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PADUCAH — The WHAS Crusade for Children has named McCracken County Public Schools for one of its 2019 grant winners.

The Crusade awarded the school’s special education department $13,000 for sensory equipment and communications technology for students with special needs.

The school says this support will and act like Hendron Lone Oak’s successful sensory program, but at two more schools. They say funds will also help launch an Augmentative and Alternative Communications (AAC) Library to test which AAC technology best supports each student’s needs.

McCracken County School Director of Public Relations Jayme Jones says the number of high-need students in the county schools has increased by 66%, from 75 in 2015 to 125 at last count, with 97 students with autism.

Jones says as the number of high-need students increase, so do the variations and complexities of their needs. She says this grant will give the counties students with autism and functional mental disabilities additional communication support and much-needed opportunities for sensory therapy, which will empower them to fully participate in and benefit from classroom learning.

WHAS announced the awards after its 66th annual Crusade for Children telethon, the oldest local telethon in America. Since 1954, the Crusade has raised more than $190 million for organizations that serve special needs children.

The Crusade awarded 218 grants this year totaling nearly $5.7 million.