On Thursday, December 1st, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks announced the $205 million investment that the Department of Education would be making toward special education. This would include the continuation and expansion of special education programs including the Sensory Exploration, Education & Discovery (SEED), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Nest and Horizon, and Path programs. The DOE will introduce a new paid internship program for high school students to see them work in physical, speech, and occupational therapy. The DOE also announced the introduction of the Special Education Advisory Council which will be tasked with ensuring the city has adequate learning facilities for special education students.
“Our students with disabilities and their families deserve public schools that can meet their unique needs and prepare young people for bold futures – regardless of disability status. Our dedicated educators and staff work every day to serve students with disabilities, yet our system has not fully delivered on our commitment to these students. We need to transform our systems and approaches to achieve the goal of a truly inclusive public school system,” said Schools Chancellor Banks. “I am proud to share that we are making strides towards this goal with the expansion of these successful programs serving students with disabilities across the city. However, our work doesn’t stop here. The new Special Education Advisory Council will empower our family and advocacy community to share their insight and support us in radically transforming the school experience for everyone.”
The SEED Program will serve students that show intensive sensory needs that can impact their lives academically and socially. The program is offered from Monday to Thursday and on Saturdays. In the SEED program, students will be under the supervision of a licensed physical or occupational therapist who will help with the use of specialized sensory equipment. The SEED program has helped over 1,100 students and reduced the number of student behavioral incidents, ensuring students remain focused in the classroom. The program will be expanded with 70 extra sites being opened across the city. The DOE intends on having between one and four SEED sites in every district in the city.
The ASD Nest and Horizon programs serve students with autism, helping them bolster their academic and social skills. The ASD program has been expanded with 15 new additional sites, leaving a total of 49 ASD Horizon programs and 69 ASD Nest programs. The ASD Horizon program creates a small class setting with no more than eight students who are attended to by a special education teacher and a paraprofessional. The ASD Nest class is supervised by a special education teacher and a general education teacher in a co-teaching setup. As the students grow older, the ASD Nest classes become bigger.
The Path Program is modeled after the ASD Nest program and is specially designed to cater to children with severe emotional disabilities. It is meant to create “paths to success” for students who need emotional and behavioral support. The program will expand to seven classrooms at six schools by the end of the year according to the DOE.
The internship for students with Individual Education Programs will be provided in partnership with the Training Opportunity Program (TOPS). The internship will be on Saturdays with opportunities in the SEED program and Related Services Saturday Academy. It will be an opportunity for students to explore careers in physical, occupational, and speech therapy.