When Special Education is done correctly, it is a powerful tool to educate children with a disability. I spend a lot of time writing about special education laws, parental rights, writing IEP’s and non-compliance by School Districts but decided I would spend today writing about some of the most positive, recent examples I’ve seen in Special Education. There are actually many different types of positive examples I can think of, but I decided to focus on three.
The first is a program offered for pre-school aged children, in one of the many School Districts I cover in my advocate work, called the Kid Intensive Therapy Center. This program is 2.5 hours a day 5 days a week and provides intensive/evidence-based early intervention. The program utilizes applied behavior analysis (ABA) strategies and integrates speech and language into the classroom. The class has a 2:1 ratio with a maximum of eight children to four adults. The multidisciplinary team consists of an early childhood Special Education Teacher, a Speech and Language Pathologist, a Behavior Intervention Specialist and a Paraprofessional. The children are broken up into groups of two and spend the day rotating to centers that focus on different areas of development. Each child works with all four adults within a given day. Usually, the Kid Intensive Therapy Centers are offered in conjunction with a separate pre-school placement and the children are provided transportation from the pre-school classroom to the centers.
The second is a Special Day Class Program for Elementary age Children with Autism, which is the best example of school wide inclusion that I’ve ever seen! Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is doing, while still being embraced as a child that belongs. The Special Education Teacher, with the support of the School’s Principal, created an inclusion program that incorporates the general education students from the 4th and 6th grades. The school’s entire 4th and 6th grade population applied to be a part of this program and the teacher interviewed all of them to narrow down the field. The Teacher ended up choosing approximately, (30) 4th graders and (40) 6th graders that rotate to help the Children with Autism in different ways. The children that are “hired” to volunteer with the class give up their recess and lunch one week a month. The 6th graders actually go into the classroom to help the teacher explain material. The Teacher told me, he has found that Children with Autism respond to other children in a way they don’t always respond to adults. The 4th graders actually accompany the Children with Autism during recess and lunch and they all play together on the school’s playground. The school wide program has embraced this class in a way I have never seen before.
The third example is of an individual student with Down Syndrome that was able to graduate from high school and pass both parts of the California High School Exit Exam. An exam so difficult for students with an IEP, it has been waived as a graduation requirement while an alternative assessment is being created. This example, I did not witness first hand but, was actually told to me by a retired Special Education Teacher that I was lucky enough to sit next to at a special needs resource fair. As it was explained to me, the student with Down Syndrome had an IQ of 51. To give you a basis, any score under 70 would be considered intellectually disabled. This is a great example that anybody can learn if given a chance. The school, along with this girl’s parents put together an IEP that worked great. She never took more than three academic classes at a time and she never took a science and a math class in the same semester. They also staggered her class schedule so that she had study periods and afternoon tutors where new academic concepts could be pre-taught and post-taught to reinforce what she was learning in class. This was an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that was structured and executed beautifully.
These are only three examples of ways that Special Education Programs and services can be done right. I try to focus on these types of examples whenever I am asked about whether special education really works. Do you have any positive examples of special education being done right? Please provide your examples and comments below.