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Mark Carlson Is Using Tech To Open Doors For Kids With Disabilities

At CCCBSD, caring teachers help children with disabilities gain access to the rich academic environment they need.
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Mark Carlson, the president and executive director of the Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf, wants to provide for the “all-around child.” “One of the ways that I describe our school,” he said, “is we try to be like a small liberal arts school for kids with special needs.” Based in Beverly, Massachusetts, CCCBSD provides specialized academic programming to just under 100 students from ages 3 to 22 with communication, physical and developmental needs. On behalf of his work with CCCBSD, Mark Carlson is one of 100 honorees being honored as part of the TIAA Difference Maker 100 program. We have teamed up with TIAA to share his inspiring story.

The school first began in 1876 to service children who were deaf, but when Carlson entered the picture in 2004, he helped to expand it. “We took the school, which was a 130-year-old school at the time, and we converted it and built on our strengths to make it much more of an enhanced mission,” Carlson said. They opened it up to include kids with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental or physical challenges, while simultaneously increasing their use of technology to enhance students’ learning experiences. “We really came to terms with [the fact that] we need to be beyond the forefront of what’s happening in deaf education and [with] kids with communication disorders,” Carlson said. “Under one roof here, on one campus, we’re able to…really enhance what a child brings to the table in terms of their need, in terms of their strengths.”

Watch in the video above as Liam Harvey, a student with cerebral palsy, graduates from CCCBSD after going to school there for 20 years. And follow 5-year-old Hunter Sargent, as he gains more and more independence, even taking the bus home from school by himself.

“Our goal…is to get a child to, when they turn 18 or 19 or 22, when they leave here for the last time, we want them to have the greatest level of independence,” Carlson said. “It’s life changing in terms of how you now view that child’s future. And that future hopefully is going to continue to evolve as that child is here, and then when they leave here as an adult.”

To celebrate its centennial, TIAA is honoring 100 people working to make positive and lasting change in the lives of others with awards of $10,000 each to use toward their nonprofit organizations. Mark Carlson is one of those being honored. The money being awarded to Carlson and the Children’s Center for Communication/Beverly School for the Deaf will go toward improving and expanding the school’s programs. We have partnered with TIAA to put the spotlight on Carlson’s story, and on other stories like his. To learn more about the program, and the amazing work the rest of the honorees are doing, visit:

Words by Jesse Sposato