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Week dedicated to exceptional children
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Each year, the Dawson County school system sets aside a week for "exceptional students." This year, March 10-14 has been designated Exceptional Children's Week.

"We're excited because we're trying to expand Exceptional Children's Week to incorporate all students in Dawson County," said Dawson County Director of Special Education Hershel Bennett. "We're hoping to raise awareness in students about Americans who have overcome disabilities, including presidents, heads of companies, actors and athletes."

Bennett said that the week isn't here to draw attention to students with special needs, but to show that many people have special needs that may not appear on the surface.

"We're trying to draw attention to what it is - not just for exceptional children, but for all students to understand more about these disabilities and what their abilities actually are," he said.

Bennett said that special learning techniques could be needed for any number of reasons.

"Exceptional children could have any number of reasons for that title. It could be learning disabilities, physical disabilities - anything that makes them do a little bit extra to reach their goals," he said. "A lot of kids on individual educational plans go on to college and have great careers. The goal for us it to have each kid reach his or her potential and become productive citizens."

He also said he wants to focus on the teachers, as well.

"One thing I want to highlight this week is the job the teachers do in this county," Bennett said. "With all the budget cuts and the economy since 2007, numbers have been reduced and classroom sizes increased. A lot of our teachers have huge caseloads. Our teachers have done a great job."

Another thing Bennett wants to stress is that there is no set way of "labeling" a student. In fact, there are no labels at all - only students.

"We have a population of around 450 exceptional students spread out through all the schools. A lot of the kids with learning disabilities, you wouldn't know," he said, "The best kid on the football team may have dyslexia and you wouldn't know. There are some kids that may only have disabilities in one area. And then there are the more severe cases where they could be two or three grade levels behind."

An art and writing contest will also be held in connection with this week, with judging to take place at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Dawson County Library.