Special Education FAQs
Special Education at Laurelhurst
1. What Special Ed services do we have at Laurelhurst and how many students are served by them?
Resource – Students who have specific learning disabilities, developmental delays, and moderate social and emotional needs are served at Laurelhurst in our resource program. These students may need small group instruction for an academic area, or may just need consultation support with their general education teacher to modify assignments in such a way as to make them accessible to the student. We have 2 adults working in this program. About 10 students receive services from these adults, and they use various curricular resources, including the general education curricula, to meet the needs of their students.
Social and Emotional Services – this is a service model for students who require small groups for a good portion of their day. Students in these small group classes have significant social and emotional learning needs (SEL). Our model serves students within the small group setting for up to 100% of their day. Our goal is to teach appropriate classroom, playground, and lunchroom social skills along with emotional self-regulation skills that will allow our students to participate in the general education setting for more and more of their day. We want them to be in the general education setting when they have the skills to manage their emotions and behaviors in that setting. It’s important to their progress that they succeed when they’re in general education settings so that they build skills and feel confident outside of the small group. Sometimes, these students have an adult with them in the general education setting until we are confident that they can manage this environment on their own. We fade their supports over time as they are able to be successful independently.
We may have up to 20 students enrolled in this program with services provided by 6 adults. The adults are staffed through Special Education funding. The staff works with students in general education classrooms, Special Education classrooms, on the playground, in the lunchroom, and during transitions. Staff are highly trained and supported with frequent coaching and development from highly skilled professionals from within and outside of the district. We use several curricula for this group of students to learn social skills and emotional self-regulation that we do not use for other students in addition to RULER, which we use school-wide.
Access – When students need small group setting for a small amount of their instructional time, but need more support than Resource provides, we have a level of service that supports increasing independence in general education. The Access model provides students with frequent breaks and check ins, in-class support in the general education setting, a Special Education classroom space for cooling down and reflection, and continual instruction in social skills and emotional self-regulation. We use the specific curricula beyond that used in general education to support students in growing their social skills and regulating their emotions effectively. This model is intended to provide ongoing coaching and support for students to move them toward social and emotional independence. We can have up to 10 students in our access program, with 4 adults supporting them.
2. Where are the Special Education services delivered throughout the building?
We have three Special Education classrooms for our 4 certificated teachers. Two certificated teachers run small group Social Emotional Service classrooms in classrooms that they do not share. These classrooms serve both as teaching spaces for students who are in the small group setting for most or all of their time, as well as serving as pull-out spaces for students who spend time in the general education setting. One small group is in a portable and one is in the building. The instruction model in Social Emotional small group instruction is based on “Zones of Regulation”, and requires a lot of space to set up different physical spaces for work, breaks, and cooling down. The physical separation of the spaces actually helps students set up their emotional and intellectual expectations differently, and helps support students in learning that different behaviors are appropriate in different spaces. This helps us teach them the kinds of behaviors that might be appropriate in the general education classroom as opposed to, say, the playground. It’s important that Social and Emotional services not be in the same room as other small group class so that trained staff can deescalate students who are upset and we can avoid having students get to a point of creating safety concerns. It’s our goal for Social Emotional Services to prevent having students escalate and to help them learn to manage their feelings and prevent their own escalations. Having physical space allows us to do this more effectively.
The other three Special Education programs share Room 9, which is an open concept space and allows for several small groups to be taught simultaneously. This also allows us to team to meet the individual needs of particular students.
Special Education services may also be delivered in classrooms, hallways, the playground, offices, and the lunchroom. For instance, a student might receive coaching and support in social skills on the playground, might receive modified materials in a general education classroom, or might have a regular reward for completing math homework in the office.
3. What should we do if we see or hear behaviors that are disruptive or concerning when we’re at school?
Please let a staff member know what you saw or heard – either tell the classroom teacher or let an office staff person know so we can address the issue. We can’t let you know what we’ve done in the case of individual students, but we appreciate receiving the information so that we can make sure to take care of all the students involved.
If a staff member is working with the student and handling the issue, you can write a note to share information they may have missed, or you could tell another staff member information you think may be helpful.
6. What are protocols for dealing with disruptions caused by students who are not receiving Special Education services?
When a student behaves inappropriately and is not in a Special Education program, we follow the regular policy for discipline as defined in the discipline handbook. There is a matrix that states what the consequences might be for different kinds of infractions at different ages. If a student has multiple infractions over time, we work in close partnership with families to identify the students’ needs and meet them so that the behaviors stop.
If we suspect that a student’s behavior issues are caused by a disability, we start with interventions outside of Special Education (a point sheet, reward system, counseling, group therapy, parent partnerships, etc.). If we find over time that these interventions were not effective, we can refer a student for an evaluation by a school psychologist. School psychologists specialize in identifying disabilities and helping us to define a plan for meeting the students’ needs. If the psychologist finds that the student has a qualifying disability as defined by the law (IDEA), then we begin to serve them in Special Education. The process of identifying a disability can take quite some time. For instance, the law states that when a school official or parent requests an evaluation, the psychologist has 15 school days to develop a plan for assessing whether there is a disabling condition present. After that, the psych has 60 school days to complete the plan and the evaluation (there are 180 days in a school year). Our school psychologist works 2 days a week at our school.We always try to solve any problems with interventions that are outside of Special Education before we go to evaluation if we can. The process can move more quickly than the 75 day limit, but because the work involves careful attention to the details of a child’s thinking, it takes a considerable amount of time. The law requires us to try interventions prior to evaluation, and we are often able to solve even significant problems without Special Education services.
7. Are SPS rules of conduct the same or different for General Education and Special Education students?
The rules of conduct are the same. There is a difference in our response the case of an incident that is a manifestation of a student’s disability. It’s easiest to envision with a physical disability: consider a case of a student who was wheelchair bound, and the student refused to stand up when the teacher told them to. Even if every other student in the class stood up, and it was uncomfortable for everyone that this student was refusing to stand, we would not respond to that student with discipline for defiance. The behavior infraction is outside of the student’s control because of their disability. The law holds that this is true for students whose disabilities affect other, less obvious abilities. When a student’s disruptive behavior is a manifestation of their disability, we work to increase their learning, increase adult supports, work with their family, and shift our plan to ensure we can meet the student’s needs. Metaphorically speaking, we do not ask the wheelchair bound-student to stand up.
This is described in the district discipline policy.
8. How is the safety of all students ensured at school?
The best insurance of safety in a school is to have an orderly environment with sufficient adult attention. We have systems in place in the lunchroom, playground, and classrooms to ensure that students are supervised, well-known, and connected to adults in our building. The students’ understanding that they are always with adults who care about them gives them confidence reporting issues that may come up, and helps prevent any escalating feelings of being left-out or uncared for.
Our school is as safe as any elementary school in the Northeast Region, the district, or the country, but accidents and incidents still come up from time to time. When students make a mistake in their interactions and are unkind to someone, we follow a restorative justice protocol to help them repair the relationship. These steps are for any student – disabled or not. The three steps to the protocol are:
- Admit what you did that was wrong.
- Apologize to anyone you may have hurt.
- Do something kind to re-establish a positive relationship with that person.
Of course #3 is the one that requires creativity, but we ask students to make time to try to think of a way that someone has treated them that made them feel better when they were hurt. Maybe they could play a game with the person, or make a picture or poem for them. Maybe they could say something they like about the person in a compliment. We mostly want students to consider that when they make a mistake, the relationship they had was damaged and it takes a little effort to make things better. I think that if more foreign policy could be based on these three steps, the world would be a better place. Maybe if we teach the children these steps today, they’ll put them into our foreign policy when they run the world!
We have not had incidents at this school involving weapons or students who have access to weapons. We are attentive to any student making threats, and work with parents as quickly as possible to ensure that we support the student and assess the seriousness of the threat. Safety and security has a protocol for analyzing the validity of threats and we follow that protocol. The district’s Student Threat Assessment Team would support us in case of a serious threat.
9. What allowances does the district make for schools containing Social and Emotional programs?
Special Education programs come with funding for those programs. Our EBD program benefits the general education because students in EBD count as a general education student, so even though they may infrequently attend a general education class, they count in the “seat count” for when the district determines our staffing. Ultimately, we could have smaller class sizes for this reason, but the difference is not dramatic because we have very few students in EBD.
Additionally, we have funding for our half time counselor only because of the Social Emotional Services at our school. Elementary schools without a high number of students on Free and Reduced lunch (more than 40%) and without Social Emotional Services do not receive a counselor. They only receive the funding we use for our counselor if they have more than 23 classroom teachers. Our school currently has 17 classroom teachers and 25% of our students receive free or reduced price lunches.
10. How many schools in the district contain Social Emotional programs? Are there efforts to learn from other schools serving this population?
Ten elementary schools in Seattle serve students in an small group class like ours. Special Education leadership has also gathered a Professional Learning Community of teachers from small group and Access classrooms across the district who are working together to problem-solve and learn from each other’s successes. On top of that, the district hired a consulting teacher who works to coach our program staff on a weekly basis here at Laurelhurst. Our staff has received several days of training each summer for the last three years. The trainings have been very enlightening and the partnership has benefited our teachers and students greatly!
11. Why have the Social Emotional and Access programs been placed at Laurelhurst?
Initially, the Social Emotional services came to Laurelhurst because there was at that time the physical space to accommodate it. Access was added this year to ensure that students have the adult supports they need even after they exit the Social Emotional program (the Access program did not take up any additional classrooms, as they are sharing a room with the Resource program). There is a need for Social Emotional services the Northeast, and our program fills that need. Students in our program live in the Northeast cluster. Students are served as close to their home as can be accommodated.
12. What language can I use to talk to my child about students with Social and Emotional disabilities?