The Van Buren County Special School was established in 1974 by a group of concerned citizens who saw a need for special education services for the disabled citizens of Van Buren County. The center was formed in Shirley with the use of funding opportunities provided by statewide legislation creating opportunities for counties to start non-profit organizations serving their disabled and developmentally delayed residents. The Van Buren County Special School was moved to its current location at Choctaw in 1977 following a one year reconstruction of the old Choctaw school building which was originally built in 1926. The old Choctaw School grounds were made available to the special school by Buck Kidd, Ralph Kidd, and Dick Stephens, heirs of the property, as long as it continues as a center serving our community.
The Van Buren County Special Schools mission and goal is to provide adults and children who are eligible independent instruction with state certified teachers and trained staff in a richly structured learning environment. Our goal is to help them reach their potential and move on to other more independent and challenging opportunities. The special school services adults with day treatment, work activity with “Thrift Gifts & More”, community integration, Medicaid waiver program, fitness, Special Olympics, meals, and transportation and children up to five years old with community integration, developmental therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and referral skills.
Speaking with Neil Wilkins the schools director for the past 28 years and his staff you learn quickly that working at the special schools is more than a job it is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. It’s the staff’s goal to enrich the quality of life of each student and to provide them with the life skills they need to function in today’s society. This goal comes with a lot of dedicated hard work but it also has its rewards like the daily interactions of unloading the buses for a new day or getting to see the students participate in the Special Olympics. The special schools has been changing lives for the better for the past 46 years and they are set to continue for years to come.