Special Education Services
Many children look forward to the cookies and candy that show up in grocery aisles around the holidays. Cookie cutter items make it cost effective for manufacturers to quickly deliver to customers while one may look to find that just right specialty item for that special person. You may have to spend a bit more for the treat but well worth it when you see the smiles. Like finding that just right treat, educators no longer provide cookie cutter instruction but plan for that just right instruction for a diverse combination of learning styles in the classroom.
In the past, many teachers delivered the same instruction to all students who sat in rows of desks in the classroom, usually presenting in a listen and now practice style. Some students do not reach their full potential in that specific instructional presentation. It was interesting to read the 1940’s school records of an elementary student. Each end of year statement included the words “struggles with learning”. By third grade, the teacher began with the same but added “may have a learning disability”. The fourth-grade statement read “dropped out of school”. Most likely this child did not respond to cookie cutter instruction and learned differently.
Students learning styles vary and today's teachers work to meet the needs of students by providing more individualized instruction when planning lessons. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 1990 from the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) which began in 1975. This federal legislation was enacted with the goal to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability. Our goal, as educators, is to provide instruction in a way to help all students reach goals to reach their full potential along the steps to graduation.
Tahlequah Public Schools has quality Special Education staff who plan for the needs of students identified with a disability served through IDEA. Schools and state agencies provide information to the public to make sure all understand the services available to families with special needs children. The success of ensuring all students with special needs are appropriately served might be measured in numbers served. TPS began the 2017-18 year with 584 students served in the categories of Developmental Delays, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Autism, Other Health Impairments, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech-Language Impairment, Emotional Disturbances, Deaf-Blindness, Traumatic Brain Injury, Hearing Impairment, Orthopedic Impairments and Visual Impairment. Currently, we serve 695 students. School year 2011-12 notes service to 504 students showing an increase in students served over the past years. The data can point to doing a better job of getting the word about services available but must also consider increases in categories.
The category of Autism has shown increases over the past decade. According to CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network, year 2000 data notes 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) while year 2012 data notes 1 in 68 children diagnosed. Early intervention is important in helping students and all teachers work to provide instruction to assist student in reaching goals. We are thankful to Nikki Scott and community outreach group, My Friends and Me, for raising funds and providing curriculum and training to support students with ASD.
Tahlequah Public Schools offers special education services to qualifying students with special learning needs. Services are available for children, 3 through 21 years of age and are at no cost to the parent. If you have questions or need more information, please contact your child’s school counselor or contact Susan VanZant, Director of Special Services at 918-458-4100.