While the population Next Door Charter School (NDCS) serves has backgrounds similar to other Milwaukee central city students, our special needs children (and their families) benefit from an intensive approach that places extra emphasis on the follow-up process. The special education professionals, consultants and support staff who work on a case form a multi-disciplinary team that addresses not only the primary causes but also the secondary factors that influence a child’s behavior. This method of action applies to students who have either situational or long-term needs.
NDCS students display a variety of special needs related to language, speech and behavioral health with speech pathology being the most common student challenge. Because of the age of the students, the special needs staff spend much time educating parents about the identified problem and the need for addressing the issue before the problems multiply. Parents receive assistance in setting goals, developing an action plan and monitoring the steps toward their completion. The team receives valuable assistance from the family support staff in following up with families and documenting progress.
In support of a well-trained special education staff, professional consultants offer guidance and direction in areas which is critical to the success of the population we serve. When a child has an Individual Education Plans (IEP) in place or some other identified special need, the family support staff works with the family (as well as the child) to address the issue. The family support staff also spends much time explaining the details of an assessment and the reasons for a referral to a specialist. This practice helps parents understand the vital importance of actively responding to an identified difficulty and seeks to offset cultural practices that question mental health intervention.
The NDCS Special Needs Team follows an inclusion approach in dealing with students. This strategy seeks to work with the child in their respective environment and places a priority on training the teacher and parent proper techniques so that the child can receive special education services all day long.
The Special Needs Team always serves as a valuable resource for teachers, and special needs services are embedded throughout the school day in a variety of ways. For every special needs student, the team provides the child's teacher with strategies for dealing with classroom challenges, observes the implementation of these techniques, and then modifies the approach based on actual experiences.
The Special Needs Department recently relocated this workgroup in a newly remodeled space which allows the staff to implement innovative strategies such as Play Therapy.