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Special Education Process

 

 

wcsLink

 

In keeping with the mandate from IDEA, Williamson County Special Education seeks to provide the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for all students.  This means the door to schools, classrooms, and school activities are open to every student and they are afforded every opportunity to be included with their non-disabled peers. A continuum of services is available for each student based on the IEP team decision on the placement of those services – either in general education or special education setting. The focus is on giving each student the help he/she needs to learn.

 

We Believe . . . .  

  • All individuals are important and valued
  • All individuals have unique needs and abilities
  • All individuals can learn and succeed
  • All situations are unique
  • All individuals deserve a safe educational environment
  • All individuals have access to all services
  • All members of the community impact the learning experience of all individuals
  • All individuals have access to training to increase knowledge and skills
  • All individuals develop to their fullest potential when educators, parents, students and the community work together, thus providing a seamless learning environment

 

 

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

 

Assistive Technology Service is defined as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device” (Tech Act of 1990).

An Assistive Technology Device is “ any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that increases, maintains, or improves functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Tech Act of 1990).

Assistive Technology provides assessment, training and equipment for students with special needs. 

 

 Assistive Technology Services Include:

  • Individual student assessment
  • Classroom consultation
  • Equipment trials and set up for individual students
  • Creation of individualized  software programs to adapt the curriculum
  • Maintenance of a lending library of equipment and software
  • Staff and parent training for individual student needs
  • Staff development

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AUTISM

 

What is Autism?

 

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

 

Autism is one of five disorders coming under the umbrella of Pervasive Development Disorders (PDD), a category of neurological disorders characterized by "severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development," including social interaction and communication skills (DSM-IV-TR).  The five disorders under PDD are Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Rett's Disorder, and PDD - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).  Each of these disorders has specific diagnostic criteria as outlined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).

 

Source:  Autism Society of America

 

 An evaluation for autism will include:

  1. Parent interview
  2. Behavior observations
  3. Physiological and neurological information from a licensed physician, pediatrician, or neurologist
  4. Evaluation of speech/language, communication, cognitive, developmental, adaptive behavior, and social skills
  5. Documentation of how autism adversely affects educational performance in the general education classroom

 

Williamson County Schools is proud to have autism consultants on staff.  These consultants serve as support to the educational staff and families of students with autism.  Additional roles include observing the students, providing in-services, developing behavioral goals and plans, assisting in transitions, and providing information to families.

 

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BEHAVIOR SUPPORT

 

Williamson County is fortunate to have system wide Behavior Consultants who work with school teams in each school.  The Behavior Consultants are a member of the support team, but do not work directly with students. If a student is displaying behavior that is not responding to the school wide support plan, then the student’s team will meet, along with the parent, to look at a more individualized approach. This team will include the teacher, the school psychologist, an administrator and any other supporting staff members. The Behavior Consultant may or may not be invited to join the team at this point. Many times, simple changes to instructional approaches or a change to the classroom environment will help the child respond in more appropriate ways. If not, the Behavior Consultant will be asked to join the student support team. At some point the team may decide that a Functional Behavior Assessment is needed. This is a process that is employed to determine the function of the student behavior; or why he/she does what they do. It is a methodical approach to determine what reinforces the behavior, what makes it worthwhile for the student. After gathering the information, the team will create a Behavior Intervention Plan, which is a very systematic approach to help the student change their behavior. The Behavior Consultant will assist the school team in brainstorming intervention ideas, strategies, ways to teach new skills, ways to reinforce new skills and most importantly  how to collect the data to make future decisions.

 

Behavior Consultants believe that behavior, whether appropriate or not, serves a purpose and is another form of communication. They are committed to make every child in Williamson County successful and productive.

 

 

 

EARLY CHILDHOOD

 

Under the Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2007, students ages 3-5 who are identified to have a disability and require special education, can be served by the public school. Under Child Find, a child is referred to the Williamson County Schools for initial screening by the parent through the family’s pediatrician, or medical specialist, a day care or preschool, a private agency, or through TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System) who serves young infants and toddlers who have been identified to have disability and are between the ages of birth to 3. Once the child find referral and screening process is completed in the public school with the family and child, the child may then be referred for additional formal evaluation if appropriate to determine the need for special education. A multidisciplinary team of professionals may evaluate your child. The team could include some or all of the following: school psychologist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, special education teacher, and vision or hearing consultant. Once the evaluation is completed, the family with the rest of the evaluation team meets to determine eligibility for special education based on the criteria of the Tennessee State Department of Special Education.  If appropriate, an Individualized Education Plan to support the child’s needs is developed collaboratively with all family and team member’s input.

 

Early intervention services in the Williamson County Schools are a continuum of services. The individualized education planning team determines the appropriate supports and services for the young child with mild to severe disabilities through the IEP process for each individual child. The IEP is then reviewed annually and eligibility is reviewed at least every 3 years or as the team deems necessary.

 

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EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR

 

Extended School Year (ESY) refers to special education and/or related services that can be provided beyond the normal school year.  These services are different from enrichment programs, summer school programs and compensatory services and are not simply an extension of time.  These services, at no cost to the parent, will vary in type, intensity, location, inclusion of related services and length of time depending on the individual needs of students.  The consideration of ESY is a part of the IEP process.  

 

 

What Extended School Year Services Are Not

 

Because ESY services are uniquely designed to provide FAPE to students with disabilities, it is necessary to emphasize that these services are not:

  • based on the category of student’s disability - services must be based on the student’s unique educational needs;

  • mandated twelve-month services for all students with disabilities;

  • a child care service;

  • necessarily a continuation of the total IEP provided to a student with a disability during the regular school year;

  • required to be provided all day, every day, or each day;

  • an automatic program provision from year to year;

  • summer school, compensatory services, or enrichment programs;

  • required to be provided in a traditional classroom setting; and

  • a service to be provided to maximize each student’s potential.

 

Determining the Need for Extended School Year Services

 

The IEP team should consider the need for these services at least annually. The request to consider ESY services may be initiated by the parent, the student, the student’s teacher(s), related service providers, or administrators. It is important that the decision regarding whether ESY services are provided not be delayed. The IEP Team should make the decision early enough to ensure that parents can meaningfully exercise their due process rights if they wish to challenge an ESY decision. The following factors may be considered:

  • Degree of regression/ time of skill recoupment,

  • Degree of disability,

  • The child’s rate of progress,

  • Consideration of any behavioral/ physical problems which the child may possess,

  • The availability of alternative resources for serving the child,

  • The ability of the child to interact with children who are non-disabled,

  • Areas in the child’s program which require continuous attention.

 

 SPECIAL EDUCATION MANUAL 2010, TN Department of Education

 

 

 

 

GIFTED

 

In the state of Tennessee, intellectually gifted students are served through a special education process. In this state, Intellectually Gifted refers to having intellectual abilities and potential for achievement so outstanding that special provisions are required to meet the child’s educational needs. Since this is a special education process, all students new to our district and state who do not have an Individualized Education Plan, will need to follow the process. Special education has a two prong eligibility: 1) Is there an educational problem that must be resolved through special education and 2) Does the student meet the criteria for eligibility as described by the TN Department of Education.

 

Our state also requires a grade level screening of every student in a grade determined by each district. In WCS, we screen every student in their 4th grade year, however, a student can be eligible for services at any grade level.

 

We also provide screenings throughout the school year for children who are ages 3 to 5 years old whose parents believe they are at risk to be Intellectually Gifted. In these screenings, several educational professionals work to provide some tasks for the child for review and evaluation and we review information provided by the parent. If the screening team believes the student may be eligible for special education, they may recommend a comprehensive evaluation to the parent to assist the determination of eligibility for Intellectually Gifted. This process is not used for attending the district’s 4 Year Old PreK classes. This is a special education process for special education eligibility.

 

Eligibility Standards

  • Evaluation of intellectually gifted includes assessment through a multi-modal identification process, wherein no singular mechanism, criterion or cut-off score is used for determination of eligibility.

  • Criterion-referenced test scores such as TCAP can be used, although individually administered academic achievement tests may also be used for purposes of eligibility determination.

  • Eligibility for an individual child is based on analysis of this information. The screening and comprehensive assessment results must meet specific eligibility standards based on multiple criteria and multiple assessment measures.  

  • A student is eligible when the standards for intellectually gifted are present and cause an adverse affect on educational performance in the general education curriculum or learning environment.

     

Gifted Services

 

All our services for identified gifted students occur in the student's home school of zone. Once a student is identified as eligible under Intellectually Gifted, an IEP team meets to determine the needs of the specific student. We work collaboratively with general education teachers to ensure that there is appropriate challenge throughout the student's educational day.

 

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HEARING

 

Williamson County Schools offers hearing services to eligible students with deafness or a hearing impairment. In order to be eligible for these services, the student must meet eligibility standards set forth by the Tennessee State Department of Education.  Services may include direct therapy, inclusion in the student’s classroom, consultation, or collaboration with the other educators.  The county’s Hearing Teachers work closely with both general and special education staff to ensure that students are provided the services that integrate curricular areas with the student’s goals and objectives written in their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). The hearing teachers also serve as a support to educational staff throughout the county and to families of students with a hearing loss.

 

 

 

OCCUPATIONAL/PHYSICAL THERAPY

 

Occupational and Physical Therapists provide services for students who demonstrate difficulties accessing or participating in learning opportunities within the educational environment. The range of services may include screening, evaluation, consultation, and direct service. Occupational therapists work with students to perform daily living skills. Treatment is provided for students with a variety of diagnoses including cerebral palsy, learning disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, brain injury, developmental delay and feeding disorders.

 

The physical therapists serving Williamson County schools provide a variety of interventions to enhance the functional abilities of students. The focus of occupational and physical therapy intervention may include improving the student's skills; collaborating with the educational team regarding assistive technology; designing/recommending adaptations for the school environment; modifying classroom materials; and/or training of educational staff. Therapists provide evaluation and intervention services with a physician's referral.

 

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SPEECH AND LANGUAGE

 

Williamson County Schools offers an extensive Speech and Language program to eligible students with communication needs.  Services are available in the areas of speech sound production, language, fluency (stuttering), and voice.  Each school in Williamson County has a qualified Speech and Language Pathologist on staff. To receive services, the student must meet eligibility standards set forth by the Tennessee State Department of Education and the Individualized Education Team (IEP team) must determine that the communication delay adversely affects educational performance. Services may include direct therapy, inclusion in the student’s classroom, consultation, or collaboration with the other educators.  The Speech Language Pathologist works closely with both general and special education staff to ensure that students are provided services that integrate curricular areas with the student’s communication goals and objectives.

 

Speech FAQs

Common Terms

Home Practice Activities

 

 

 

TRANSITION

 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act defines transition planning as...

 

A coordinated set of activities designed within a results oriented process and that:

 

Improves the academic and functional skills of the student in order to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post school activities such as postsecondary education, vocational

education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult

education, adult services, independent living or community participation

 

Is based on the individual student's needs, taking into account his or her strengths, preferences and interests and

 

Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post school, adult living objectives and, when appropriate, the acquisition of daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation.

 

Transition toward adulthood really begins when children are born; everything they do an learn is designed to make them a competent and independent adult. The focus becomes really strong as students enter middle school. In Williamson County we begin involving students in their IEP meetings by age 14. Students must learn to advocate and be able to ask for the supports they need both in school and on the job site.

 

Transition refers to all the activities that make that happen, but you can see from the paragraph above that the law requires some very specific processes be addressed and followed. Your student’s team will begin advising you about the many steps that happen along the way, from selecting course to sampling jobs and even being at a job site. The best advice for you to follow is if you don’t understand something, ask questions, and ask again if you need to. The internet is filled with information about transition, as is the state website.

 

If a student on an IEP does not earn a general education diploma, they are eligible to stay in school past the age of 18. That being said, if a student earns a general education diploma, they are no longer eligible for services for the school.

 

How can parents help in developing a transition plan?

 

 

 

VISION

 

Williamson County Schools employs vision consulting teachers who serve students in any of our public schools, from early childhood (3 to 5 year olds) to high school.  WCS also employs a Braille Transcriptionist who is responsible for transcribing any classroom materials that are in print into Braille as well as the creation of tactile aids (maps, graphs, charts, etc.) for students who use Braille as their primary reading medium.

 

To qualify for vision services, the student must be certified as visually impaired and show a need for adapted materials in the classroom.  Certification begins with a current eye report from the student’s eye care professional.  Vision services do not include students having dyslexia or other perceptual difficulties.  

 

For those students who are eligible for vision services in our district, our teachers provide all those services to students at their home school of zone. Our students’ abilities range from Braille readers to those using optical devices and/or large print.  Our staff works collaboratively with the general ed teacher, the special ed teacher at the school to provide supports that are needed at each school based on individual student needs. 

 

The vision department of WCS also works closely with the Assistive Technology department to provide current technology supports for students, such as the use of scanners and various computer programs.  We also participate with Project PAVE, of Vanderbilt University, in order to have students evaluated in a low vision clinic and provided with optical devices, if necessary.  PAVE offers prescribed magnifiers for near reading, and monoculars for distance viewing at no cost to the student.

 

Orientation and Mobility is a vision related service provided through the Visual Impairments Program. Orientation and Mobility instruction provides blind or visually impaired individuals with the skills and knowledge to travel independently, safely and efficiently to the best of their ability in their surrounding environment.  Students are referred to an Orientation and Mobility Specialist by their teachers, staff, or his/her parents for a consultation or screening to determine if a full evaluation of the student's orientation and mobility skills is appropriate.

 

 

 

DISABILITIES ELIGIBLE FOR SERVICE IN TENNESSEE

 

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act there are specific criteria for special education eligibility.  There are also specific criteria for eligibility for special education under the Tennessee Department of Special Education.  The link below provides a list of disability categories for the State of Tennessee.

 

List of Eligible Disabilities

 

 

 

SCHOOL ENROLLMENT FOR STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

 

Students receiving special education services (IEPs) are enrolled using the same enrollment process as that used for students who do not receive special education services.  Parents must enroll new students at their zoned school.  Parents are asked to contact their zoned school as early as possible in the enrollment process so that an IEP meeting can be scheduled.  Providing the receiving school with current special education paperwork including the current IEP, Eligibility Determination, and current assessments is helpful as plans are made to determine appropriate special education services in our district.

 

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SPECIAL EDUCATION PROCESS

 

The link below provides information about the special education process for evaluation, eligibility, and IEP development.

 

Special Education Process Information

 

 

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wcsLink

"Connecting Special and Gifted Education Families, Educators, and the Community in Williamson County"

 

Williamson County Schools is dedicated to working hand-in-hand with parents and families across the district.  wcsLink is our Special Education parent organization that works collaboratively with our Student Support Services department to create supportive relationships between home and school.  wcsLink sponsors several initiatives including a quarterly newsletter,  seminars/training sessions,  information fairs, opportunities for collegial conversations with district administrators and a structure for supporting parents of students with special needs and giftedness .  For additional information and/or to become involved in this group, please access the brochure link below.

 

wcsLink Brochure

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