2. Programs and Services
What Model is Best for My Child?
Special Education is not a “one size fits all” model, and being identified for Special Education services does not mean a student will receive those services indefinitely. Instead, programming is targeted to meet specific academic, behavioral, or occupational needs. Once students achieve their goals in a given area, they are integrated back into the standard curricular environment. Moreover, students only receive services in their goal areas. So for example, a student with only a mathematics goal may attend a specialized math class, while receiving the rest of their daily instruction alongside their peers in more traditional classroom settings. Below are a few (but not all) of our most common service delivery models, explained.
Most often, the best environment for students with special needs is the general education setting, just with the additional support of a highly-trained special education teacher. Research has shown that most students with IEPs have better learning outcomes when they remain with their general education peers. (The same is true for students without IEPs!) Not only do students receive the same same access to rigorous core curriculum delivered by a content expert (the general education teacher), but they also benefit from positive peer interactions and role-modeling. Our district believes in the inclusion model, and has spent considerable resources to hire and train teachers in highly effective co-teaching methods. The role of the Special Education teacher in this setting is to monitor the progress of all students with IEPs, to work with the general education teacher to design instruction that meets the needs of students with IEPs, and to work with students with IEPs in small-group settings to address their skill deficits. Perhaps the biggest endorsement of this model is that if you step into an inclusive classroom, you often cannot tell which teacher is which, or who has an IEP and who doesn’t. Most students receiving services in this setting also receive a “Learning Lab” or “Resource” period – approximately a 45 minute block of time to work specifically on their skill deficits with a Special Education teacher.
Special Class with Integration
Commonly referred to as “SCI,” this model provides students with alternate curriculum classes designed to eliminate skill gaps and get students caught up with their peers. Students are still integrated into the general education environment for classes where they do not have an identified need, however, more of their time during the day is spent in this specialized environment.
Learning Lab / Resource
In this model, students are fully integrated in general education classes, but receive support from a Special Education teacher as an elective class. Most often, students in resource classes have met their academic goals and are preparing for full integration in the traditional curriculum without any more special support. Resource teachers may use class time to assist students in understanding and completing projects and assignments from their core classes, or provide supplemental skill-building lessons and activities. At the high school level, Learning Lab is offered as a credit-bearing course, is lead by both a special education and general education teacher, and is also open to general education students who are identified as needing additional support.
Students in the life skills program require an extra level of support with the activities of daily living that most of us take for granted. At the same time, they are challenged with rigorous academic curricula to provide them with the greater opportunity, independence, and satisfaction in life as they move towards graduation and beyond.