Exceptional Student Services
Students need to have demonstrated struggle in an academic area, and they need to have been provided some in-school intervention (this is called Response to Intervention or “RTI”). RTI was established to lower the risk of over-referral of students for special education services.
If after RTI a child is still struggling, the school district may recommend that the child get evaluated by an educational psychologist. The student may then receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP) if it is deemed that they require additional support.
What is An IEP?
The IEP is a legal document that lists what services students require, what their goals are, what accommodations are available, and when the IEP will be revisited (typically one year, but with quarterly or semi-annual benchmarks).
Specifically, the IEP will include recommendations for:
* Classroom type typically for students with Learning Disabilities. This will be a general education classroom (“mainstream”) or Inclusion program, where a general education and a special education teacher work together in the same room.
* Related service providers such as speech language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy services, all of which can vary by frequency, length, and grouping (individual, in a group, or in the classroom, for example) or paraprofessionals.
* Accommodations can be anything from assistive technology tools (e.g. access to audiobooks, dictation software, calculator), classroom accommodation (e.g. preferential seating, reduction of distractions, diverse response types), testing accommodations (e.g. extended time, having questions read orally, necessitating typed responses, requiring minimally distracting or small group environment), and any exemptions they may qualify for (e.g. languages, testing).
Special Education Inclusion Programs
In special education inclusion programs, teachers use a special education curriculum for less than half of each day. Special-needs students spend the majority of the day “included” in regular classrooms. Teachers and aides are available to sit with special-needs students and work with them as a part of the larger classroom.
Special education teachers in schools with inclusion policies spend most of their time forming relationships with specific students, accompanying them to classes, and ensuring they are receiving adequate support and opportunity.
Mainstreaming Special Education Students
Mainstreaming of special education students is similar to inclusion, but has no requirement for time spent in regular classrooms. Often, mainstreaming of special education students into regular classrooms is done either in a limited number of classes in which the student excels or as an opportunity to let the special-ed student socialize with the rest of the student body.
Special education teachers in mainstreaming schools might co-teach with regular teachers and spend time aiding students in classrooms.PBIS Video