Mother obtains a degree to help her son who has Down syndrome Terri Schlader, South Dakota

Mother obtains a degree to help her son who has Down syndrome


Through online learning, Terri Schlader earned a master’s in special education to support students with special needs

Terri Schlader’s son Brayden was born with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Down syndrome, cognitive delays, macular scarring, and low muscle tone. In the rural South Dakota community where Terri and her family live, there are very few support services or resources for children like Brayden.

Terri recalled asking herself, “What do you do to take care of kids with special needs? Because they don’t come with an instruction manual. We live in a rural area with thirteen thousand people in our community. Our largest city, which has the hospitals, extra education, and resources for kids with special needs, is two hours away. So I had to do something to help Brayden get through school and through life.”

Terri, who has an undergraduate degree in business, decided to return to school to obtain a master’s in special education so that she could help her son and other students like him. Enrolling in a traditional, face-to-face school was not an option for Terri because the few universities in her rural community did not offer a special education program. She also needed a program with a flexible schedule so that she could spend time with her family. So Terri decided to enroll in the online degree program at Grand Canyon University.

Some aspects of online learning were challenging for Terri at first. “I liked the convenience of it, but I sometimes missed having the face-to-face with the teacher. But you get used to it, and you have to be motivated and keep pushing yourself along.”

Online learning tools, like Pearson’s MyMathLab®, helped Terri learn the material for her classes and prepare for course and industry certification tests. She explained, “MyMathLab gave me examples to work on and showed me what I was doing wrong. If you’ve done math, you know the only way to learn the concepts is to practice.”

Terri also appreciated the testing and video features. “I liked being able to take the pre- and post-tests to find out where my knowledge was. If I did well on the pre-test, I didn’t have to spend as much time going over something. And when you’re going to school online, you rely on things like videos because you don’t have a teacher in the classroom showing you what to do.”


Terri and her son Brayden at the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics

MyMathLab helped build my knowledge base and increased my confidence in the subject matter that I was studying.

Terri liked MyMathLab so much that she continued to use the product even after her class was completed to help her prepare for her Praxis® test, which is required by many states to enter the teaching profession. She passed the test and is now working as a social-learning classroom teacher at Huron Middle School, helping students with social-emotional behavior issues transition from self-contained classrooms to general school settings, like the cafeteria or physical education classes, as well as core curriculum classes.

In what little spare time she has, Terri is working toward a second online master’s degree in mathematics at Western Governors University. She hopes to finish her degree in 2015 and is considering pursuing a national board certification in either special education or mathematics.

When juggling the responsibilities of work, school, and family becomes overwhelming, Terri draws inspiration from her son. She explained, “Brayden never gives up. His disabilities do not hold him back. If he can try to achieve his dreams, I certainly cannot give up on my dream to help him and to help other children with special needs.”


A way to enable personalized learning at scale

MyMathLab with Adaptive Learning continuously assesses student performance and activity in real time and, using data and analytics, personalizes content to reinforce concepts that target each student’s strengths and weaknesses.
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