The state of the special education department was the primary focus Tuesday night as Garden Grove Unified School District’s special education department presented a unique presentation at the school board meeting.
The report, which included several statistics of how the program operating currently in the district, offered a glimpse into the world many local students face.
Lorraine Rae, executive director of special education/student services, said the program continues to thrive. But it’s the feeling of belonging that has truly been special.
Rae spoke during the meeting about a student in the special education program who wanted to be on the cross country team. Rae said she was concerned for her safety. However, the student became one of the school’s best athletes.
Rae said that students in the program just want to feel included.
“They may not always excel in class,” Rae said. “They may not always fit in a classroom. But they do want to belong. They want to be like everybody else.”
GGUSD offers a variety of special education programs for special need students to enhance their learning capabilities ranging from specialized academic to speech and language.
The district also offers a unique adult program designed to transition students into independence or a post-secondary venture.
It includes a program called Workability, which teaches its students important hands-on work traits. The program, which partners with local businesses and companies, help put students in an active work environment.
Some participating businesses include Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the Dollar Store, Rae said.
Eligibility for the programs is determined by the Individualized Education Program meetings. However, a group, consisting of teachers, parents and school counselors, is assembled to try to find appropriate solutions before a student is eligible.
Currently, about 6,000 students in the district are in some type of special education program, Rae said.
Over the years, more students have been added to the program, particularly related to preschool admissions and autism students.
Preschool identification in special education jumped from about 450 students in Dec. 2011 to 700 in June 2012. In addition, enrollment for the preschool program has spiked to 477 students this month, compared to 413 students last April.
“We’re looking at how to be more accepting and understanding in our preschool programs, and making sure we are meeting the needs of our students,” Rae said.
Clark Osborne, one of the presenters, also said that the district has seen a major growth in autistic students similar to the national trend. Students with autism in the district soared to 726 students in June 2012, compared to 148 students in June 2003.
With some of the daunting challenges ahead, the department hopes to continue expanding its program outreach. The department hopes to improve graduation rates in the programs and expand the adult transition program.
The department also hopes to bring more inclusive settings to the program and continue to develop the preschool program.