Special Education Programs
Early Intervention Services
Early intervention services are designed to provide a program of developmental intervention directly to the children with disabilities from birth to five years of age, to the parent, or both. Additional information regarding early intervention programs is available from the Instructional Facilitator for Early Intervention Services at 410-313-7017.
Early Beginnings Program
The Early Beginnings Program serves children from birth to three years of age who have a developmental delay or who are at risk for developmental delay. The program is part of the Howard County Infants and Toddlers Program (HCITP), a coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of services for infants, toddlers, and their families. Other agencies participating in the HCITP are the Howard County Health Department and the Howard County Department of Social Services.Every child who is birth through 2 years of age is eligible for evaluation and assessment to identify health and developmental needs in the areas of:
- Cognitive development
- Social-Emotional development
- Self-help skills
Early intervention services are designed in the areas of physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive development to address skill deficits and build school readiness. Early Beginnings Program staff members use a routines-based and activities-based intervention model to help parents learn and use techniques that will facilitate their children’s development. The services are provided in natural environments such as the child’s home, in child-care settings, or in community environments. Services that cannot address outcomes in natural environments may be provided in schools. Early intervention services include:
- Family education, counseling, and support
- Early identification, screening, and assessment
- Special instruction
- Health services necessary for benefit from services
- Speech-language pathology and audiology services
- Community Health nursing
- Occupational therapy
- Social work services
- Physical therapy
- Vision services
- Psychological services
- Assistive technology devices and services
- Service coordination
- Nutrition services
- Home visits
- Medical services for diagnosis or evaluation
A team is designated to work with the family to develop the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP, which is developed for each eligible child, describes outcomes and activities that parents feel are important for the child and family. Outcomes reflect the changes families would like to see for their child based on needs. Parents and caregivers are active participants in developing IFSPs and implementing the intervention programs.
Eligible children may transition to preschool-kindergarten services and/or community services at age three. Some children may continue to receive services through the Extended IFSP Option up to the beginning of the school year after the child turns four.
The Preschool-Kindergarten Program is a part of the Howard County Public School System’s Special Education Program. The program serves children who are three through five years of age who have a disability or developmental delay. Three and four year old children receive special education and related services in therapy-only sessions, four or five day preschool classes with typically developing peers or in community-based preschool programs where they have been enrolled by their parents. HCPSS preschool classes are included in Regional Early Childhood Centers located at elementary schools throughout the county. Kindergarten age children generally receive services in general education kindergarten classes in their home elementary school or a regionally based school. If the child’s needs cannot be met in general education kindergarten classes, other options are considered.
Each child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) outlines goals and objectives developed by parents and professionals to address skill deficits and build school readiness. Team members provide instruction and therapy services using techniques that combine sound principles of early childhood special education, developmentally appropriate practices and applied behavioral analysis. Active learning, child choice, highly motivation materials, and positive behavioral supports are key to facilitating children’s growth in developmental areas. Personalized programs are developed by school team members and parents to accelerate children’s development of language, literacy, mathematics, social interaction, and motor skills.
PALS: Community Based Preschool Services
The PALS goal is to provide services to children with disabilities in the community based preschool or childcare programs chosen where their families have enrolled them. PALS special educators, therapists and paraeducators support children and provide training for teachers and parents.
Multiple Intense Needs Classes
Toddlers and preschoolers who have moderate to severe needs in engagement, independence, communication, and social interaction may receive services through Multiple Intense Needs Classes (MINC). These classes are located in Regional Early Childhood Centers throughout Howard County. Approximately six children with disabilities and six typically developing children are included in each class. Staff members use principles of applied behavior analysis to help children develop school readiness skills through teaching techniques such as incidental teaching, 3-step prompting, graduated guidance or errorless teaching. Instruction is systematically embedded into identified routines and activities to provide multiple opportunities for the children to practice skills. Other instructional strategies may be selected based on the developmental level of the child; the child’s learning style, strengths, and needs; and the skill or task to be learned. Family members actively participate in the children’s intervention programs. The focus of parent and caregiver training is on developing skills across environments and using incidental teaching and family guided routines-based intervention. Family Intervention Behavior Specialists provide intensive training to families in implementing instructional and behavioral support plans.
Family Support Network Coordinators are available to provide information, support, and linkages to community resources for families of children from birth through five years of age. In addition, they coordinate a parent training program as well as a parent mentor program which links “experienced” parents of children with disabilities with those parents of children who are new to the programs. Family members and staff members may contact the Family Support Network Coordinators at 410-313-7161.
Elementary – Primary Learner Program
(Kindergarten – Second Grade)
The Elementary-Primary Learner (E-PL) Program is designed for students transitioning from the Multiple Intense Needs Class – Early Learner (MINC-EL) Program for Preschool/Kindergarten children or other programs rooted in the “Analysis of Verbal Behavior” (VB) approach and have demonstrated progress using this approach. The E-PL Program is designed for students with education disabilities in kindergarten through second grade, that present with significant delays in functional communication, engagement and social interaction. Applied Verbal Behavior (AVB) relies on capturing and contriving motivation opportunities to elicit communication. AVB considers language a learned behavior, which carries multiple functions (e.g. “Mand” or request, “Tact” or label and comment, “Intraverbal” or fill-in and answer questions without visual cures, etc.) The introduction of novel skills occurs through errorless teaching with a concentrated focus of generalizing skills to the natural and group environments. Elementary Primary Learner Programs are located at:
- Bellows Spring Elementary
- Dayton Oaks Elementary
- Ilchester Elementary
- Laurel Woods Elementary
- Pointers Run Elementary
- Waverly Elementary
Academic Life Skills Programs
High School Academic Life Skills (ALS) programs are located in each of the county high schools. In addition, a regional program for students with more intensive needs is located at Oakland Mills High. The programs are designed for students assessed with the Alt-MSA and provide instruction and related services in a variety of settings to meet the needs of each student. Based on student needs outlined in the Individual Education Program (IEP), students receive their instruction in self-contained and/or general education classes with access to general education curriculum and extracurricular school activities as appropriate. Preparation for transition for post high school is an integral part of each program. A transition plan is developed to meet the unique needs of each student as they prepare to exit high school and may include in-school work experience, work enclave, and work study as appropriate. Students participate in a combination of a typical high school experience along with transition services.
Middle School Academic Life Skills programs are located at all county middle schools to enable students with disabilities to remain in their local school. In addition, Lime Kiln Middle School provides services in their regional program for students with more intensive needs.
The program is designed for students assessed with the Alt-MSA and provides instruction and related services in a variety of settings to meet the needs of each student. Based on student needs outlined in the Individual Education Program (IEP), students receive their instruction in self-contained and/or general education classes with access to general education curriculum and extracurricular school activities as appropriate. Students participate in a typical middle school experience with support and interventions as needed. Students are referred to the Academic Life Skills Programs through the school IEP team process, which includes the parents and representatives from the Department of Special Education and possible receiving schools.
Elementary School Academic Life Skills programs are located at most county elementary schools to enable students with disabilities to remain in their local school. In addition, regional programs for students with more intensive needs are located at:
- Pointers Run Elementary
- Thunder Hill Elementary
- Waverly E.S Elementary
- West Friendship Elementary
- Elkridge Landing MS
- Wilde Lake MS
- Atholton HS
- Oakland Mills HS
The program is designed for students assessed with the Alt-MSA and provides instruction and related services in a variety of settings to meet the needs of each student. Based on student needs outlined in the Individual Education Program (IEP), students receive their instruction in self-contained and/or general education classes with access to general education curriculum and extracurricular school activities as appropriate. Students participate in a typical elementary school experience with support and interventions as needed. Students are referred to the Academic Life Skills Programs through the school IEP team process, which includes the parents and representatives from the Department of Special Education and possible receiving schools. Additional information regarding the Academic Life Skills Programs may be obtained from Instructional Facilitators (410-313-5350) for the Department of Special Education.
Programs for Students with Emotional Disabilities
Regional programs for students with emotional disabilities are located within comprehensive elementary and secondary schools. Those schools are:
- Fulton Elementary
- Hanover Hills Elementary
- Thunder HIll Elementary
- Waterloo Elementary
- Ellicott Mills Middle
- Murray Hill Middle
- Mt. Hebron High
- Reservoir High
These settings afford students the opportunity to demonstrate the generalization of academic and behavioral skills in less restrictive settings while receiving direct instruction and reinforcement in a more structured setting. The goal of regional programs is to return students to their home school as soon as possible and to provide support for their successful reintegration. This is accomplished through building students’ social and academic competencies, supporting parents, and collaborating with community agencies. Additional information regarding programs for students with emotional disabilities may be obtained from Instructional Facilitators (410-313-5350) for the Department of Special Education.
The Homewood Center houses three distinct programs, each designed to meet the specific needs of individual students who have difficulty functioning in traditional classroom settings. The building is a state-of-the-art educational facility with a full complement of resources, technology, and teaching supports. Bridges is a special education program at Homewood designed for middle and high school students with emotional disabilities whose needs require that they attend a separate school program until they can be educated in a less restrictive environment. View more information.
Program for Students with Speech-Language Impairments
Speech-language pathologists assess and treat articulation, language, fluency, voice, and related disorders in children from birth to 21 years of age. Speech-language pathology services are provided in all county schools to help children become effective communicators in the classroom setting. Speech-language pathologists combine children’s communication goals with academic and social goals by integrating classroom objectives into speech and language activities. Speech-language pathologists help children understand and use basic language concepts related to classroom learning to become good readers and writers and to understand classroom lessons and texts. Speech-language services may be offered in a variety of ways, depending on the child’s needs. These services may include monitoring, collaboration and consulting with parents and teachers, classroom-based therapy, small group therapy, individual therapy, or various combinations of any of these approaches. Additional information is available from the Communications Facilitator for Speech/Language Services and Instructional Access Technology at 410-313-7046.
Program for Students requiring Assistive Technology
The Instructional Access Team works collaboratively with school-based teams to eliminate barriers and ensure that children with disabilities can use technology to progress through the general education curriculum to reach their full potential. The Instructional Access Team assists school teams in the assessment process for voice output devices, portable word processors, and specialized software. The team also provides assistive technology training to schools. The team is interdisciplinary, and includes staff specializing in speech-language pathology and special education. Additional information is available from the Instructional Facilitator for the Instructional Access Team (410-313-5365).
Programs for Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing
The itinerant teachers of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing provide assessment as well as direct and indirect special education services to students with significant hearing losses and deafness who are enrolled in elementary, middle, and high schools. These services are also provided to students enrolled in Cedar Lane School, the Early Beginnings Program, and the Preschool-Kindergarten Program. Preschool and school age students enrolled in private and parochial schools as well as children who are home-schooled may be eligible for services. Most students receive services in their home school from an itinerant teacher of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing along. An educational interpreter is provided, when appropriate. Questions regarding services for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may be referred to the Itinerant Teachers of Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (410-313-7046), the Audiologist at the County Diagnostic Center (410-313-7046), or the Instructional Facilitator for Countywide Services (410-313-7046).
Programs for Students with Visual Impairments
The Vision Program of the Howard County Public School System provides services to children from birth to 21 years of age who are identified as having a visual impairment, including blindness (impairment in vision that adversely affect a child’s educational performance). Eligibility for special education and related services is determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team based on educational and ophthalmological or optometric evaluations. A referral to the IEP team or IFSP team may be made by a parent, teacher, doctor, or any service provider who suspects that a child may have an educational disability. A family may also initiate the referral process by providing the school with a medical report from an ophthalmologist or optometrist diagnosing a visual condition.
Special education and related services are determined by the student’s IEP or IFSP. A continuum of itinerant vision services is available to meet the individual needs of each student. For example, provision of services may be delivered through consultation with school staff to support student needs and implementation of accommodations. Other students may require direct specialized instruction in the skills of blindness.
Additional information is available from the Program Head for Vision Services (410-313-7022).
Cedar Lane School
The Cedar Lane School, on the Fulton Campus, provides a structured learning environment for students age 3 through 21, whose needs are so complex that they require a specialized, comprehensive program in a special school setting. The Fulton campus allows for age appropriate peer interactions at all program levels. Instruction is provided for students who are developmentally delayed, or may have multiple disabilities, behavior challenges both in school and community settings, or are medically fragile. The Cedar Lane program offers an enhanced approach for inclusive programming with an emphasis on providing student’s access to typical peers, schools, and community.
Community Connection Program
The Community Connection Program is a community based post high school program located on the campus of Howard Community College. It is designed to assist students who will exit the school system with a certificate in their transition from high school to the world of work. Students in this program have typically completed at least four years of high school and at least one year of work experience. Students receive continued support in developing work related skills, self-advocacy, as well as seeking and maintaining a job. This program provides a safe environment in which to learn and practice the skills necessary for adult life. Teaching and learning takes place in a natural environment and includes:
- C.A.S.T. (Community Access Skills Training)
- Personal Management
- Consumer Economics (money, banking, budgeting, and shopping)
- Self Determination and Social Awareness
- Recreation and Leisure
- Career/Vocational Skills
- Integrating students into the least restrictive environment- the community
For more information or a copy of the brochure about the Community Connections Program, call 410-772-4479.
Project Search Howard County
Project SEARCH Howard County is a one-year Transition Program designed for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that are in their last year of high school. The program targets individuals whose main goal is employment, and who will benefit from full time career exploration in a business setting. Participation into Project SEARCH is determined through an application process.
The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, job coaches, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with significant intellectual disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex and rewarding jobs. The cornerstone of this one-year program, Project SEARCH Howard, is total immersion within a partnering business. Participants are on site at the business each school day for a minimum of six hours for an entire academic year, 10-months. The program is a partnership between the business partner, Howard County Public School System, The Arc of Howard County, Divisions of Rehabilitative Services and other agencies that can provide eligible individuals with support services. Through this program, individuals will not only develop the tools necessary for employment, but will also develop skills needed for self determination, self management and self advocacy. The partners provide consistent on-site staff including a special education teacher and job coaches. Individual job development and placement occurs based on the participant’s experiences, strengths, and skills. Participants are given support with accommodations, adaptations and on-the-job coaching.
Home and Hospital Instruction
The Home and Hospital Teaching Program is designed to provide instructional continuity to students who are unable to attend their regular school of enrollment because they have a physical illness or disability, are in emotional crisis, or are awaiting a placement.
Third-party Billing Program
Third Party Billing (TPB) is a process to bill the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) for health related services and service coordination provided for special education students. To be eligible for this reimbursement, the student must be qualified for Maryland Medical Assistance (Medicaid), the services must be required by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP), and provided by licensed/certified HCPSS staff.The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees these services to eligible individuals, regardless of reimbursement. However, Third Party Billing provides HCPSS with an opportunity for increased funding to supplement programs and services for students with special education needs.Services eligible for reimbursement to the school system include:
- Mental Health Services
- Nursing Services
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Speech and Language Therapy
- Service Coordination
Parents or guardians of eligible students are notified of Third Party Billing at the initial IEP or IFSP meeting and at annual review. Parent authorization is required in order for the school system to obtain reimbursement.For additional information call the Department of Special Education, Third Party Billing Office, 410 313-5361.