Each school within the District provides Learning Support (LS) for students determined to be eligible for special education services and in need of LS due to a disability. The amount of time a student receives LS varies according to the individual student's educational need(s) as documented in the student's Evaluation/Reevaluation Report and recommended by the student's IEP team. The range of support available extends from Full Time (receiving special education services for 80% or more of the school day), Supplemental (receiving special education services for more than 20% and less than 80% of the school day) to Itinerant (Supplemental (receiving special education services for 20% or less of the school day). The services provided to the student and the goals established for the year are documented on the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Progress monitoring is completed throughout the year and reported to the parent. LS at the four secondary schools is listed as Instructional Support Lab (ISL) on students' schedules. The frequency of ISLs is determined by the IEP team based on the student's individual educational needs.
The District provides life skills support for students determined to be eligible for special education services and in need of specially-designed instruction in the realm of independent living. Eligible students participate in a full time or supplemental program that provides instruction in the areas of self-care, social competencies for success, language development, perceptual motor development and sensory input. The program instructs the students in an educational setting that will allow them to navigate their community with a sense of independence. Students receive related services as determined by their individual needs. This may include physical and/or occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, and or nursing services. Students are included with age and grade level peers as determined by the IEP team to be appropriate. The LSS program at the high school level (listed as Intensive Learning Support) expands upon these educational opportunities to increase independent skills outside of a traditional school environment. High school students eligible for LSS utilize a fully furnished apartment on site to promote skill development in all areas of independent living. Regularly scheduled community based experiences occur to promote skill development in the areas of transportation, shopping, banking, etc. Job coaches support student success in community based work experiences.
The District provides ES for students determined to be eligible for special education services and in need of ES due to his/her identified disability. The amount of time a student receives ES varies according to the individual student's educational need(s) as documented in the student's Evaluation/Reevaluation Report and recommended by the student's IEP team. The range of support available extends from Full Time (receiving special education services for 80% or more of the school day), Supplemental (receiving special education services for more than 20% and less than 80% of the school day) to Itinerant Supplemental (receiving special education services for 20% or less of the school day). When an eligible student from any of the District's schools requires a higher percentage of time with ES, services will be provided at the age-appropriate school where the program is located (i.e., Merion Elementary School, Welsh Valley Middle School, Harriton High School). An itinerant level of Emotional Support is available at all of the District's schools with participation in the general education classroom to the maximum extent appropriate for the individual student. In addition to the emotional support provided by teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, counselors, and/or social workers, students receiving ES receive a rigorous academic program within the Least Restricted Environment (LRE). Students also participate in affective counseling groups.
Staff working with students with emotional needs receive additional training in the areas of classroom management, positive behavioral support and crisis prevention/intervention (CP/I). Interagency collaboration occurs on a monthly basis to coordinate services available to students from community based providers and school staff. Parents are provided assistance with accessing community-based mental health services and completing applications for Medical Assistance (Access).
The District provides AS for students determined to be eligible for special education services and in need of AS due to his/her identification as a school aged child with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The District's AS programs have expanded from one to nine of our schools due to the increased need within our community. Students represent the entire spectrum of Autism, from students diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and functioning within the gifted range of intelligence to students with severe autism and significant cognitive challenges. The amount of time a student receives AS and the related services provided varies from full time to itinerant according to the individual student's educational need(s) as documented in the student's Evaluation/Reevaluation Report and recommended by the student's IEP team. Related services may include speech/language therapy, social skills training, occupational and/or physical therapy, counseling, nursing support, transition services and/or behavioral support.
Behavior Specialists are an integral part of the IEP team for students in AS programs within the District. Behavior Specialists assist with the Functional Behavior Assessment process and the development and implementation of Positive Behavior Support Plans that contribute to the successful education of students with autism in the least restrictive environment
Social skills training also is an important aspect of the AS program that assists with students success in the community. This training is provided by either a speech/language therapist or the AS teacher to facilitate the student's acquisition, generalization, and mastery of social skills needed across current and future environments. In addition to students, parents and staff are taught a common vocabulary to reinforce "expected" behaviors and discourage "unexpected" behaviors for successful social interactions. Social skills training has been expanded at the elementary schools to include "Facilitated Recess" so that young students with autism increase their appropriate engagement with other students during recess and have the skills and opportunities to develop friendships. Social skills training has contributed significantly to the successful inclusion of students in general education programs at all schools.
Students with severe autism or with significant cognitive challenges also have access to life skills training for living independently in the community. This may include participating in community based activities to promote skill development in the areas of transportation, shopping, recreation; practicing self-help skills within the high school's apartment; or participating in community based work experiences with the supervision of job coaches.