Special Education at Green Hills Academy
Green Hills Academy
Green Hills Academy is an inclusive school. When a learner that has been diagnosed with having special educational needs/disabilities enrolls, we do our best to accommodate them. Green Hills Academy believes that having an integrated/inclusive school community, where learners with special educational needs learn with their typically developing peers is the best approach to Special Education. Research has proven that inclusion creates one of the best learning environments not only for learners with special educational needs, but the whole school community.
Green Hills Academy works hard to create a program that does it’s best to meet the learners’ needs within the structure of the school. Learners with special educational needs attend classes with their typically developing peers to the extent that they can. The rest of the time is spent working on skills that might not be explicitly taught in class. Some of those skills include, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, specific communication skills, social skills, and behavior management skills. The program uses a combination of push in and pull out services to provide appropriate instruction in an environment that is as least restrictive as possible.
Since Rwanda does not have a lot of Special Education trained specialists, Green Hills Academy has taken on hiring assistants (usually college learners) to shadow the learners. The assistants get ongoing training on the skills that they need to be able to support the learners with their learning. There are a lot of countries around the world that use the same system in order to foster inclusion. The assistants work closely with the Special Education educator and the Special Education Coordinator to make sure that the learners are getting the best instruction possible. Assistants are trained in Evidence Based Strategies and general information like:
- Universal Design for Learning
- Functional Behavior Analysis
- Categories of disabilities and their characteristics
- Sensory Integration
- Assessment Strategies
- Multiple Intelligences
- Behavior Reinforcement Strategies and more…
Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
The Special Education Coordinator creates an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the child, taking into account the child’s individual needs. The IEP is created after the learner has been observed, assessed for a period of two months (if they are new). Observations and assessments are made by the SPED Coordinator, the SPED Educator, as well as the learner’s educators where possible, to obtain the learner’s current level of performance, as well as appropriate goals that are challenging but achievable. Once the IEP is finalized, a meeting is held with all the stakeholders; parents, Principal, homeroom educator, teaching assistant, SPED Coordinator, and SPED Educator. The purpose of the IEP meeting is to share the goals that have been drafted, as well as to get everyone involved in the child’s education on the same page. For returning learners, their IEPs are reviewed every year and goals are adjusted as needed. The learner’s IEP must include the following areas as appropriate:
- Parent/student Concern
- Student’s Strengths
- Vision Statement
- Curriculum Areas Affected by Student’s Disability
- Current Level of Performance
- Accommodations and Modifications
- Other Educational Needs
- Measurable Annual Goals
- Manageable Objectives
- Assessment Consideration
- Non-Participation Justification
Green Hills Academy places learners with special educational needs according to their age, as opposed to their academic performance. This gives the learners in the program a chance to interact with their same aged peers. Interaction with their same-aged-typically-developing peers allows the learners to be in an environment that fosters their language development, as well as behavior modification. Having learners on the program in a regular classroom gives them more opportunities to imitate age-appropriate behaviors than any other setting.
If a learner that is already enrolled at GHA needs to be put on the program, there is a 10-step referral process that is followed in order for the learner’s needs to be assessed and to make sure that the program is the appropriate intervention to help them perform to their fullest potential. Below is the outline of the 10 steps:
- The educator fills out the Educator In-put Form/Initial Concerns Form
- The Special Education Coordinator does the initial classroom observation.
- Interview with concerned educators by the SPED Coordinator.
- Interview with the learner’s previous educator and principal by the SPED Coordinator.
- Academic Performance Assessment by the Special Education Educator.
- Second and third observation by the SPED Coordinator.
- Additional assessments done by SPED Coordinator, as needed.
- Interview with learner’s parents.
- Compilation of all evidence and writing of recommendations for intervention.
- Case Conference with learner’s parent, educator, SPED educator, Principal, and SPED Coordinator.
We believe that learners with special educational needs deserve an education like any other learner, and we strive to provide it to the best of the school’s ability, with the resources available. Having learners with special educational needs here at Green Hills Academy makes our school a more wholesome community, that is representative of the real world, and we work hard to prepare these learners to be functional members of the community after their career here at Green Hills Academy.