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The evolution of special education

High hopes for high-needs students

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Part 1 in a series

For decades, leaders in Valley Stream District 30 have been committed to providing a quality special education program to ensure that every child’s needs were being met, no matter how severe their disability. That required placing each student in the right setting, which sometimes resulted in sending them to a school many miles away.

In recent years, District 30 has brought a number of those students back with the creation of two new special education classes at the Forest Road School. Of the district’s nearly 1,500 elementary students, 112 receive special education services. Of those, 48 are in special classes. Only a handful remain in outside placements.

Forest Road, which has the fewest general education students among the three elementary schools, has the space to accommodate many of the district’s special needs classes including two ABA sections. These classes, which were introduced last year, use a model called Applied Behavioral Analysis for students with developmental disabilities.

Two teachers, Anthony Auciello and Jamie Lowry, received extensive training from a top behavior analyst before they took on their new assignments. They also receive ongoing coaching, so they can provide an education that is personalized for the children they serve.

Nicole Schimpf, the district’s director of Special Services, said that with a growing student population of students with autism and other similar disabilities, there was enough of a demand to create these classes. “Typically, these children would be at BOCES,” she said.

She explained that the district decided to make the investment in this program because it is better for students to be educated in their hometown.

Auciello, who works with students in kindergarten through second grade and is supported by two classroom aides, said the days can be challenging but the work is rewarding. In addition to teaching his students the academics, he also must spend a lot of time on behavioral skills. One way to minimize problems, he explained, is to keep his students busy. “We’re always in motion,” he said. “Down time is a complete detriment to everyone.”

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