Onward House Invests in Special Education with New Leadership Position

Onward Neighborhood House is pleased to announce that it has hired Dr. Kimberly Thier for a newly created position as Director of Special Education and Quality Assurance, focusing on special education and related services to preschoolers and school-age children with disabilities. This position will work with the rest of Onward House’s early childhood education staff to continually improve the overall quality of the early childhood education and youth services.

Dr. Thier specializes in emotional and behavioral disorders, and she will bring a skill set that improves the delivery of services to families through inclusive instructional practices, data-based decision making, three-tiered prevention, coaching and systems change.

This position was created in response to the high number of children with suspected and diagnosed disabilities who come to Onward House for services. Each year 25% – 35% of children at Onward House have identified disabilities such as speech and developmental delay. A new report from the University of Illinois at Chicago reveals that “boys, Black children, and youngsters with disabilities continue to be overrepresented among those who are formally expelled from preschool programs in Illinois, as they are in national data.” Onward House has seen this reflected in our own population, where many of the children with additional needs have been rejected from other child care centers.

Kimberly was connected to Onward House through her work as a Clinical Assistant Professor at Loyola University, where, for three weeks each summer, she linked graduate students in the teacher preparation program to Onward House classrooms. “I fell in love with everything Onward House does, including how teachers use a social-emotional curriculum, so students can build positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and understand themselves and how they relate to the world.”

Dr. Kimberly Thier has supported students with disabilities and their families for more than 25 years. She earned her Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Oregon in 2003. Dr. Thier has published a chapter on using a growth model to measure teacher dispositions, several articles on classroom and school-wide behavior support practices, and has conducted numerous presentations at national conferences across the U.S. Prior to joining the Onward Neighborhood House team, Kimberly served on the Onward House Board of Directors for three years.