Special Education

Supporting Inclusion

A conversation with Kathryn O’Brien, Special Day Class teacher

Background

I studied childhood development psychology and started work as an aid in the special education program. From there I received my credentials in general education and special education, and I now work as a Special Day Class teacher in elementary school. My expertise is working with students who have special needs. In terms of learning environments, it’s one of the groups with the highest needs—most students having some degree of behavioral needs. Much of the physical environment is made for general education students. I provide the special ed perspective on how to adapt it for special education students and make it work well for them. 

What makes CCUSD unique? Compared to districts where most initiatives are geared towards general education, CCUSD supports programs and tools for special education. As a teacher, the culture is very welcoming. Many of my peers are open to change and improvement. Connecting to the district office is easy, and the level of support makes the community feel more like a family.

Describe your vision for the special education experience: The district is focusing more on inclusion which means implementing a system where students stay in general education studios then go to special education spaces only as needed. Our SDC teachers need more planning time, at least half a day, and a dedicated space for teacher collaboration and meetings. We need spaces to plan, write reports and work without interruption. It’s better if the space is not connected to a classroom. We also need more space for activities like testing and IEP meetings, and an occupational therapy room where students run around to burn their energy.

It’s critical that we develop partnership opportunities that go beyond funding. We must find ways for our partners to be on campus. At the same time, we need to bring our visual arts into community, displaying student work outside of school and inviting the community to participate.

What makes CCUSD unique? Compared to districts where most initiatives are geared towards general education, CCUSD supports programs and tools for special education. As a teacher, the culture is very welcoming. Many of my peers are open to change and improvement. Connecting to the district office is easy, and the level of support makes the community feel more like a family.

Describe your vision for the special education experience: The district is focusing more on inclusion which means implementing a system where students stay in general education studios then go to special education spaces only as needed. Our SDC teachers need more planning time, at least half a day, and a dedicated space for teacher collaboration and meetings. We need spaces to plan, write reports and work without interruption. It’s better if the space is not connected to a classroom. We also need more space for activities like testing and IEP meetings, and an occupational therapy room where students run around to burn their energy.