Parents and guardians of the 716 students in Saline Area Schools who qualify for an Individualized Education Program due to learning or attention challenges have a lot to feel positive about during the 2018-19 school year.
The special education program in Saline has successfully pursued a number of goals and programs targeted during planning for the 2018-19 school year in previous years, and those initiatives have largely been pursued and are either implemented or in the infancy of their implementation, according to Director of Student Services Molly Garcia.
While the population of IEP or special education students has remained largely stable in Saline and followed the state and national trends of student population saturation of IEP students, Saline educators have been working to boost how effective Saline schools are at preparing these students to live socially and professionally in the world outside of primary education.
"We present services to students age 3 to 26 and we have full services in every building as well as peer programming," Garcia said, adding that the district has seen a slight uptick in autism spectrum disorder eligibility and also in the speech and language disability category.
Saline schools are seeing more classrooms with general and special education teachers and instruction blended into a single classroom. The practice is called "co-teaching" and is designed to socialize special education students with general education students, while also exposing general education students to special education students in order to build understanding, compassion, and even friendships among students of all learning abilities and levels. The ultimate goal of this is to promote inclusion of all students in any setting.
The general goals of Saline Special Education also involve promoting the broad goal of teaching students Social Thinking driven by learning opportunities that teach social skills and promote positive social interactions and relations with others.
Students Services has pursued these goals with the implementation of the following initiatives:
- A four person team presented at EdLeader21 National Conference on Saline's collaborative model.
- Hosted a 3 day co-teaching professional development at Saline High School.
- Offered two Social Thinking professional development days for district teachers in November for both special education and general education staff.
- Held a micro-credentialing course on Social Thinking offered to both general and special education staff.
- Added special education staff to Saline Area Schools Literacy Leadership Team.
The department also hired Monica Ellis as new Assistant Director of Secondary Transitions at the beginning of the current school year.
This year Ellis has aided in expanding Michigan Rehabilitation Services in Saline Area Schools to offer more pre-employment classes and paid work trials for IEP students and provide more resources for parents trying to help their children build a successful and happy life after their primary education is completed.
The program also saw expansion of parent information sessions to eight offered during the current school year. Also, a partnership with Gym America was created to offer two classrooms a weekly opportunity to participate in adaptive gymnastics and Camp Zip hosted three cardio drumming sessions at Saline High School.
Many of these programs and initiatives were pursued in direct response to parent surveys, in which IEP student parents said that access to more helpful informational resources was something that they needing, according to Garcia.
Garcia said that her department is also continuing to work with the district's technology department to increase digital accessibility for IEP students with implementation of CaptVoice, AMMR, and Google Add ons.
"We take pretty seriously that inclusion isn't just location," Garcia said. "It's access to all of the different things we do here in Saline."