STEPS serves students (ages 5-21) with severe and/or multiple disabilities, including intellectual disability, autism, orthopedic, traumatic brain injury, and medical health needs. The program is characterized by a low student:staff ratio, individualized special instruction, a modified curriculum, specialized equipment and materials, and a team of specialists providing additional instruction, therapy, and staff training and consultation to augment the variety of classroom-based services. Homebound services to STEPS-eligible students and extended school year services are provided. Specialists include nurses, speech/language pathologists, Regional service providers, and vocation/program specialists as well as supervisors who provide training and technical assistance to ESD and building staff. Districts provide classroom space/facilities, school day transportation, building-level administrative support, and custodial services.
STEPS Program Differentiated Models
The STEPS Program is now serving students in two differentiated classroom models which will focus more specifically on the individualized needs of students:
- STEPS CARE classes, and
- Transition class
|Model:||CARE (Comfort, Attention and Response to Emergencies)|
|Purpose:||To educate students with multiple/severe disabilities who have medically involved conditions in an environment that supports their independence in daily living, social, and motor activities|
|Focus:||Visual, motor, communicative, and intellectual development|
|Specialists:||Feeding and Swallowing Specialist, Augmentative Communication Specialist, Speech/Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Nurses, Vision and Hearing Itinerant Teachers, and Autism Consultants|
|# Educational Assistants||Staffing will reflect the supports needed by each student. The staffing ratio is approximately 1 Assistant per 2 students|
|Curriculum||Medically supportive environment with focus on regularly scheduled nursing procedures, emergency protocols, medication administration and feeding/swallowing protocols; consistent use and application of visual supports and assistive technology to support student independence in academics, social and vocational development|
|Purpose:||To educate post-high school age students with multiple/severe disabilities in order to support their education, employment, and independent living needs as they move into adulthood|
|Specialists:||YTP (Youth Transition Project) Specialist, Nurses, Occupational and Physical Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, Feeding and Swallowing Specialist, Augmentative Communication Specialist, Vision and Hearing Itinerant Teachers, and Autism Consultants|
|# Educational Assistants||1 Assistants per 3 students|
|Curriculum||Focus on independence, functional life skills, and job experiences; consistent use and application of visual supports and assistive technology to support student independence; Person Centered Planning; integration with peers and community members to increase social, recreation, and leisure skills; collaboration with other service agencies; involvement of parents, family members, and other natural support systems|
You may hear staff refer to the STEPS Program in general or refer to your child’s classroom as the STEPS CARE classroom, or the STEPS Transition classroom—all classroom titles falling under the umbrella of the STEPS Program.
Benefits of the differentiated models include more direct related service/special time for student instruction and staff training and support, and more focused curriculum and behavioral/Intervention approaches to address students’ individualized needs. Careful attention is taken to involve students in routine school activities and the regular education curriculum, and in Transition, appropriate community-based, life skills instruction and activities. In all STEPS classroom models, the IEP is the guide for student planning.
Q: Why are you making these changes? Who made the decision to change?
A: An examination of special education services, service delivery models, and costs by area superintendents and special education administrators resulted in decisions by some school districts to provide services to STEPS-eligible students in district-operated classrooms (instead of ESD-operated STEPS Program classrooms). The smaller number of students served by the STEPS Program led to restructuring the STEPS Program to serve groupings of students with more similar needs and patterns of behavior and development.
Q: Will I have to transport my child?
A: No. Special education transportation will be provided as it has been. Your resident school district is responsible for this element of your child’s special education services.
Why are some children going to STEPS classes and some going to a district class?
A: School districts make decisions each year about which special education services/classes they will provide directly and which they will receive from SOESD. Changes in service delivery by some school districts led to the changes in STEPS Program class locations as well as the differentiated models approach.
Q: Why is my high- schooler going to a middle school?
A: Because of the reduced numbers of students being served in the STEPS Program, it was necessary to change the age groupings to elementary (Kindergarten through Grade 6) and secondary (Middle and High School).