak out later on.

26. Expressing your appreciation of others will make you happier and healthier and help you build stronger relationships. Say thank you and take actions to show your gratitude to the people you love.

27. Use your phone settings to limit your time on social media.

Shift your mindset to positive thinking

28. Remember that you are a human BEING, not a human DOING.

29. Check our thoughts — we often get caught up in negative thinking without realizing it. Take the time to doubt your fears and question them as they arise – if you made a mistake at work, does this actually mean you are not smart, or do you just feel a little out of control right now? Seek evidence for times where you've proven your fear is wrong and hold those examples close to you.

30. Appreciate the bigger picture. When you are able to feel gratitude or awe about your life, you can better withstand any difficulties you might face. Examples might be, what a beautiful sunset, what a tasty clementine, I love being a therapist, etc.

31. Remember that behavior has meaning. Ask yourself, "What was my child or partner feeling inside when they did that?" to understand where they're coming from.

32. Find something to laugh or smile about every day. Practice positivity.

33. Don't believe everything you think.

34. Practice gratitude — when there are dirty dishes, be grateful for food; dirty laundry, be grateful for clothes; toys on the floor, be grateful for your children; clothes on the floor, be grateful for your partner…

35. Keep a daily list of things you are proud of yourself for. It is far too easy to forget the moments throughout our week where we felt proud of ourselves — even for things like being on time or putting effort into having a nice lunch for the next day. Give yourself credit, write it all down, and look back on it later when you feel like things have become more difficult. We are far more capable than we ever give ourselves credit for.

36. Before doing any self-help thing, no matter what, if you can ask yourself, "What do I know about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses, that will help me formulate a plan that works for me?" you can save yourself some enormous headache, because there is plenty of advice that only applies in certain conditions.

37. If you catch yourself ruminating on embarrassing experiences in the past, understand that it's a normal part of being human beings. Realize that your mind is signifying to you that you should make a change and actually take action to adjust your behavior. Doing this will go a long way to stopping the rumination.

38. Try to adopt and maintain a growth mindset. It's important to note the opportunities and accompanying challenges to grow, evolve and make healthy changes within ourselves and in relationship with others. This growth process occurs throughout our entire lives, from age 1 to 101.

39. Learn to strengthen and flex your "flexibility" muscle. Life and the inevitable myriad of circumstances we must face require us to adapt and change each and every year we're alive.

Overcome perfectionism

40. Paralyzed by what you have to accomplish? Break down big goals into smaller, manageable pieces that you can execute one step at a time. Celebrate your achievement of each step.

41. Plagued by the critical voices in your head? Counteract these messages by starting a positivity journal. Write five positive things about yourself every day.

42. Feeling overwhelmed? Practice mindful breathing for three minutes. Focus your attention on breathing from your belly instead of your chest. Pay attention to the sounds and sensations of each breath over three minutes.

43. Fed up with perfectionistic self-standards? Experiment with your definition of success to help you learn that you’ll survive a less than perfect life.

44. Need encouragement? Create a positive mantra to repeat to yourself during times you experience perfectionistic thoughts. For example, "I am enough. My best is enough. Fighting perfectionism is really hard."

45. Contact a professional mental health provider who can help you develop awareness and coping skills around their perfectionistic thoughts and behaviors.

Become engaged and self-aware

46. Always engage in learning, whether it be professional-related or for fun (a hobby). Engaging your mind in new ways helps distract you from the daily noise in your head, help you find new ways to build confidence and feel mastery.

47. Find your way to be expressive and creative, whether it be in the garden, writing, making something, cooking, drawing, dancing, etc.

48. Focus on kindness — your oxytocin, the hormone of connectedness, rises, your heart rate slows and you feel more benevolent, which makes you healthier and happier.

49. Your system should help you feel in control without overwhelming you. If you are forgetful, a lot of reminders might help, but if you're anxious, so many reminders could make it worse.

50. Educate yourself on common signs of mental health issues so you can recognize them in yourself and others as they emerge.

St. Louis has a wealth of resources to guide and support us during challenging times. Below are a couple of links that will take you to a number of resources available in our area that will either support our needs or lead us to the agency that can provide the mental health resources needed.

National Alliance on Mental Health St. Louis

Start Here STL

SSD Staff Awards

Applications for awards which honor the contributions of SSD staff and community members are awaiting nominations, due Feb. 7, 2022. Please encourage your staff, students, school parents and community partners to submit nominations to ensure they are recognized for their meaningful work in SSD.

For more information, please contact Deana Parsons, internal communications coordinator, at or 314.989.8102.
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Let's Talk!

Let’s Talk is an open invitation from Special School District (SSD) to tell us what’s on your mind.​Let’s Talk is an easy way to submit feedback at your convenience directly to the SSD staff member who can help.