What is Special Education?
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Special Education is defined as: "Specially designed instruction, at no cost to parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability." Special education provides additional services, support, programs, specialized placements or environments to ensure that all students' educational needs are provided for so academic progress can be made. The 13 categories under IDEA include:
Who provides special education services?
There are many services available to students that need special assistance. Knowing what services exist and how to access these services is key in helping your child succeed academically and socially. If you suspect that your child has difficulties in any area, start by discussing these concerns with the classroom teacher. It takes an entire team of professionals to provide both regular and special education services. Your child will receive the best education possible when all educational professionals work together.
Special education teachers have specialized training to work with students who have learning, behavioral, emotional, and/or physical disabilities. A special education teacher primarily works with students who qualify for special education assistance. Special educators work in a variety of settings depending on the needs of their students. Some special educators have their own classroom (e.g., resource room), pull the students out of their regular classroom, and assist them at particular times during the school day with their individual learning needs. Others may work in the regular education classroom with the general education teacher to support the students with special needs. Some special educators have a group of students with more complex behavioral, emotional, learning, or physical disabilities in a “self-contained” classroom. These students’ needs are greater and may require the assistance of additional qualified teachers and assistants. Regardless of the setting, all of the special educator’s students have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a highly trained professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty with speech or language. Although people often think of speech and language as the same thing, the terms actually have very different meanings. If your child has trouble with speech, he/ she struggles with the “how-to” of talking—the coordination of the muscles and movements necessary to produce speech. If your child has trouble with language, he/she struggles with understanding what he/she hears or sees. Your child may struggle to find the right words and/or organize those words in a meaningful way to communicate a message or hold a conversation.
An occupational therapist (OT) is a highly trained medical professional who evaluates and treats children and adults who have difficulty participating in meaningful activities (or “occupations”) relevant to their daily lives. Although many people often think of “occupation” as work or a job, occupation can mean any activity a person engages in. This can include self-care, play and leisure activities, and work. For a child, “work” often involves playing, learning, and going to school. Children make up a large part of the population receiving OT services. Treatment often focuses on improving a child's development in the areas of fine motor skills (e.g., stringing beads, cutting with scissors, buttoning buttons), play skills, social skills, and self-care skills (e.g., dressing, bathing, grooming, and feeding).
The physical therapist (PT) is a professional specially trained to work on motor (physical movement) and neuromuscular difficulties. When a child experiences difficulty performing everyday activities, the PT finds ways to accommodate the child’s physical difficulties so that the task may be completed. PTs help children regain movement, function, and independence in daily activities. A PT often works with individuals who have been severely injured to help increase their range of movement.
The school psychologist is professionally trained in psychology, education, mental health, child development, learning styles/processes, and effective teaching. He/she works on creating connections between the school and home environment. School psychologists also administer cognitive and achievement tests to children in order to help determine eligibility for special education services. School Psychologists, along with school counselors, provide training in social skills, provide crisis management, and promote healthy school environments.
A school counselor or social worker helps children who have emotional or behavioral challenges. These difficulties can be due to a traumatic brain injury, depression, impulsiveness, or hyperactivity. When these problems affect a student’s ability to function in school and maintain relationships with teachers and peers, a counselor or social worker may intervene.
How are services for students with disabilities delivered?
The Kenmore Town of Tonawanda School District offers a variety of programs and services for students with disabilities. These services are provided to district residents at no cost and in the least restrictive environment upon the recommendation of the Committee on Special Education and with the approval of the Board of Education. These services are available to pupils with disabilities through the end of the school year during which their 21st birthday occurs, or until a regular high school diploma has been attained, whichever shall occur first. A description of each of the Special Education Program options prioritized from least restrictive to more restrictive follows.
Transitional Support Services (Declassified with Support)
Upon the recommendation of the Committee on Special Education, this service may be provided to a student with a disability who is making the transition into a totally general education program. Its goal is to provide support to a youngster who no longer requires special education services, while monitoring the progress of the student during the transitional period. This support may be provided to the youngster's regular education teacher as the child makes the transition to a general education program. Each student is assigned to a certified special education teacher for this purpose. The youngster’s progress is reviewed on a regularly scheduled basis, usually at the conclusion of each marking period. It is a temporary service which, when successful, leads to the declassification of the student. A student is eligible for this service at any age or grade level.
Related services means developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as required to assist a student with a disability and includes speech-language pathology, audiology services, interpreting services, psychological services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling services, orientation and mobility services, medical services as defined in this section, parent counseling and training, school health services, school social work, assistive technology services, appropriate access to recreation, including therapeutic recreation, other appropriate developmental or corrective support services, and other appropriate support services and includes the early identification and assessment of disabling conditions in students.
Related services currently provided in district include psychological services, speech and language therapy, medical services for diagnostic purposes, physical and occupational therapy, and parent counseling and training.
Consultant teacher services shall be for the purpose of providing direct and/or indirect services to students with disabilities who attend general education classes and/or to such students’ general education teachers. Such services shall be recommended by the Committee on Special Education to meet the specific needs of a student with a disability. The student's individualized education program (IEP) shall indicate the general education classes in which the student will receive consultant teacher services.
Consultant Teacher in combination with Resource Room
To meet the needs of a student who could benefit from both consultant teacher and resource room services, but who don’t need two hours of consultant teacher and three hours of resource room services, a combined program of 3 hours (minimum) may be recommended.
Integrated co-teaching services means the provision of specially designed instruction and academic instruction provided to a group of students with disabilities and non-disabled students. School personnel assigned to each class shall minimally include a special education teacher and a general education teacher. An important component of this program is the ongoing collaboration between the general and special education teacher. Modifications in curriculum, methodologies, assessments, assignments and environment are assessed and individualized for each student, in accordance with the needs specified in the each student’s IEP. Additional staff members also provide supportive and/or consultative services to these students.
Resource room services are supplemental in nature and are designed to assist youngsters in remediating skill deficits and in dealing more effectively with assignments from their general education classes. These services consist of identification and diagnostic assessment and small group and/or individualized instruction in basic academic skills, oral and written language, study and organizational skills. Encouragement and emotional support are also provided. Ongoing consultation with general education classroom teachers is an integral part of these services in both meeting educational needs as well as in helping students develop basic skills and competency in content areas. The service may be provided using both a pull-out and push-in model, although it is predominantly provided using a pull-out model.
Special Class (Self-Contained)
Special class means a class consisting of students with disabilities who have been grouped together because of similar individual needs for the purpose of being provided primary instruction through specially designed instruction.
Students may be in a special class for only part of the day (i.e. during math or reading) or for the entire day. Depending on the needs of the students and the level of support needed to progress academically, the district may contract with BOCES or private day schools to provide services at this level.