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Understanding Special Education: Services in Public Schools

Understanding Special Education: Services in Public Schools

There are supports available to help children with disabilities or learning differences thrive and succeed throughout their education. Specialized services (sometimes known as related services) include, but are not limited to, specialized transportation, speech, physical, and occupational therapy, interpreting services for children who are deaf, and school health services.

Special Education Programs

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to offer free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities who may be eligible for these services. If your student is entitled to receive special supports from an Individualized Education Program (IEP), your student may be referred for one or more special education programs. If you believe these services will benefit your student, you can also request them through an IEP evaluation. Learn more about the IEP evaluation process here.

  • Speech Support – If your student has speech and/or language impairments, this service provides support for communication skill development.
  • Learning Support – If your student needs extra help in reading, writing, math, speaking and/or listening, this service provides support for academic assistance.
  • Autistic Support – If your student requires communication, social skills, and/or behavior support, this service is a great option for your student. For a copy of the most recent list of autistic support classrooms, “https://www.philasd.org/specializedservices/autistic-support-classrooms-list-sy-2017-18/” target=”_blank”>click here.
  • Emotional Support – If your student needs the most help with social, emotional, and behavioral support, this service provides training and skill development in those areas.
  • Life Skills Support – If your student needs support in academic, functional, and/or vocational skills this service provides support that will allow them to independently live and work.
  • Multiple Disabilities Support – If your student needs support for multiple disabilities that may severely impair their performance, this service provides academic, functional, and/or vocational support necessary for independent living.
  • Blind and Visually Impaired Support – If your student needs assistance in services related to visual impairment or blindness, this service is the proper support option for your student.
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Support – If your student needs assistance in services related to deafness or hearing impairment, this service providnts for your student’s language and communication needs.
  • Physical Support – If your student has a physical disability, this service provides support in functional motor skills development.

Early Intervention

“https://www.philasd.org/specializedservices/large-scale-initiatives/early-intervention/” target=”_blank”>Early Intervention (EI) helps babies and toddlers (ages 0-5) who have developmental delays or disabilities. This service provides support for them to learn skills that typically develop during the first three years of life, such as:

  • Walking
  • Crawling
  • Learning
  • Problem Solving
  • Talking
  • Understanding
  • Playing

When a child with EI services becomes of age for elementary school, the family will be guided through the transition process. In Philadelphia, Elwyn SEEDS leads the Kindergarten transition process a year before eligible children are attend Kindergarten (or 1st grade). Eligible children have the option to adapt their Early Intervention supports to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or to be reevaluated for a new IEP. Learn about transitioning from an Early Intervention to Kindergarten here.

Transition Services

Transition services focus on developing the student’s education, training for high school, and/or seeking opportunities after graduation. The goal is to provide students with support for adulthood. If your student has an IEP, the IEP team, including the youth and family/parents must develop a transition plan by age 14. It is important that families of youth who have autism or intellectual disabilities register for services with their county Office of Developmental Programs as early as possible so that students can be placed on waiting lists to receive services. 

More Information

There are many agencies and organizations in and around Philadelphia to get more resources:

  • The Office of Specialized Services (OSS) – The District’s OSS works to support the appropriate implementation of instructional programs for students with disabilities in public District and charter schools. To reach OSS on their parent line, please call (215) 400-5656.
  • Elwyn SEEDS – Elwyn’s Special Education for Early Developmental Success (SEEDS) program coordinates Preschool Early Intervention services in Philadelphia, performs multidisciplinary evaluations, and contracts with provider agencies for ongoing Preschool Early Intervention services. To reach Elwyn SEEDS, please call (215) 222-8054.
  • The Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center (PEAL Center) – The PEAL center works with families, youth and young adults with disabilities and special health care needs to help them understand their rights and advocate for themselves. Notably, the center provides a Family to Family Health Information Center (F2F) to assist parents with access to health care, insurance and in-home supports. All PEAL services are provided at no charge to families in PA.  To reach the PEAL center, please call 866-950-1040 or email [email protected].
  • ConsultLine – ConsultLine is a toll-free information helpline for parents and advocates of children with disabilities who have questions or concerns about the education of a school-aged child. To reach ConsultLine within PA, call 1-800-879-2301. To reach ConsultLine outside of PA, please call (717) 901-2146.
  • Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania (P2P) – P2P of PA is a parent peer support program where families who have experienced the joys and challenges of sharing their lives with individuals with disabilities or special needs volunteer to listen and provide emotional support and information through shared, common experiences to the referred parent. To reach P2P, please call the program director, Fiona Patrick, at (717) 540-4722.
  • Education Law Center (ELC) – ELC advocates for fair funding and ensuring students have equal access and opportunities for learning through direct legal representation, impact litigation, educating parents and students about their legal rights, supporting community-based groups, and policy advocacy on the local, state, and federal levels. To reach the ELC, please call (215) 238-6970.

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