What is an HCDDS school, formally known as MR/dd school? It is a school operated by the Hamilton County Develomental Disabilities (MR/dd) and paid by property taxes through tax levies renewed every 6 years. The two remaining schools, Margaret Rost (West side 1-513-574-2372) and Bobbie B. Fairfax (East side 1- 513- 271-2313) schools offer integrated special education (therapeutic-based) services in an environment designed to meet children with special needs.
How are HCDDS schools different from my district school? The school is therapy-based where adapted-special education classes offered by certified special education teachers and staff in all areas; there are physical, occupational, speech and behavioral Therapists on site; a nurse is available at the school at all times to deal with medically fragile children, seizures, and feeding issues. Every part of each building is accessible and has specialized equipment (communication devices, sensory rooms, enclosed outside play areas, life skills equipment). Children socialize with their "like-peers" during the day through integrated therapeutic-based programming.
Why do we still have "special" schools since the schools are required by law to meet our kid's needs? Schools are required by law to provide a free individualized special education for our children with severe developmental delays and high needs. But for many schools struggling financially, they still do not have resources facility, staffing, expertise, and related methodologies at their school to uphold the law.
The reason why we still have HCDDS therapy schools is because there is a growing need for it in the community. Many school districts cannot duplicate the integrated-ongoing therapies, professional staffing, space, and inclusion experiences that children receive through HCDDS therapy schools.
Many of our children's IEPs cannot be fulfilled in classroom environment promoting cognitive-learning where math, science, and reading is emphasized. Many of our children follow a different education plan, based on their individual ability. For them to learn according to their special ability, it requires a special environment to make that happen.
Therapy schools provide the environment that foster learning based on our child's individual needs, not based on what their peers are doing. Therapy schools also provide a cost-savings to the community since the 22 district schools in Cincinnati do not have the financial resources to design their own.
Isn't my school district required by law to provide individualized special education services for my child? Yes. The law is written to guarantee the "individual" rights of the "individual" child with the "individual" disability. In the event the school district cannot provide a proper environment that allows the child to develop according to their ability, they must offer an alternative through "continuum of alternative services." In Hamilton County, Ohio, there are two schools that focus entirely on providing "individualized" special education for children.
Doesn't IEP (Individualized Education Plan) have to be implemented at a district school? Absolutely not. IEPs state how and when our children will be measured for progress based in their individual ability, but we cannot assume it will always be implemented at the district school. Within the past 7 years, the Ohio Department of Education mandates make it "appear" that we have no choice, but if we go back to the federal law which absolutely guarantees our children's right through "continuum of alternative service" you can make a case with the school district if the school cannot accommodate your child's individualized needs while pursuing his or her individualized special education. (Note: Parents and caregivers also use this clause to home school their children when the school districts cannot accommodate their needs.)
The "individual special education" means exactly that. It is based on what your child is able to do according to his or her ability. For example, if your child's brain is not "wired" for math, science, reading comprehension, but shows potential for something else, an IEP plan can be written focusing on that "something else."
If it is not clear what your child's cognition ability is, then the school must offer psychological testing to help identify areas where there is potential. The whole point to having an IEP is to fulfill by law their right to a special education based ON HIS OR HER INDIVIDUAL NEEDS. It is not based on what the school offers.
IEPs and alternative assessments are currently being abused by many of the schools offering children nothing more than "babysitting services" instead of providing the INDIVIDUALIZED special education (based your child's individual ability) to which your child is legally entitled. Some families think their child is being "included" in the classroom but most times they are pulled out and sent to a "resource" room or roam around the halls with an aide.
An IEP only states how many times something is done and measures progress, but it is not an indicator of the big picture or what your child is doing the rest of the day at school. Find out what your child is doing in school if they are not expected to work at the level same as their biological peers. If you can't get any answers from the school, then call one of the numbers listed below and file a complaint.
How do I include the "where" in my IEP? Look at the district school and imagine how your child will be included at school. The question I always ask is whether this environment will hinder or enhance success for my child based on her unique ability.
The IEP should show how the curricula will be fully adapted by a certified special education teacher. Listed on the IEP should also be the appropriate adaptive equipment and assisted technologies that he or she will need to succeed. If your child receives alternative assessments and is not required to follow curricula, list exactly how he or she will develop according to his or her own ability. Start making several goals for skill development in the area of communication, motor, and fine motor.
Fine Motor: She will be provided stimulation to wiggle her fingers or move wrist. She will hold a toothbrush, spoon, pencil, paintbrush in the palm of her hand for 2 seconds at a time daily without dropping. She will bring hands mid line through assorted activities daily. She will bring object to mouth using adaptive equipment. She will hold cup while drinking and place it on table afterward using adaptive equipment. She will scoop with a spoon using adaptive aide. Providing assistance, she will cup her hand to open a door, a cabinet door. Using adaptive button, she will turn on/off various things like lights, radios.
She will make choices between drink and food using talk tech. She will chose plastic chains or scarf with using talk tech. She will vocalize while singing. She will track an object moving in front of her for 3 seconds. She will make the "B" sound while playing ball. She will respond to command to "pick up" object using an adaptive aide. She will communicate pleasure or displeasure of read aloud books, songs, and activities offered by teachers.
Gross Motor: She will use her gait trainer to move around classroom at will. She will sit up in class yoga style for 5 seconds without falling over. In supine, she will use her hands lift her self on her elbow. She will cross over reaching for something located on the opposite side. She will raise her arm above shoulder height to reach for an object.
Now. think about the best location and opportunities where these skills or abilities listed on the IEP can grow. Everyday. Think about the best environment to develop a skill or for an ability to emerge. Think about an environment that will drive the success so the goals on the IEP will be met. Is it place clear of distractions where the focus is your child? Is this a place where the child will receive encouragement and support? Is it a place that offers sensory stimulation through activities that are age appropriate and developmentally appropriate? Is it a place that lends creativity, expertise, time, space, and opportunity for the child to be challenged on a daily basis? Is it an environment that will allow the IEP to be integrated creatively everyday so the child can succeed?
Why should I consider a HCDDS school for my child?
1) If your child has not made progress in his or her area of ability or skill development or if "ability" or "skill level" has not yet been defined or identified by the school.
2) If your child is in an environment that does not provide opportunities for him or her to develop skills according to their own ability.
3) If your child is already excluded most of the day from his or her biological peers due to his or her disability.
An HCDDS school focuses on the INDIVIDUAL child's need according to their ability. In HCDDS schools, the children have many opportunities to interact socially with their biological peers.
How do I get my child enrolled at an HCDDS school? First, make an appointment to see the facility. Go with a child advocate who specializes in special education rights. Write down how the environment is different from what is offered through your district school. Look at the way the classrooms are designed and how therapies are adapted. Look at how the technologies are integrated. Look at how your child will grow in ability and skill according to their personal need.
Look at the big picture or how your child's day will be spent while he or she is there. Unlike the district school, HCDDS offers INTEGRATED THERAPIES throughout the day so your child's day is filled with therapeutic activities where they can grow everyday in their individual area.
Next, ask for a meeting with your school representative. Ask how the school can "incorporate" the same physical space, activities, environment, integrated therapies, opportunities to socialize, and methodologies found at HCDDS into the district school.
Since most schools don't have the financial resources to make physical special classroom adaptions for your individual child's special education needs, HCDDS can sometimes be seen as a cost savings benefit to the school district. And since you already pay from your property taxes money that funds an HCDDS school, there shouldn't be any issue.
The only issue I have seen is when the school can no longer pay the MR/dd fee to have your child attend there. If this is the only reason given for why your child cannot attend, then you need to file a complaint through the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities, Bank One Building, 165 W. Center Street, Suite 302, Marion OH 43302 800-374-2806
Ohio Legal Rights Service
50 W. Broad Street, Suite 1400
Columbus, OH 43215
Office for Exceptional Children
Ohio Dept. of Education
25 Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215
What if I want my child to be mainstreamed? I don't like the idea of them being excluded from their biological peers? Only when our children match in "cognition" abilities do I see them fully included in the classrooms at the district school. Make sure the curriculum is fully adapted. Everyday.
For our children who do not have this ability, they are not included at their district schools regardless of what you hear. Some spend a good deal of time in a "special resource room" only interacting with their biological peers for lunch or gym class.
The law states that your child is entitled to a special education based on his or her individual ability, not according to the ability of their biological peers or what the school can provide. THINK BIG. Reach for the moon. Look for additional resources in the community to help you develop an education "road map" for your child based on his or her environment. An IEP is like personalized "road map" for your child's special education so make sure the "road" and "vehicle" are properly designed to meet your child's special ability.
Many parents get hung up on that "inclusion" issue and trade away their child's right to a free individualized education according to ability just so their child can be around "typical kids."
Personally, had I taken that road, my child would have never developed in her own personal area of communication and motor ability. It was amazing the progress she made at HCDDS schools because they had the facility and resources to allow her to grow her abilities. As far as the "social" thing, she interacts with her biological peers everyday.
What else do I need to know about HCDDS school in Cincinnati, Oh? It's not for everyone and it may not be a good match for your child, particularly if your child is "curriculum track."
HCDDS serve a population of like peers and offer specialized events and activities activities adapted for the child with very special needs. It's a school where offer especially adapted programs and activities like Adapted Irish Dance Team, Fairfax Singing Fingers, Sitting Teams, Prom and Special Event Days.
For years the two remaining HCDDSchools have prepared people to achieve to the best of their abilities because the staff are trained to deal with challenges our children with special needs face everyday just being who they are.