SPICE helps St. Laurence Catholic School support students with special needs

March 25, 2014

SUGAR LAND — Already blessed with 10 children, Mary Ginn Ryan had plenty of experience with childbirth. Still, the manner of delivery of her and her husband’s 11th child wasn’t something they were expecting. Mary Ginn gave birth at home.

Paramedics transported the happy couple and baby to the hospital. “You have a beautiful baby girl,” Mary Ginn said she and Bob Ryan were told by a doctor. “But, unfortunately, she has Down syndrome,” the doctor added. That was followed by a list of health problems their new daughter could face through the years.

They were next visited by a social worker who — this was in the early 90s — offered institutionalization as an option. Of course, she said, for them that was not an option and they brought Megan home.

The Ryans, from central Ohio, were recently at St. Laurence Catholic School in Sugar Land for a luncheon/fundraiser to talk about SPICE, Special People In Catholic Education, a program they helped start and that was brought to St. Laurence by Principal Debra Haney in 2010.

When it came time for Megan to go to school, the Ryans sought, as they had for their other children, a Catholic education at St. Catharine Catholic School in Columbus. 

They understood that their daughter had special needs but didn’t know if the school could accommodate them. Their concerns faded when they met with the principal to enroll Megan.

“’We’ve been waiting for you,’” was how the principal greeted them, Mary Ginn said. 

They would go on to learn what efforts St. Catharine was making to assist special-needs children. The Ryans would realize that their situation was not just a “Megan thing” and that they wanted to help St. Catharine and others to be able to offer the same greeting to more families. SPICE followed.

In 2012, Megan was voted school homecoming queen by her classmates at Bishop Hartley High School. “Her fellow seniors chose their outgoing, ever-smiling classmate from among 10 nominees...,” said a story in the local newspaper.

“Was Megan a soccer star? No. Was she at every game? Yes,” Bob said. “Was Megan valedictorian? No. Did Megan change more lives than any speech ever could? Yes.”

Over the years, SPICE has gone on to 13 parishes in Columbus, four outside of Columbus, and 12 outside of Ohio.
“It’s been an incredible journey and we are all better for it,” Bob said.

Adopting SPICE has enabled St. Laurence Catholic School to assist six students in receiving needed one-to-one or -two instruction from a special education-certified teacher outside the standard classroom setting. The students are among 140 students at the school who have been diagnosed with some sort of learning disability that can be accommodated within the usual classroom setting. Haney said they will continue efforts to grow the program and raise enough funds to defer the costs to families.

“They’re learning, they are growing, and their needs are being met, all in a Catholic environment,” Haney said.