Through a grant from The Tilles Foundation, The Special Education Foundation is able to provide adaptive equipment to students, ages 18 to 21, who have completed their education with Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD or the District) within the last year and are transitioning from school to work. Adaptive equipment that students use must remain with SSD when the student is no longer served by the District due to graduation or aging out. Many students entering the world of work are faced with the purchase of expensive equipment in order to continue to communicate and otherwise manage their lives. The $50,000 grant allows the Special Education Foundation to provide funding for the students’ purchase of needed equipment, such as augmentative communication devices, adaptive equipment and adaptive computer equipment.

Depending on the cost of the equipment, which ranges from $1,000 to $10,000, the Foundation is able to help about 20 students per year through this grant. Initially the Foundation had trouble identifying and reaching parents of students who would be eligible, but through collaboration with the District, it has overcome that challenge.

The Foundation’s mission is to enhance the education and lives of students with disabilities. Often students requiring assistive devices are intelligent, but face hurdles with regard to communication. This is a significant way that the Foundation can ease the transition from being served by SSD to adulthood.

Adam Selm was 21 years old when he completed his education with the Special School District. Adam was born with mitochondrial myopathy, which is a neuromuscular disorder. Hence, Adam is unable to walk, is confined to a wheelchair and has no verbal communication skills. However, Adam understands all that is said to him.

Upon meeting Adam, one is immediately engaged due to his easy charm and incredible smile. He is outgoing, funny and extremely social. He is an avid St. Louis sports fan. Understandably, however, Adam’s inability to communicate is a big obstacle for him.

Now, due to the generosity of the Tilles Foundation, that obstacle is no longer a barrier for Adam. Tilles provided a mini-bent tube mount and ballistic jacket case for Adam’s iPad. The tube mount, attached to Adam’s wheelchair, allows Adam to have his laptop in front of him at all times. This, in turn, allows him to communicate through his iPad that produces his vocalizations. Adam now orders food in restaurants, discusses items to be purchased at local retail stores and communicates freely with family and peers.

The tube mount with the iPad has given Adam independence and greatly increased his self-confidence. He is presently preparing for his next step of transitioning to a sheltered workshop for gainful employment. His mother, Patti Selm, states, “We are so appreciative of the Tilles Foundation and the Special Education Foundation for this life-altering equipment for Adam. We see tremendous improvements in his communication abilities and in his overall self-confidence.” For all this, we are thrilled, as is Adam.” Adam says, “It helps me. A lot!”

Prior to the tube mount, Adam needed the assistance of another to remove his laptop from his backpack and place it on a special tablet for him to use. This proved to be cumbersome and difficult to manage.

For more about the Special Education Foundation, please visit