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Articles: Special Ed

A curriculum framework initially developed for special education students is gaining traction in general ed classrooms nationwide during Common Core implementation.

A look, from the U.S. Census, at the number of students served by the IDEA. (Click to enlarge)

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The law fundamentally changed the way students with disabilities are educated in America, and the way states fund their K12 education programs.

IDEA requires the federal government to provide 40 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in the United States, multiplied by the number of special education students in each state, to educate students with disabilities.

In the Bonneville Joint School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a Summit Hills Elementary School student, right, takes a speech/language therapy class with therapist Claire Plowgian, above.

More districts now deliver speech and occupational therapy online. It’s a solution for staffing shortages, especially in less populated areas, when therapists can provide therapy, participate in IEP meetings and handle other tasks remotely.

Psychologists from Boston Public Schools participate in PD events as part of the district’s Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model.

In many schools, psychologists have time for little more than assessing students. That prevents them from using their range of skills in counseling, data analysis and preventing bullying, suicide and violence. 

The Common Core is presenting a new challenge—and offering little guidance—to special education teachers working to keep their students on pace with their peers.

Karner Blue Education Center's indoor playground gives students movement breaks and time to work on motor skills, particularly for long Minnesota winters when students are stuck indoors.
Students can access common-space areas for alternative learning spaces and movement breaks.

In September, the Karner Blue Education Center opened its brand new doors to some 100 K8 special education students in the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District in Minnesota.

Donna Schulze, above, is a paraeducator at Phelps Luck School in the Howard County Public Schools in Maryland.

Paraeducators are no longer on the periphery of the classroom. Now a significant part of the learning process, they are facilitating one-on-one and small-group instruction among special needs students.

Districts that treat students with emotional disabilities with a “one-size-fits-all” behavioral approach across the system must change their policies, according to federal findings in a case against the Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia.

Angela Ciolfi, legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren Program, and two other attorneys filed a complaint in November of 2012 with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education.

Common Core test tools enhance accessibility for students with disabilities while keeping them in the classroom with their peers. (Photo: Smarter Balanced)

Common Core assessments are making testing easier for students with special needs, experts say. The computer-based exams include tools such as on-screen calculators and read-aloud instructions to enhance accessibility for students with disabilities while keeping them in the classroom with their peers.

Philadelphia students with autism will no longer be transferred from one school to another without parental input, a June settlement states.

Because not all of the School District of Philadelphia’s 214 schools have autism services for all grades, students were sometimes transferred to different buildings depending on the services needed, says Sonja Kerr, director of disability rights for the Public Interest Law Center.

At the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Randolph, Mass., individualized classroom activities emphasize all areas of a student’s development, including communication and social skills.

Autism rates soared by nearly 30 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to an April study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in 68 eight-year-olds was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2010—a rate that has more than doubled since the year 2000, when 1 in 150 children were identified.

NAO robot has become a virtual classmate for students on the autism spectrum in New York City’s special education District 75.

Robots are opening new channels of communication for students on the autism spectrum or those with other disabilities. Educators at New York City’s special education District 75 say the NAO robot—a bright-eyed, two-foot-tall humanoid developed by Aldebaran Robotics—is now considered a virtual classmate by some students.

Philadelphia Public Schools special education teacher Michelle McKeone developed Autism Expressed in 2011, and now uses the platform to teach digital media skills to her high school students.

A first-of-its-kind online learning platform is bringing critical digital and life skills to Philadelphia students with autism and developmental disorders.

Students in the Centennial School in Bethlehem, Pa. are rewarded for good behavior rather than punished for misconduct.

Disabled students in wealthy, less-diverse districts are twice as likely as their low-income peers to be restrained or placed in isolation in school, according to new research by the University of New Hampshire.

Restraint and isolation have been used primarily on students who pose a threat to themselves or others. And few schools resort to these physical solutions: Some 95 percent of districts reported fewer than 10 instances of restraint or seclusion per 100 students with a disability in 2009-10.

Stephen Falcone resigned as superintendent of Darien Public Schools in Connecticut after the district was found to have violated special education laws. (Megan L. Spicer/Darien News)

Superintendent resigns

Stephen Falcone, superintendent of Darien Public Schools in Connecticut, resigned in October after a state Department of Education report found the district violated special education laws on multiple occasions during the 2012-2013 school year.