Individualization the key with dealing with states special needs students

08/15/2016 04:33 PM

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s special education programs in public schools have made a lot of progress, but realizing that a one size fits all model is not a valid way to go will be the key to future improvements.

That that was the message from members of the Kentucky Department of Education, Division of Learning Services and directors of the Kentucky Special Education Cooperative to members of the Interim Joint Committee on Education Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education on Monday.

It’s estimated that approximately 12 percent of the public school student population in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are categorized as special needs students.

Committee co-chair Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who has a special needs daughter, told staff members of the Kentucky Department of Education that while he recognizes that there are times when special education students need to be segregated from the general student population, especially in some of the higher level math classes, he saw the biggest advances in his daughter development when she was interacting and learning with the other students.

Carroll asked Division of Learning Services Director Gretta Hylton what the future looks like for special education in the commonwealth.

“Where are we headed as far as our programs across the state,” Carroll asked.

“I think the key term in special education is individualization,” Hylton said. “So, while yes, students should be educated with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent possible, but we also know there are times when students need to be pulled out for whatever services.”

40-year education veteran Linda Alford, who heads the Northern Co-op for Education Services, one of 9 special education cooperatives around the state, believes that it’s critical that a special needs students development includes as much time as possible with the general student population.

“I have parents saying to the ARC (Admissions and Release Committee) committees, I understand that they might not get much out of the core content, but let them go in there to be with their peers,” Alford said. “Kids want to be kids. They want to be with each other.”

Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson, expressed her concerns to Todd Allen, general counsel, Division of Learning Services, about some parents gaming the system by forcing kids to act in a way to be placed in the special needs category which would enable the family to obtain numerous benefits which they otherwise, would not be entitled to.

“Unfortunately, we have parents in the world who like to game every system,” York said.

Allen told York that there are systems in place to hopefully curtail attempts by parents to “game the system”.

“Those evaluations are performed by highly qualified individuals in the school setting, so whether it’s a school psychologist, or a physical therapist, they’re using scientifically research based practices when they evaluate that student,” Allen said.

Next month, committee members expect to hear about the struggles that many parents of special needs students in the state have experienced.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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