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NYC: 70 more sensory program sites to be added to city schools: Schools Chancellor

Dec 1, 2022, Spectrum News, NY1: Program to 80 sites citywidProgram for students with sensory needs will expand to 80 sites citywide
Schools Chancellor David Banks announced his vision for the city’s special education system on Thursday, including plans to expand a popular pilot program serving children with intensive sensory needs.

In remarks Thursday morning in the Bronx, Banks laid out his plan to rebuild trust in the city’s special education system, which for years has been plagued by delays in children getting services or being evaluated for Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs.

Banks received some criticism earlier this year for saying the city spends too much money on sending children with special needs to private school and saying some parents “game this system.”

The education department will pay for students to attend private schools if their needs cannot be met in public schools, often as the result of parents suing the DOE.
At Thursday's press conference, where he rolled out plans to expand some popular special education programs, Banks struck a different tone about parents who have left the system.

"The families that felt the need to leave our schools because they were not able to meet your child's needs, I hope that today marks the beginning of an announcement that helps rebuild your trust with our schools and will give you a reason to come back to your local public school,” he said. That includes the SEED Pilot Program, which stands for Sensory Exploration, Education and Discovery. Geared toward helping students who have intensive sensory needs, the program combines play with therapy and emotional support, to get students in a better frame of mind for learning.

It provides the kind of resources — like climbing walls or sensory swings — often found in pricey private sensory gyms. The activities help students self-regulate and get in a better frame of mind for learning.

The city currently has 10 SEED rooms across the five boroughs and children from schools in the surrounding area are referred by their therapists to attend a SEED site after school, or on Saturdays. Their parents or guardians are invited for part of the visit, to help them learn strategies to use at home.

By the end of this school year, the city will add 70 new SEED sites, for a total of 80 citywide, with at least one in each community school district….

NY1 got an exclusive look at the program ahead of its expansion, visiting a site in the Bronx, where 4-year-old Diego, a pre-K student, was greeted with color coded symbols to evaluate how he was feeling….

Suzanne Sanchez, senior executive director of related services for the DOE, said special education staffers often hear from parents that children — especially those with sensory issues that are common with disabilities like autism — struggle to get in a good mindset to learn….

Banks on Thursday also touted the addition of 15 new programs in the city’s ASD Nest and Horizon programs, which serve children with autism in classes alongside general education students, and with both a general education and special education teacher.

And he announced plans to expand a smaller pilot, called the Path program, modeled on the ASD Nest program but which serves children with significant emotional disabilities. That program will expand to seven classrooms at six schools by the end of the year. …

It’s meant to be an alternative to more restrictive settings for children who need behavioral support….

Banks also rolled out the creation of a new Special Education Advisory Council, to help guide the city’s work serving students with disabilities….


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