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Special Education Services

Each of the elementary, middle and high schools in Howard County provides special education and related services for students who are identified as eligible for service. The system provides a continuum of services ranging from consultation to general education personnel through placements in nonpublic schools.

Continuum of Services

The Howard County Public School System, Department of Special Education, advocates for a continuum of special education services and placement considerations for all students with disabilities. Services and placements range from indirect services through residential services. All decisions regarding the placement of a child with a disability in a special education service delivery model will be made by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team in consultation with the parents or guardians of the child and consistent with the Least Restrictive Environment requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004.

Consultation or indirect service can accomplish the following:

  • Provide the general educator with guidance from the special education teacher on appropriate strategies for instruction, behavior management, data collection, observation, and feedback in the general education setting.
  • Facilitate service delivery through ongoing communication between general and special educators and related service providers.
  • Assistance in completing functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and developing a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) to address areas of concern.

Some students may need more supports and services in order to access the general curriculum but are still able to learn in the general education setting. The direct service delivery model within the general education classroom can provide the following:

  • Direct special education instruction within the least restrictive environment of the general education classroom through co-teaching, and collaborative instructional models.
  • Direct support for individual students by the special education teacher or paraeducator by making adaptations or modifications to the general education curriculum and assessments.
  • Individualized or small group instruction to meet the academic and behavior needs of the student, either within the general education classroom or with pull-aside resource services for specific skill development.

If the student’s academic or emotional needs have a significant impact on his or her ability to learn in the general education environment, the IEP team may determine that the student requires a more restrictive learning environment. Direct service outside the general education classroom in the student’s home school can provide the student with the following:

  • Direct intensive or multi-sensory instruction utilizing specialized strategies and techniques in a small group, self-contained environment with an alternative curriculum when necessary.
  • More specific skill training in academic skills or in the social, emotional, and behavioral areas.
  • Supports that address behavioral difficulties that interfere with the student’s learning or the learning of other students.

Students may receive direct service in both the general education and special education classrooms.

A limited number of students may need a regional program within a comprehensive school or a separate day facility. Based on the unique needs and the IEP of the student, the local school or central office IEP teams determine the appropriate placement.

For those students whose educational needs require services beyond those of the county’s regional or separate day facilities, the HCPSS utilizes Maryland State Department of Education approved nonpublic schools. The nature and severity of the student’s disability which significantly impact on education performance may necessitate more intensive resources and may require a more therapeutic segregated setting in order for a student to receive an appropriate educational program.

Upon request, parents or guardians shall be provided a written copy of the information regarding the HCPSS continuum of services and IEP decision making process described above.

Additional information regarding the continuum of services may be obtained from Special Education Teachers at the local schools or Resource Teachers (410-313-6837) and Instructional Facilitators (410-313-5351) for the Department of Special Education.

Intensive Services

In addition to the services offered in each school, there are programs that are designed to provide more intensive services or to serve students of specific ages or those having a particular disability. These Regional programs are listed below and also described in Special Education Programs.


Children from Birth through Age Four, Birth through Age Three, and Three through Age Five

School Location: Regional Early Childhood Center in Several Elementary Schools, Early Beginnings Program, and the Preschool-Kindergarten Program

Toddlers and Preschoolers with Autism or Multiple Intense Needs

School Location: Some Regional Early Childhood Centers

Program: Elementary Primary Learner

School Locations:

  • Bellows Spring Elementary
  • Dayton Oaks Elementary
  • Ilchester Elementary
  • Pointers Run Elementary
  • Waverly Elementary

Regional Academic Life Skills Programs

School Locations:

  • Elementary: Bushy Park, Clarksville, Ducketts Lane, Pointers Run, Rockburn, Waverly and Worthington
  • Middle: Elkridge Landing and Wilde Lake
  • High: Atholton and Oakland Mills

Regional Programs for students with Emotional Disabilities or other Behaviorally Related Disabilities

School Locations:

  • Elementary: Fulton, Hanover Hills, Thunder Hill, Triadelphia Ridge, and Waterloo
  • Middle: Ellicott Mills, Glenwood, and Murray Hill
  • High: Mt. Hebron and Reservoir
  • Middle & High: Homewood School

Students, Ages 3 to 21, with Severe to Profound and Multiple Disabilities

School Location: Cedar Lane School

Service Providers

In every school there is a special education instructional team leader (ITL). Under the direction of the building principal, the ITL provides leadership in the instructional program and assumes responsibility for the organization and administration of the special education team. In each school building there are special educators and trained instructional assistants who work directly with students. Howard County has many highly skilled related service providers who are members of the special education team when appropriate for the student. Each student who receives special education services is assigned a service coordinator from the school staff who serves as the primary contact for the family and all service providers. Student assistants or temporary employees may also assist students who have moderate to severe cognitive, medical, physical, or emotional disabilities.

The following staff members may provide services to the child. Therapists or specialists may work directly with the child or provide consultative services to other team members. The parent is an important part of this team.

The Service Coordinator — Selected by the IEP team or for children under the age of three by the Individualized Family Service Plan development team. The service coordinator’s responsibilities include:

  • Serving as a family’s primary contact for questions and concerns
  • Participating with the IEP team or IFSP team in the development or revision of a child’s IEP or IFSP
  • Assisting a child in gaining access to the services recommended in the IEP or IFSP
  • Collecting and synthesizing evaluation reports that might be needed by the team or committee
  • Implementing relevant procedures from the law.

General Education Teacher— Provides educational and instructional service in the general education classroom. The general education teacher may also provide general modifications, reasonable accommodations, and testing modifications.

Special Education Teacher — Provides educational and instructional experiences for a child and may serve as the service coordinator. Special education services are provided through individual, small group, and large group instruction. Direct services may be provided in a separate room or the general education classroom. Consultation with general educators is an integral part of the service.

Speech-Language Pathologist — Works with a child to help him or her develop communication skills. May work with a child in a small group setting, on an individual basis, or in the general education classroom. The speech-language pathologist provides consultation to other service providers. The speech-language pathologist may also work with other staff members to develop augmentative communication systems that may include using sign language, picture boards, or voice output devices. The speech-language pathologist may refer a child to the Assistive Technology Team to provide additional consultation on augmentative communication systems or adaptations involving technology.

Physical Therapist — May work with a child to facilitate typical movement for gross motor skills such as rolling, creeping, sitting, standing, and walking. In addition, the physical therapist addresses building accessibility issues and assists in the selection and adaptation of equipment that may be needed to improve a child’s posture or functioning within the school setting. Physical therapy services may be provided on an individual basis, in a small group, or in the general education classroom. The physical therapist may also consult with other services providers.

Occupational Therapist — Provides activities in the areas of perceptual fine motor, sensory motor, oral motor, and self-help skills. A treatment program may also include activities to facilitate typical movement patterns as well as the design and use of adaptive materials and equipment within the educational setting in order for the child to benefit from special education. The therapist may provide demonstration and instruction to assist a child in coordinating visual and motor ability in the performance of fine motor and classroom tasks. Occupational therapy services may be provided to a child on an individual basis, in a small group, or in the general education classroom. The occupational therapist may also consult with other service providers.

School Psychologist — Provides consultation and evaluation in the areas of cognitive development, social-emotional development, and behavioral intervention. The school psychologist may conduct observations to gather information to assist other service providers in implementing the IEP, IFSP, or 504 Written Individualized Plan. In addition, parent counseling and training may be provided on a short term basis when appropriate.

Administrator — Provides on site leadership for the instructional program. The principal or assistant principal may attend IFSP meetings and serve as the chairperson of the IEP team.

Itinerant Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments — Provides assessment, consultation, and individualized instruction in special techniques used by children who are blind or partially sighted. The techniques include the use of adaptive equipment, Braille, as well as orientation and mobility instruction. To be eligible for service from the itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments, a child must have a Physician’s Assessment Report that states he or she has a visual impairment that adversely affects performance in school. A referral may be made by a parent, teacher, principal, school nurse, or eye doctor.

Itinerant Teacher of Students with Hearing Impairments — Provides consultation and instruction in total communication, language development, auditory training, and skills needed in the classroom setting. Consultative services include meetings with school staff members, parents, educational interpreters, and the audiologist. To be eligible for service from the itinerant teacher of students with hearing impairments, a child must be identified by an audiologist as having a hearing impairment that adversely affects performance in school.

Assistive Technology Team — Includes speech-language pathologists, an occupation therapist, a physical therapist, a psychologist, an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairment, and an instructional assistant. The team may observe, evaluate, and provide consultation services for children who need augmentative communication systems or adaptations involving technology. The team maintains a resource center with devices, materials, and information and provides training to parents and staff members.

Behavior Specialist — Available to help school teams construct behavior intervention programs to address the complex needs of youngsters with behavioral challenges. The specialists also design ongoing staff development opportunities for teachers and instructional assistants.

Elementary Reading Specialist — Supports teachers and students in a number of ways. They work with staff members to organize and plan effective instruction, communicate information about language arts and reading, provide ongoing staff development, and initiate and oversee tutorial and volunteer programs to assist students in need. Reading specialists also work with classroom teachers to help design specific programs for students needing additional help within the general classroom setting. In addition, reading specialists provide ongoing instruction to individual or small groups of students in need of a program to accelerate their reading growth.