By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa Central School District will introduce a new special education program this September that focuses on students who lack independent mobility.
The Mobility Opportunities Via Education (MOVE) program is a nonprofit effort that encourages full participation and integration of people with disabilities both at school and in the working world.
MOVE started in the 80s out of California, and has since become an international program. In a school setting, MOVE provides occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, music therapy, and vision therapy to low mobility students.
Six years ago, Shen looked into introducing MOVE, said Michelle Mylod, district director of special education. But, she said, at that point in time the district didn’t have enough students who would qualify for the program to make it feasible. Now, after what will have been an almost 18 month audit of the district’s special education program, the New York State Education Department is suggesting that the district implement MOVE.
Shenendehowa has special education programs that fall on a continuum dependent on how restrictive they are, said Mylod, restrictive meaning how much time the student spends in the general population of students versus a special education classroom.
Programs such as resource room, in which students receive their main education with the rest of the school population and only are pulled out of classrooms to receive supplemental instruction, are classified under low restriction. Programs such as the district’s functional skill development classes, in which students spend most of their time in special education classrooms working towards New York state alternate learning standards, are considered to be highly restrictive.
After examining student records, observing classrooms, and conducting interviews, Mylod said, the Education Department expressed concern over the fact that there were so many students who had a diverse range of special needs all in classrooms together.
The district originally wanted to start MOVE at the beginning of the current school year, and the school board approved the hiring of a full time employee to lead the class, but the district was ultimately unable to find a suitable candidate in time for the start of the year. Now though, said Mylod, the district is planning to have MOVE ready for the 2017-18 school year.
MOVE is designed to take students from kindergarten to age 21. The program takes a team based, activity-based teaching approach, with the students using different pieces of equipment and floor mats for therapy every half hour. They will be integrated as much as possible in lunch, physical education classes, and other extracurricular activities, but the main point is that the students in the program will receive constant one-on-one stimulation support.
“We’re talking about small gains, but very meaningful gains for these students,” Mylod said.
The district will be repurposing one classroom at Tesago Elementary School for MOVE, as that is the building with the lowest enrollment currently and the space to house the program. MOVE can take on a maximum of 12 students, and Mylod said that there are around six students in the district now who would qualify to take part in MOVE. The district will hire one full time special education teacher, along with aides and other service providers.
Mylod didn’t have an estimate on total program cost, since the district still needs to plan for repurposing the classroom to make it MOVE-friendly, but said that the program will be funded through the school’s budget and also through some possible grants.
In terms of reconstructing the classroom, the district will need to update the restroom facility, and make sure the space is appropriate size-wise for both the teachers and aides to work in, as well as the students.
According to Mylod, it’s more important to bring MOVE into Shen than ever because having in-district special education programs will cut back on the amount of parents with special needs students who look outside the district for programs that will support their children.
“We’re always are looking to educate as many students as possible within their own school district,” Mylod said. “It’s very important in the school community in general to have these kids in classrooms.”