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Services For Exceptional Children

Services for Disabled Preschool Age Children

Services for special needs children, below school age, who reside in suburban Allegheny County, are provided through two different systems linked by a transition process. Birth through age two programming is provided through the Pennsylvania  Department of Welfare funding and is coordinated by the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers, Inc. Students who are three years old to entry age are serviced through the Pennsylvania Department of Education funding. This preschool program is presently coordinated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Early Childhood and Family Support Services program, DART.

For more information, please contact the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers, Inc. at 412-885-6000 or the Allegheny Intermediate Unit/DART Program at (412) 394-5736.

Services for School Age Exceptional Students

The school district provides a free, appropriate public education to exceptional students according to state and federal mandates. To be eligible, the child must be of school-age, need specially designed instruction, and meet eligibility criteria for mentally gifted and/or one or more of the following physical or mental disabilities as set forth in the Individual with Disabilities Education Act which was re-authorized in 1997 (IDEA –97):

• Autism/Pervasive Developmental Disorder

• Blindness/Visual Impairment

• Deaf Blindness 

• Deafness/Hearing Impairment

• Physical Disability

• Emotional Disturbance

• Specific Learning Disability

• Speech and Language Impairment

• Intellectual Disability

• Multiple Disabilities

• Orthopedic Impairment

• Traumatic Brain Injury

• Other Health Impairment

Identified students are provided with a continuum of services designed to meet the individual needs of eligible students. These services may include supportive intervention in the regular class, supplemental intervention in the regular class or in a special education resource program, placement, in a part-time or full-time special education class in a regular school or placement in a full time special education class outside of the regular school. The extent of special education services and the location for the delivery of such services are determined by the parents and staff at the IEP team meeting and is based on the student’s identified needs and abilities, chronological age, and the intensity of the specified intervention. The school district also provides related services, such as transportation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, that is required to enable the student to derive educational benefits.

Parents of public school students who suspect that their child is exceptional and in need of special education may request a multidisciplinary team evaluation of their child through a written request to the Director of Student Support Services Department.

Screening and Evaluation

South Fayette Township School District has a three-part screening process in place that identifies any student who may need special education.

Level 1: Review of group-based data

The building level guidance counselors review report cards, health records and local assessments, and Pennsylvania State Assessment results. For incoming kindergarten students, results from the Early Screening Profile are examined. Data gathered through a thorough review of these records may prompt a referral for screening a child for special education.

Level 2: Review of hearing, vision, motor, speech and language

The District routinely conducts screenings of a child’s hearing acuity each year in kindergarten, first, second, third, seventh, and eleventh  grade, vision acuity each year, kindergarten through Grade 12, and  speech and language mid-year in kindergarten. Gross motor and fine motor skills are assessed by the classroom teacher on an on-going basis. Specified needs from all of these screening sources are noted within the child’s official file.

Level 3: Pre-Referral Support System

South Fayette Township School District has intervention/prevention teams in place to support students as a pre-referral system.  At the elementary school (K-2) and the Intermediate school (3-4-5), a child study team has been established as part of the pre-referral intervention process.  The team consists of principals, guidance counselors, regular education teachers, reading specialists, school psychologist when needed and special education staff when needed.  Parents are also a part of this process and are contacted and strongly encouraged to participate in all phases of the child study team process.  The Child Study Team assists teachers and parents with supporting students who are experiencing academic, behavioral, medical, emotional and social skill difficulities.  In the Middle School, the Academic Intervention Model (AIM) is utilized as the pre-referral intervention process for students who are in need of academic assistance.  The AIM process is a team based intervention model.  There are collaborative intervention team meetings with the parents to identify targeted interventions related to specific academic skill areas that need to be addressed for the student.  Research-based intervention strategies are implemented for a period of time in the regular classroom setting to assist the student in an attempt to foster academic success.  An implementation plan is developed and monitored by the student's team of teachers and reviewed and revised if necessary.  If is it determined by the team that the interventions are not working and the student is not meeting success, the student may be referred for a mulit-disiplanary team evaluation.  The South Fayette Student Assistance Team (SAP) provide additional support used by the district to identify at-risk students.  SAP teams are currently in place at the middle and high school levels.  SAP is a cooperative effort with parents in utilizing the support staff, students, and community through contracted services with Chartiers MH/MR.  It is a proactive prevention/intervention program that attempts to provide intervention before school performance is seriously compromised.  The SAP Core Team of individuals are trainined in the SAP Model and focus on screening/intervention for student who may be experiencing academic needs/issues, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health needs, and/or family issues, referral to appropriate agencies or treatment facilitites, aftercare for those returning from treatment, and crisis intervention as needed.  If appropriate, a referral process is initiated at each building level through the Child Study Teams, Academic Intervention Model Team (AIM), Student Assistance Team (SAP), guidance departments, principals or the Department of Student Support Services.  Assessment data is used by the team to meet the student's specific needs by recommending modifications or adaptions to the regular education program, creating interventions to address the problem and monitoring the student's response to intervention, or to document the need for further evaluation.

The Multidisciplinary Evaluation (MDE)

The MDE is a process to gather information that will be used to find out if children really do need special education and if so, the types of services needed.

Prior to an MDE, the District must obtain permission via the Prior Written Notice Consent to Evaluate form. Before an evaluation can occur, the form must be signed by the parent or legal guardian.

Evaluations are conducted by a certified school psychologist. Additional information is provided by the parents, classroom teacher,  and  other pertinent individuals that work with the student. All of this information is compiled into an Evaluation Report (ER). This report will recommend whether a child has one or more disabilities. It also recommends whether or not the child requires special education, and the type of program and services that the child needs. The ER may recommend that a child is not exceptional and therefore does not need special education services. If this is recommended, the report will list changes that may be made in the regular classroom to make the child more successful. All members of the MDT, including the parents, are entitled to review the ER.

Individualized Education Plan

Children who are regarded to be exceptional by the MDT team are entitled to receive special education services. The document that specifically addresses these services is called an Individual Education Plan (IEP). Required members of the IEP team include:

• The child’s parents

• At least one of your child’s regular education teachers

• At least one special education teacher

• A representative from the school district who:

(1) Is qualified to provide or supervise special education programs

(2) Knows about the general curriculum

(3) Knows what resources the Local Education Agency (LEA) can offer

• Someone who can interpret the evaluation results, who may already be a member of the team

• At your request or that of the school, other people who know your child well or who have worked with your child

• Your child (at age 16 when planning will be done for life after graduation or any time before that age when you want your child to be present)

• A representative from a vocational-technical school if a vocational-technical school is being considered for your child

The IEP will review all of the evaluation material and will determine how your child is performing in school now. The IEP team will write annual goals and short term learning objectives that can be measured and which meet the needs of your child.

IEPs for eligible students are developed on an annual basis, or sooner, if requested by one or more members of the IEP team.

Notice of Recommended Educational Placement

Once the IEP has been developed with the IEP team, you will receive a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP). The NOREP explains the placement or class recommended for your child and explains your rights. You must approve the NOREP in writing for your child’s first special education placement if you want it to go into effect.

South Fayette Township School District offers a continuum of educational services designed to meet the needs of eligible students including varying degrees of gifted, learning, and speech and language support. In additional, related services such as transportation, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision support, and deaf and hearing support are available to those students that qualify.

Detailed information regarding special education procedures may be obtained by calling the Student Support Services Department at South Fayette Schools, (412) 221-4542, ext. 404, 415 or 429.

Services for Protected Handicapped Students

There are instances in which students are identified as handicapped or disabled, but may not qualify for Special Education services. If it is determined necessary, the school district will provide these students, without discrimination or cost to the student or family, those related aids, services or accommodations which are needed to ensure equal opportunity to participate in and obtain the benefits of the school programs and extracurricular activities. These services are outlined in a Chapter 15 Service Agreement. Questions regarding Chapter 15 should be directed to the Student Support Services Department at (412) 221-4542, ext. 404, 415 or 429.

Services for Students in Nonpublic Schools

Public special education is accessible to resident students attending nonpublic schools by permitting the nonpublic school student to enroll on a part-time, duel enrollment basis in a special education program operated in a public school. Students in a non-public school that are suspected of having a disability will need to be referred for an MDE. 

Parents of nonpublic school students who suspect that their child is exceptional and in need of special education may request a multidisciplinary team evaluation of their child through a written request to the Director of Student Support Services Department.
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