Special Education Services foster inclusive educational climates where individuality and diversity are respected, honored and celebrated. We strive to partner with our students and parents in designing the most exciting learning environments for the academic, social and emotional success of each student - where all teachers and staff design curriculum that is universally accessible for all students in alignment with our community’s educational values and the District's Promise.
Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) provides support to students with identified disabilities. As professional educators, whether our role is in general education, special education, or administration, we believe it is our collective responsibility to support students who receive special education programs and services to meet the District standards and their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
Special Education is specialized instruction provided for children from birth to age 22 who qualify according to the laws and regulations outlined by the state and federal government.
If you have questions about Special Education programs or would like to request a review for assessment, contact Special Education at (650) 833-4257.
- New To The District?
- Programs & Services
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
- IEP vs 504
- Special Education Records Request
Eligibility is determined by the Student Success Team (SST) formerly Student Study Team, a positive school-wide early identification and early intervention process. Working as a team, the student, parent, teachers and school administrator identify the student's strengths and assets upon which an improvement plan can be designed. Concerns are seen as obstacles to student success and not descriptors of the student or his character. As a regular school process, the Student Success Team (SST) intervenes with school and community support and a practical improvement plan that all team members agree to follow. Follow-up meetings are planned to provide a continuous casework management strategy to maximize the student's achievement and school experience.
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.
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.
The PAUSD FUTURES program is a student-focused program that serves students from Fletcher & Greene 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP), is a written document that's developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is created through a team effort and reviewed at least once a year.
Before an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be written, your child must be eligible for special education. By federal law, a multidisciplinary team must determine that (1) she's a child with a disability and (2) she requires special education and related services to benefit from the general education program.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law, requires certain information to be included in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) but doesn't specify how the Individualize Education Program (IEP) should look. Because states and local school systems may include additional information, forms differ from state to state and may vary between school systems within a state.
A student may qualify for special education services as an individual with special needs in one of thirteen areas identified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These are:
- Emotionally Disturbed
- Hard of Hearing
- Intellectual Disability
- Multiple Handicapped
- Orthopedically Impaired
- Other Health Impaired
- Specific Learning Disability
- Speech-Language Impaired
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Visually Impaired
Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team Members
The members of the multidisciplinary team who write your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) include:
- You, the parents, who have valuable insights and information about his strengths and needs and ideas for enhancing his education
- General education teacher(s) who can share information about classroom expectations and your child's performance
- A special education teacher who has training and experience in educating children with disabilities and in working with other educators to plan accommodations
- An individual who can interpret the results of your child's evaluation and use results to help plan an appropriate instructional program
- A representative of the school system who knows about special education services and has the authority to commit resources
- Individuals with knowledge or special expertise about your child that are invited by you and/or the school district
- Representatives from transition services agencies, when such services are being discussed
- Your child, when appropriate, and whenever transition is discussed
What is the difference between an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a 504 Plan?
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act helps a child with special health care needs to fully participate in school. Usually, a 504 Plan is used by a general education student who is not eligible for special education services. A 504 Plan lists accommodations related to the child’s disability and required by the child so that he or she may participate in the general classroom setting and educational programs. For example, a 504 Plan may include:
- Plans to make a school wheelchair-accessible
- Your child’s assistive technology needs during the school day
- Permission for your child to type assignments instead of writing them by hand
- Permission for your child to hand in assignments late due to illness or a hospital stay
The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.
Subtle but Important Differences
Not all students who have disabilities require specialized instruction. For students with disabilities who do require specialized instruction, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) controls the procedural requirements, and an IEP is developed. The IDEA process is more involved than that of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and requires documentation of measurable growth. For students with disabilities who do not require specialized instruction but need the assurance that they will receive equal access to public education and services, a document is created to outline their specific accessibility requirements. Students with 504 Plans do not require specialized instruction, but, like the IEP, a 504 Plan should be updated annually to ensure that the student is receiving the most effective accommodations for his/her specific circumstances.
- Special Education Community Advisory Committee (CAC)
- Special Education Handbook (Guía de Educación Especial)
Cynthia Loleng-Perez, Director of Special Education, Secondary
Victoria Luke, Ed. D., Special Education Coordinator II - Non-Public Schools
Robert Whalen, Special Education Coordinator II, Secondary
Laurie Garcia, Program Specialist
Tijen Sumbul, Program Specialist
Jacqueline Selfridge, Program Specialist
Wendy Goodridge, LMFT, Manager Mental Health Services
Information and Brochures
- Special Education Organizational Chart
- AAC Brochure
- AT Brochure
- Behavior Support Services Brochure
- Behavior Support Services Brochure TK
- Autism Support-TK Brochure
- EMRHS Brochure
- Psychological Services
- DHH Program Brochure
- PACT Brochure
- PAUSD FUTURES Brochure
- Occupational Therapy Brochure
- Visually Impaired Program Brochure
- Adaptive PE Brochure
- Dyslexia Presentation Special Education
All requests for records for students who were served in special education at the Palo Alto Unified School District should be sent to Sakura Oh or faxed to (650) 833-4265. All requests must be in writing. The District, by law, must respond to parent requests for records within five business days. If a request is received after school hours, the date of the request will be the next business day.