HILLSBOROUGH, NC 14 MAY 2018- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the law that ensures a free appropriate public education is available for eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation. Additionally, it ensures special education and related services are available for those identified children. Children and youth ages three through 21 receive special education and related services under IDEA.
There are 1120 students served by the Exceptional Children (EC) Department in a variety of settings. The students served become eligible under any 1 of 14 disabling conditions and are served in a variety of settings. Most students with disabilities are served within the general education classroom (regular setting) with support from a teacher certified in Special Education. Students with more complex disabilities may be served in a separate setting. Typically, students in the separate setting need more time with a teacher trained in delivering special education.
Each Orange County Schools (OCS) student who receives special education and related services will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Each IEP is designed for one student because it is an individualized document. The IDEA requires certain information to be included in each student's IEP, and the IEP is developed by parents, teachers, other staff, and often the student to address each student's unique needs.
The EC Department provides specialized service. Special education is not “extra” help. The services that are determined necessary for a student with an IEP are put in place because it has been determined that a child has a disability that impedes his/her learning. The Orange County Schools Exceptional Children department wants every student it serves to be productive citizens that attend institutions of higher learning after s/he leaves Orange County Schools or to be ready to enter the workforce.
Meeting the needs of the students served by the EC department is not without its challenges. “The toughest part is to figure out, with the resources we have as a county, to respect each child as an individual and meet their individual needs while following all of the federal, state and local policies and procedures,” offered Ms. Connie Crimmins, Director of Exceptional Children for Orange County Schools. “I try to approach the work as a puzzle that upholds the regulatory demands of administering services to students in a public school,” added Ms. Crimmins.
Over the past 3 years, the EC department has experienced some positive change:
- The graduation rate for students with disabilities has increased
- Students with disabilities are not disproportionately disciplined
- Community job sites for students accessing the Occupational Course of Study have increased
- OCS hosts an annual Exceptional Children Spring games
- An Assistive Technology team has been created to provide support for students
- 3 EC Staff members have won the Lara Jane Parker award (given by the New Voices Foundation)
- Average EC students caseloads for teachers are well under the state limit maximums
With a commitment to serve all students within the school system, the EC department plays a critical role in helping to achieve the district mission. “I want every child, every teacher, every family to know that there is a solution to an issue and I will work to find that solution,” said Ms. Crimmins.
For more information on Exceptional Children services, please visit the district website (orangecountyfirst.com) or contact Director Connie Crimmins (919-732-8126).