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Worthington, MN: "Huge increase" in SPED students, especially ones with autism

Jan 17, 2018, Worthington (MN) Globe: Special education, EL strain district’s crowded quarters https://www.dglobe.com/news/education/4388942-special-education-el-strain-districts-crowded-quarters …One difference from a space and resource standpoint between now and the early ’70s, the district and board of education argue, is the development of mandated special programs, particularly special education and English Learner Education (EL).. … According to District 518 Special Education Director Deb Stoll, students with disabilities were not introduced into the public school environment until after 1975, when the federal government passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law required all school districts nationwide to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities. There are currently 485 students in the district (about 14.9 percent of the total student population) that meet one of 13 identified special education categories and criteria. Some of the categories include students with cognitive delays, learning disabilities, hearing or vision problems and autism. … This year’s district-wide special education population is a 2 percent increase from last year, she added. “That’s a huge increase because we’re seeing an increase of students on the autism spectrum — and that is happening nationwide — and it’s not the only category that’s growing,” she said. “With that growth, you need classrooms, you need space for the kids and you need sensory areas for the kids to practice their calming techniques.” Stoll said the district has about 52 professional special education staff, related service providers and assessment team members to provide service to its special education population. … Blanchard said 75 percent of her students have attention-focus concerns. They will often answer questions that Neuman asks her students when they’re supposed to be working on reading. … According to seventh-grade significant learning disability instructor Vickie Lord Anderson, distractible special education learning environments are also a reality at the middle school. … \ A growing special education population has also been the trend for the high school, said Charon Doyscher, WHS special education teacher and team lead. The high school has 18 additional special education students this year than what graduated last year, Doyscher said. To accommodate a growing population of special education students, special education teachers and support staff positions were added at the high school every year for at least the last five years, she said. …