Salem Special Education Department

In Salem Public Schools, we are committed to providing students with a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. To best meet students’ individual needs, Salem Public Schools has developed the following programs for students ages 3- 22. These programs serve students with disabilities using an integrated approach. Inclusive education is an opportunity for schools to meet the needs of all students by teaching students with disabilities alongside their non‐disabled peers. 

Salem Preschool Supports & Services

The Salem Early Childhood Education Center (ECC) serves Salem preschool students with and without disabilities. Students progress at their own pace and achieve success on an individual level. Creativity, natural curiosity, and cultural awareness are emphasized throughout the curriculum. 

All students learn acceptance and sensitivity as well as positive social interactions and play behavior. In addition, students learn to work and play together in a school community that reflects the real world and supports IDEA 2004. 

Elementary/K-8 School Supports & Services

Inclusive practices are the cornerstone belief in educating students with disabilities. The understanding is that educating students with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers maximizes each student’s individual potential. Throughout all of our elementary schools, a variety of inclusive practices are implemented. Students have access to a range of support services that meet the individual needs of each student. The inclusive model allows general educators and special educators to create partnerships that foster environments where differentiated instruction and multi-sensory methodologies are routinely embedded into teaching practices. The profile of students in inclusive settings varies among disability categories and levels of need. 

ASD Program to Support Students with Autism and Social Communication Disorders

Students receiving support through the district-wide ASD program require intensive communication support and receive frequent instruction through the methodology of discrete trial instruction. The ASD Programs serve students who meet the criteria for a student with Autism. This program is overseen by a BCBA and provides a supportive, structured environment for students to develop educational, social pragmatic, and communication skills and develop positive peer relationships. Students may be included in general education classrooms for some subjects as determined by individual strengths. In addition, the program offers a supportive environment for students to complete Common Core-aligned academic requirements. The services include supported inclusion, discrete trial training, small group activities, and incidental teaching strategies. The program is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis with a focus on reinforcement systems and consistent behavior management programs. 

Inclusion opportunities are structured for each student based on the student’s areas of strength and need. Typically, students will be included in the school community for social opportunities such as lunch, fine and applied arts classes, and physical education. These activities provide opportunities for students to practice social interactions, communication skills and participate in recreational activities in more natural situations. The amount of time included for these activities is individualized based on target goals, student strengths, and student interest. Participation in core curriculum classrooms is determined for each student individually and often focuses on one academic area with a gradual increase in time or activities across the school year. 

Special Programming: Each student participates in social pragmatics groups to work on basic social exchanges, turn-taking activities, and age-appropriate group games. These sessions provide opportunities for the students to learn and generalize specific skills and integrate skills learned during speech and language therapy, recreation programs, and other discrete trial programs to a more natural situation. Students learn to follow social routines and initiate and sustain social exchanges during daily school activities such as lunchtime and recess. Group and individual instruction of social and self-regulation skills help increase successful inclusion opportunities by practicing those skills in a small group. These skills include: attending in small group settings, following instructions from a lead teacher, following natural prompts from peers, and decreased the need for attention from support staff. 

Therapeutic Support Program (TSP) for Students with Social Emotional Disabilities (K-8)

The Therapeutic Support Program serves students with emotional disabilities. Most students have a primary diagnosis within the mental health domain and may have a secondary disability. Students with identified social/emotional disabilities, who, as a result of their disability, do not have the coping mechanisms or emotional regulation strategies to appropriately interact with the students and meet the academic demands of general education classes. The program provides a highly structured, therapeutic, positive, safe environment that focuses on academic achievement and modulation of emotions. These students share a common denominator of emotional vulnerability, social-emotional concerns, and learning challenges. The majority of students in the program attend school specialists with their peers, and as they become increasingly emotionally regulated to participate in academic classes with their general education homeroom class. 

Learning Skills Program

The Learning Skills Program serves students with moderate disabilities that impact their ability to access the general education curriculum without significant modifications, accommodations, and specialized instructional support.  The program provides academic, language, fine and gross motor, and social skill development within a small, highly structured, safe, and nurturing learning environment. In addition, the use of positive reinforcement and success-oriented experiences supports student growth towards personal independence, specific IEP goals, and overall academic achievement.   

Students in the Learning Skills Program access core content in small group settings with content based on the Common Core Curriculum and Salem Public Schools Curriculum Maps, adapted as needed to meet the unique learning needs of the students.  Students in the Learning Skills Program are included with peers in homeroom activities and all aspects of the school community.   The Carlton incorporates the Responsive Classroom approach, which fosters a welcoming atmosphere where students are willing to take chances and peers are very supportive of one another.  This atmosphere allows all students to successfully participate with typical peers for specialists, lunch/recess, and science lab on a routine basis.  Individual students may also mainstream for selected academic subjects, including Guided Reading, Math, and English Language Arts, according to their IEP.

Language-Based Learning Disability Programs

The Language-based Programs serve students with language processing deficits and learning challenges that impact overall functioning. The programs are designed to meet the needs of students whose language processing deficits impede their academic achievement, inhibit their social development, and generally limit their ability to grow to their full potential. Many of these students may have difficulty with reading, writing, organization, math and are easily distracted or have difficulty following directions. Others experience difficulties in oral expression. The program’s goal is to provide each student with an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment and access the full range of programs and services available to their non-disabled peers. Students are placed into this special education program only when the severity of their disability is such that education in general classes, even with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 

Life Skills Program 

The Life Skills Program (grades K-8) serves students who have significant delays in cognitive and language development (nonverbal & low verbal) and medical and challenges that affect overall functioning. The program incorporates functional academics, life, and social skill development within a highly structured, safe, nurturing learning environment. Students’ needs in the areas of communication, self-care, social, recreation, leisure, and life skills are addressed within the school environment. In addition, the program offers a full range of therapies and access to adaptive technology for leisure and communicative opportunities. 

The self-contained classroom is within a public school, and inclusionary experiences embrace the school setting.  The program embraces a total communication approach with a strong emphasis on the use of communication aids to enhance language acquisition, e.g., AAC, communication boards, and visual schedules. The daily schedule includes a typical range of activities structured to enhance academic learning and overall development. Social skills instruction is integrated throughout the curriculum. 

Instruction is provided both in small groups and on a one-to-one basis. The teacher-student ratio is small enough so that each student is able to have their unique and individual needs met to reach their personal goals. 

High School & Post-High Supports and Services

Salem Public Schools is committed to supporting secondary level students with disabilities in accessing the full range of academic, social, cultural, and athletic opportunities offered to our community of learners. The district embraces a continuum of special education service options designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities in accordance with their Individualized Education Programs. 

 Utilizing the tenets of Least Restrictive Environment and working as a comprehensive treatment Team, individual decisions surrounding student needs and instructional formats are made. Specialized instruction, curriculum modification, accommodation, and consultation occur across all school settings regardless of the nature and severity of the student’s disability-related needs. In incidences where despite intensive interventions in the general education environment, the nature or severity of the student’s disability has deemed a more restrictive environment necessary, we offer a variety of substantially separate programs to meet the student’s unique needs. In all cases, inclusion with and access to non-disabled peers is a priority to the maximum extent appropriate for the individual student. 

 Our multidisciplinary teams work with youth and families to support the students’ vision for adult living and to support our students in planning and preparing for life after high school. 

Related Services

Related services are provided when the special education Team deems them necessary in order for the student to access, participate in and make progress in their educational program. Related services are provided in varied locations and group arrangements, including general education, small group, and one-to-one. All services can be provided within the general education class or in a separate setting, dependent upon the decision of the special education Team. 

Inclusion Support Services

Moderate special needs teachers and paraprofessionals support students with an Individual Educational Plan in various inclusion classes, including general education courses and within skills classes. In addition, special education teachers work in conjunction with the general education teachers concerning course offerings and requirements to provide appropriate assistance for the students.  

Language-Based Program

The Language-Based program serves students who may have difficulty with reading, written language, oral language, organization, math, and attention arising from language processing challenges. This program is designed to meet the needs of those students who would benefit from a language-based approach to academic instruction. Supports are tailored to individual student needs and may include case management, academic support, counseling, social and emotional support, and social language instruction.

Academic Support Intensive Program

The Academic Support Intensive Program serves students with learning disorders that impact their ability to access the general education curriculum without significant modifications, accommodations, and specialized instructional support.  The program provides academic, language, fine and gross motor, and social skill development within a small, highly structured, safe, and nurturing learning environment. In addition, the use of positive reinforcement and success-oriented experiences supports student growth towards personal independence, specific IEP goals, and overall academic achievement.   

Autism Spectrum Disorder Program 

The ASD program serves students identified as having an autism spectrum disorder, offering inclusive supports to students who benefit from instruction in social communication, self-regulation, navigating the social world, and managing the multiple academic and personal demands high school students encounter. One goal of the program is to assist students in developing social competency and achieving success academically. In addition, the transition from high school to post-secondary employment and/or education is a focus. Supports are tailored to individual student needs and may include case management, academic support, counseling, social and emotional support, and social language instruction. 

In addition to the core academic curriculum, the students participate in community trips, including group skills, travel training, appropriate behavior in social situations, and navigating community settings.  Individual goals may also teach personal care and daily living skills such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, and work-related skills for students preparing for their adult life.  

Therapeutic Support Program

The Therapeutic Support Program serves students with social-emotional disabilities providing a highly structured, safe, and therapeutically supportive environment that focuses on academic achievement. These students share a common denominator of emotional vulnerability and social-emotional concerns that impact learning. Depending upon the needs of the student, program support may range from one to eight blocks.  There is an ongoing effective communication network for students who participate in inclusion classes between regular and special education staff.

Life Skills Program

Students whose lowered global cognitive potential and achievement levels require a sub-separate educational setting are serviced in one of two self-contained programs called Life Skills or Learning Skills. These programs offer the full complement of academic classes required for a high school student.  The second component of vocational courses is geared to the functional level of each student.  This will assist them in developing real-world job skills to ensure a successful and productive transition from high school to the workforce.  Students are assigned to a specific program at a TEAM meeting. 

Salem Prep Therapeutic Day School

Salem Prep is a highly structured, intensive therapeutic learning day school setting for students with a history of social-emotional disabilities who have experienced difficulty within a large public high school. The program is highly structured, safe, and focused on academic achievement, social/emotional growth, and vocational skill development. Students will have multiple opportunities to experience success, reduce their emotional vulnerability, and grow socially within their community and school district. 

Overall the focus of Salem Prep is on a strong academic, standards-based curriculum: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Health with specially designed instruction to address individual learning challenges. The curriculum supports preparation for MCAS Assessments and provides ample opportunities for academic and social success. In addition, students will have opportunities to integrate into classes at SHS as deemed appropriate. 

Salem Supports & Services for Students 18-22

Post-High School Transition Program

Moving into adulthood is a challenge for many young people, but it can be even more complicated for young adults with disabilities. In general, the choices for the future include post-secondary education or vocational training, employment, independent living, and community participation. This program is designed to address the unique needs of our students preparing to make these choices, acquire the skills to be successful, and attain the social and emotional skills to the greatest extent possible.

The transition from high school is a comprehensive process that focuses on improving a student’s employment opportunities, housing options, and social networks after leaving school. Transition services provide the framework for identifying, planning, and carrying out activities that prepare students to transition from the world of school to the world of adulthood. Students’ interests, skills, and preferences are an integral component of the learning progression throughout the process.

Out of District Placements:
If necessary, out-of-district placements will be explored subject to the decision of the IEP Team. 

Students requiring a more restrictive setting may be placed in out-of-district settings, ranging from public programs in other districts to collaborative settings to private special education schools. Salem is a member of the North Shore Consortium. Placements are made on an individual basis and determined by the Team in accordance with state and federal regulations to provide students with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).