Specialized Education Programs: How to Challenge AND Accommodate

A Special Relationship with Special Education

When raising a child with an intellectual or developmental disability, it is essential to find the most suitable environment for them to receive the best education possible. Sometimes, a traditional approach to education can be the perfect option, but it’s important to know that it is not your ONLY option. There are many avenues to accomplish this: mainstreaming, specialized curriculums, and even schools tailored to meet the needs of particular disabilities. We spoke with Jacky Wilensky, a teacher at The Shore Center, a public school placement for students with autism, to learn more about what kinds of accommodations parents should consider to ensure a student’s educational success.

“Depending on the student, there can be a variety of accommodations. Some students need to read aloud, some to use calculators for simple addition or subtractions, some may need visual cues when reading,” Jacky explains.

Although the correct accommodations are vital to a student’s development, Jacky stresses the significance of communication between parent, teacher and child:

“It is very important for the parents and teachers to be on the same page. As a teacher, there are many things we can teach in the classroom that the students may not follow at home. Routine and structure is important when working with a child with special needs and many times there is a lack of structure and routine at home. If a student uses a token board or behavior chart in class, they may behave well in school and follow directions but at home, if they are not given constant praise or positive reinforcement they may not behave since there is no reward for doing so.”

Specialized Programs for Students

Specialized programs are created so the core aspects of a general curriculum can be taught in an effective manner to all enrolled. The objective is for students to receive a top-notch education whilst still providing the necessary modifications to their individualized learning experience. In these programs, students are provided with appropriate accommodations but still expected to independently accomplish their school tasks. This outlook introduces the child to personal accountability, as they are now responsible for completing tasks and practicing time management.

“Homework should be given even to the lowest functional child but maybe not given something they are unable to complete without help. We call this “independent work” which is simply something the student is able to complete without an abundant amount of help.”

Jacky explains that although academic work is critical to a child with a special needs education, it is equally important to focus on activities that help build social skills as well. In order to properly evaluate and improve a child’s behavior, an Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence, or ABC Chart is generally used (see below).

ABC Chart Example

“The teacher or behaviorist will pinpoint the reason the student is having a problem behavior and they will use the data from the evaluation to find this. The behavior graphs will show an increase if the strategy being used is working. Social groups can be beneficial for students who struggle with social situations. These are generally monitored by a teacher-created task analysis sheet or simple observation. “

With a proper balance of communication, individualized accommodations, and opportunities for personal growth, a student is able to tackle the demands of a general studies curriculum at their own pace. These methods allow children with disabilities to learn crucial academic and social skills needed to thrive in a general environment. In fact, many students in school placements such as The Shore Center have been able to learn and grow to the point where they are able to transition into a traditional learning environment, continuing to learn alongside their peers.

“We have had many students mainstream back to the district. The process for mainstreaming is usually started after an IEP (individualized education plan) where the teacher recommends the transitions and the school is capable of accommodating the student. The student may start with one class period for a semester and then move to 2 periods the second semester. Depending on the learner, the time frame for the transition will vary,” Jacky says.

All students have the potential to learn and grow at their own pace. Many students can benefit greatly from specialized education programs like the ones found at The Shore Center. These services can make a substantial difference and prepare many individuals for transition into adult life. Every child has the right to receive an education, regardless of any disability they may have. We encourage you to explore your options and find what’s right for your child. After graduating, they can look for a job, live independently, or participate in community activities, but it all starts with a solid education.

As we just discussed, int’s undeniable that knowledge is POWER. So please share the power with others, by sharing this article on your social media networks. Thank you for reading!

Also, a big thank you goes out to Jacky Wilensky at The Shore Center for her invaluable input into this vital topic.

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