At PA Distance we take special education, and the specific needs that come along with it, very seriously. Our special education teachers go above and beyond for our students, and it shows. To showcase these efforts, we sat down with PA Distance Special Education Director, Mrs. Jamie Desrochers, and parent of a special education student, Mrs. Teresa Allshouse, to talk about the unique special education program at PA Distance.
Some parents worry that cyber charter schools might not provide all of the special education services that their child needs. They quickly realize that PA Distance provides all of the services you would receive in a traditional school district. This includes speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. PA Distance also has behavioral support therapy and counseling.
“Everything that they do in a brick-a-mortar we do here, too,” Mrs. Desrochers explained.
At PA Distance, we work to provide the least restrictive environment possible for each child. The goal of special education is to teach them skills that can help them return to an environment where they can succeed without support.
Typically, at a traditional school, special education students would go to a specific special education classroom, take different tests, or receive specific services that other students might notice. Unfortunately, in situations like this, students get teased or bullied for needing a little more help in order to succeed.
“The anonymity factor at PA Distance is a huge benefit for the kids,” Mrs. Desrochers said.
Mrs. Teresa Allshouse, a PA Distance parent, explained that her daughter benefits from a special education specifically at PA Distance.
“My daughter has a resource room on her schedule twice a week for 45 minutes, with a special education teacher, in a small group setting,” Mrs. Allshouse described.
“There is a special education teacher available to help her immediately if she needs help in any of her core subjects. The teacher simply opens a virtual room to assist on-demand, without disrupting the class,” she said.
“In other schools, having immediate access to the special education teacher is difficult without bringing attention to yourself,” Mrs. Allshouse adds.
“We also receive monthly special education newsletters with tips and learning strategies to try at home,” she explained.
PA Distance also takes pride in a low student-to-teacher ratio, which gives more personalized care and attention to the students that need it. PA Distance has 15 special education teachers for grades K-12, which is extremely high for one school.
“The special education teachers at PA Distance are assigned by grade level, while in other settings, there could be one special education teacher for multiple grades,” Mrs. Allshouse explained. “My daughter can always send an email or G-chat to her teacher during or even after school, too.”
“My favorite part of PA Distance is the teacher’s positive perception and belief in their students. They truly want the students to succeed,” she added.
The special education department also heavily focuses on career readiness in high school. The PA Distance Career Education and Work program intertwines with the special education department to help prepare students for life after high school.
There are three sections in the transition plan: independent living, employment, and education after high school. Each student needs to identify a goal for each category, and based on these goals, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team plans activities for the students to help work towards those goals.
Similar to other schools, parents and teachers collaborate to create an IEP for each special education student. The IEP consists of a comprehensive guide on what goals they are focusing on, what the teachers are required to do and what services PA Distance is required to provide.
IEP meetings, where teachers and parents meet to form their plan, are held on video conferencing via Google Hangouts. This way, parents don’t have to travel to be involved in their IEP process.
“We still feel that parents are extremely important in the IEP process and they are included in the process every step of the way,” Mrs. Desrochers said.
Special education students aren’t the only ones who benefit from a safe and accepting environment at PA Distance. A lot of our students appreciate the care and attention that our teachers provide.
“After my daughter adapted to life at PA Distance and we saw academic growth, we enrolled our son, too,” Mrs. Allshouse said.
He went from being shy, timid, and bullied, to a talkative and confident 14-year-old,” she added. “My children deserve to have the choice to go to a school that fits their educational needs.”
Questions about the PA Distance Special Education Department? Contact us at (888) 997-3352.