Palo Alto Unified School District Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) makes available a range of educational programs for students with special needs. The IEP Team determines program placement for each student based on the principle of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). LRE means that a student is to participate in as much of the general education program as is appropriate in view of his/her educational needs.

Adaptive Physical Education

Adaptive physical education, nursing services, counseling support, behavior support, occupational therapy, and other services are available when a student's IEP determines this need.

Alternative Settings

Special education instruction may also occur in settings other than classrooms where specially designed instruction takes place, (e.g., home instruction, residential placement).


This is the specialist who supports the students and school staff with behavior plans, functional analysis, and creating/modifying behavioral structures for students.

Futures Program

The PAUSD FUTURES program is a student-focused program that serves students from Terman & Jordan Middle Schools, Paly & Gunn High Schools, the Post Secondary program, and Project Search. The FUTURES program builds on student strengths and potential, with opportunities for meaningful transferable academic, life, vocational and social/leisure skills. Our goal is to support our students to create quality lives, becoming integral parts of the community of Palo Alto as they transition from middle school to adulthood to live, work, learn and play in their community.

General Education Program

A student with special needs can be placed in a general education classroom with necessary support services to ensure that his/her educational needs can be met in that setting.

Occupational Therapy

School-based occupational therapy is designed to enhance the student's ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment. This might include working on handwriting or fine motor skills so the child can complete written assignments, helping the child organize himself or herself in the environment (including work space in and around the desk), working with the teacher to modify the classroom and/or adapt learning materials to facilitate successful participation.

Post Secondary

The Palo Alto Unified Post-Secondary Program, is comprised of students with special needs ages 18-21 years old. The philosophy of the program is to promote independence in all areas of life similar to their typically developing peers. Students participate in educational, community, social, and employment activities within their local communities to maximize their exposure to real life experiences. A large part of the program is becoming independent through securing and maintaining a paid full or part time job in order to become a contributing and valued member of society. To learn more about the program and how to become involved, please contact Tosh Lang.

Project Search

The Project SEARCH vocational Internship Program is a unique, business-led, one-year, school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships. PAUSD Project Search is a collaborative partnership with business liaison Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, HOPE Rehabilitative Services, PAUSD and the Regional Center.

Pre-School Intervention Program

Pre-school age children with special needs may be served in several ways:

  • Designated instruction and services only 
  • Specialized Academic Instruction
  • Specialized Academic Instruction with designated instruction and services

Related Services

Support services (related services) are provided to special need students when they are required to help support his/her instructional program.

Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI)

A student may be eligible for a specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) class when the Individual Education Program (IEP) Team determines that his/her educational needs cannot be satisfactorily met in general education classes for the majority of the student’s day even with the use of support services.
Students in Specialized Academic Instruction classes will participate in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.  Those students qualified for special education services will receive services under the direction of the instructional support team. The instructional support team will provide services in an Individual Education Program (IEP) developed by an Individual Education Program (IEP) Team. The responsibilities of the instructional support team include providing instruction, resource information, monitoring pupil progress on a periodic basis, reviewing/revising Individual Education Programs (IEP’s), coordinating services, and consulting with parents and staff.

Speech and Language

Services are offered at all schools, Speech and language specialists provide support for articulation, voice, fluency, and language disorders.


EC Section 56040 states: "Every individual with exceptional needs, who is eligible to receive special education instruction and related services under this part [ Part 30 ] shall receive that instruction and those services at no cost to his or her parents or, as appropriate, to him or her." Special education transportation is defined in federal regulation [34 CFR Section 300.34(c)(16 )] as a related service. Transportation is required to be provided as a related service if it is required to assist a child with a disability benefit from special education. In addition, as required for any special education program, the service must be provided to meet the criteria for a free, appropriate public education as defined in federal regulation 34 CFR Section 300.17.

If you have questions about Special Education programs or would like to request a review for assessment, contact Special Education at (650) 833-4257 or