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Articles: Special Ed

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.

A Connecticut school district in the suburbs of New York City violated the IDEA by denying special education students the proper services for the past year, according to a recent Connecticut State Department of Education investigation. The case shows districts may run afoul of the law if special education services are reduced due to budget cuts.

About 1 in 6 students are now diagnosed with a developmental disability, according to a 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics.

Relationships between school districts and the parents of special needs students are notoriously adversarial, and lawyers sometimes get involved in the disputes that arise. Given the increase in students diagnosed with disabilities and the costs involved in serving them, district leaders who want to provide the proper instruction and care, and avoid costly litigation, must stay abreast of the law.

A human-like robot that can mimic emotions and play interactive games can help students with autism develop social skills.

Aldebaran Robotics’ “ASK NAO” robot, which is about two feet tall, mimics an emotion with gestures and sounds, and waits for children to recognize the emotion. It may then ask children the last time they experienced such an emotion. It also can teach autistic children time, taking turns, basic conversation, and other communication skills.

School administrators need to adapt to rising numbers of autism cases, despite reports from the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association that show educators have been overwhelmed and unable to provide for all the affected students for years.

Superintendent Gary P. Richards (center) meets with Jane Anderson, human resources director, and Andrew Colati, social studies instructor at Wilton High School, where the district’s administrative offices are located.

According to Wilton (Conn.) School District Superintendent Gary G. Richards, most people who move to Wilton do so for its high-quality schools, which has struck a successful balance between educating its most advanced learners and ones who need more help.

95% Group, www.95percentgroup.com

ACE (Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia),New England Center for Children, www.necc.org

Activity Trainer and DT Trainer, Accelerations Educational Software, www.dttrainer.com

Autism Apps, Touch Autism, itunes.apple.com/us/artist/touch-autism/id395610433

Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training program,

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