The Carlisle Public Schools serves students in PreK through grade 8. Special Education services are provided to eligible students aged 3 to 14 years, or until they graduate from 8th grade. (Secondary school programs provide necessary services until a student's 22nd birthday or High School graduation, whichever occurs first.)
Specific services are determined through the TEAM meeting process and based upon the needs of individual students.
In-class Special Education instruction is provided by special education staff through mixed groupings (to review, re-teach, or remediate), co-teaching, curriculum adaptations, and/or use of alternative materials. In-class academic instructional services are provided throughout elementary and middle school classes.
This method of service delivery meets the federal and state mandates for providing services in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Using this method, the special educator works closely with the general education teachers to help the student meet classroom expectations. Re-phrasing of directions, providing additional cues to the students, modifying assignments and/or providing increased feedback to the student are all options that may occur as a result of in-class academic instruction.
Co-teaching of classes by general education teachers and special educators is another form of in-class academic instruction that has proven to be extremely effective. Co-teaching encourages both teachers to maintain responsibility for each student's learning and requires a mutual respect for the interaction between the demands of the curriculum and the learning needs of the students.
In a co-teaching situation, one adult can be presenting information, while the other teacher may be asking clarifying questions, taking notes on the chalkboard, monitoring student progress, or providing whatever back-up is necessary for a successful lesson. At other times, small groups can be formed and alternative presentations may be appropriate. Students ask more questions and get more immediate feedback when two teachers share the responsibility.
Co-teaching is a model of service delivery that addresses the specific learning needs of identified students, "at-risk" students, and the classroom in general. Special educators meet regularly with general education teachers in order to discuss students' performance, determine what was successful and what could be improved, and in general, work to modify and supplement the curriculum to meet the needs of all students.
In-class services may also be provided in smaller time blocks using a more student-specific approach. Special educators provide direct services to many students in their classroom for 30 - 45 minutes at a time. As much as possible, they work with classroom teachers to provide a consistent approach to classroom curriculum, with modifications and adjustments made when necessary.
Learning Center Services are available to provide individual or small group instruction outside of the regular classroom at the elementary and middle school levels.
Students leave their regular classes to receive specific instruction from the special educator in a separate location. This instruction addresses specific skill deficiencies, which interfere with the student's achievement within the regular education program. Instruction may focus on specific skill development, learning strategies, organizational strategies, and/or study skills. The specialized instruction may be related to class assignments and supportive, or it may be quite distinct and remedial.
The goal is to help students become better able to function successfully in his/her classroom. This "pull-out" service is sometimes advantageous to help a student feel less obvious about his/her difficulty and to focus on specific skill deficits that may need more intensive remediation. In general, learning center services provide a less stimulating environment for the highly distractible student and therefore, more focused instruction can be accomplished in this setting.
At the middle school level, some special needs students with a language based learning disability take Study Skills as an alternative to foreign language study. Through this program, specific skill instruction can take place without interfering with the student's core academic areas. When needed, more intensive special education instruction is provided to students in place of the standard content in language arts, math, science, and/or social studies.
Speech and Language Services are provided to address difficulties in articulation of sounds, the understanding and production of language, and/or effective communication with others. Services may be provided in a separate, small group setting, or within the general classroom environment.
The majority of speech and language services are provided within the elementary grades, based upon identified needs. Licensed therapists help students develop age-appropriate expressive and receptive language skills as the focus of their therapy. This focus may include different aspects of language development and generally changes over time as the student develops and different grade-appropriate skills are needed. For some students, relatively short-term interventions are successful.
When a preschool child is identified with speech and language needs, services are coordinated with the child’s private preschool program as much as possible. Most preschoolers come to the school for direct services (as determined by the TEAM and documented in the IEP), with frequent consultation to parents and private preschool providers. Speech and language services are also an integral component of our integrated preschool program.
As a general education service and with parent’s written permission, articulation therapy may also be provided to students without an educational plan if the need is deemed purely articulation. In all areas of service delivery, close communication is encouraged between classroom teacher(s), therapist and parents.
Occupational Therapy in the public school is one of several related services specified under IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). A related service, under this provision, is one that may be required to assist children to benefit from special education.
Occupational therapy services are provided to address difficulties in fine motor skills, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills, gross motor skills, and/or sensory processing skills. These deficits must impact the student’s ability to benefit from special education or to access the general curriculum. Services may be provided in the general education classroom or in a specifically designed occupational therapy room with specialized equipment.
Occupational therapy services are provided to students when difficulties impact the child’s ability to access the curriculum. The occupational therapist can evaluate and address underlying postural, fine motor, visual motor or sensorimotor deficits to determine how to best achieve effective progress in school. Handwriting instruction is the responsibility of the classroom teacher, however, the occupational therapist may consult with teachers to assist with those students who have continued difficulty with written output.
Physical therapy services are currently provided by a contracted service provider on an hourly basis, based upon identified needs. Physical therapy services are directed to those students with special needs who also have difficulties in gross motor areas that interfere with their ability to learn effectively within the school environment (classroom, physical education class, recess, etc.). Physical therapy also addresses a student's ease and level of independence of mobility on all types of surfaces encountered within the school environment.
Physical therapy goals may include improving a student's general body strength, joint motion, endurance, muscle tone, balance, coordination, motor planning and protective, righting and equilibrium reactions. School-based physical therapy is not intended to improve a student's physical fitness to become a better athlete, nor is it provided in the case of temporary injury. In a case of temporary injury, the need is generally medically based and not educational in nature.
Based upon the nature of the service, therapy generally takes place outside of the regular classroom. Spaces used have included the Nurse's office, gymnasium, OT room, hallway (when appropriate to the goals being worked on), and in the student's home.
Counseling Services are provided to identified students to address difficulties with interpersonal skills, peer group dynamics, conflict resolution. Counseling is also offered to all students on an as needed basis to discuss and process school related or social issues.
Guidance counselors meet regularly with teachers and parents to discuss the social and emotional needs of students. Consultation is provided to address behavioral concerns that may affect classroom performance. A list of private counseling referrals is also available when requested as an additional resource to parents.
The guidance counselor may also lead social language groups with a speech and language therapist. A variety of structured, therapeutic games, modified traditional games, and directed free play are used in small group settings to support the development of appropriate peer skills. The groups are designed to encourage mutual respect and sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of all group members.
In addition to social language groups, activity groups are often run at different times during the year to address a variety of social and developmental issues. Typically, groups run for a defined period of time and seek to address common issues among students. A variety of games and discussion topics are used to facilitate communication between group members and the group leader.
Vision and Mobility Services are provided to students who require very specialized instruction. Instruction focuses on helping students to navigate safely within their environment and to maximize their visual abilities. Currently, services are contracted from private providers, with therapists coming into the school to provide services to students.
Hearing Services are provided to students who require specialized services or direct instruction to improve auditory skills. Services are provided by licensed speech and language pathologists when appropriate, and outside agencies when necessary, based upon the individual needs of students.
Diagnostic Evaluations are performed in areas of suspected special needs when referred by a teacher, parent, or other adult knowledgeable about the student. Prior to formal evaluations, the school is required to perform pre-referral activities to address the student’s needs within the general education program, using whatever supports and services are deemed appropriate to the specific concerns at the time.
State and federal law requires schools to conduct evaluations by a multidisciplinary team of professionals who are specifically qualified to administer and interpret assessments. Testing procedures include tests and other evaluative materials tailored to assess specific areas of educational need and adapted to the age of the child being evaluated.
Whenever a referral for a special education evaluation is received, the Director of Student Support Services meets with the parents to discuss all possible options. At that meeting, the Director shares with the parents the school’s concerns and solicits information from the parents regarding their perspective on their child’s learning as well as any additional concerns they may have. Together, a determination is made about what evaluations are needed and the parents are asked to sign a consent form. Regulations also require re-evaluations to be performed at least every three years for students previously identified as having special needs. Parents may request that formal testing be completed more frequently than the 3-year mandate.
Regulations require that the student be assessed in all areas related to the student's suspected (or previously identified) need for special education and related services. Assessments must include a teacher assessment, specialist assessment(s), and an educational status assessment. In addition, a health, home, or psychological assessment may be necessary or requested. Testing instruments are administered and interpreted by trained/licensed individuals and are tailored to meet specific areas of suspected need, as free as possible from cultural and linguistic bias. Written documentation of each assessment, including a summary of findings and recommendations, are available to parents two days before the TEAM meets to discuss the results and determine (continued) eligibility.