Abigail Williams’ students at Florence Markhofer Elementary (Elk Grove USD) are focused on their schoolwork. But, in addition to their general studies, they are learning daily living skills that are integral to their lives. They are learning functional skills like sign language, how to feed themselves, and how to walk. The goal for students is increased independence.
Williams is a special education teacher in an elementary special day class operated by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE). “What I love about being a special education teacher is the opportunity to work with students and…to see incremental growth,” she says. “A lot of times we work and work, and sometimes it’ll be years. And then you see a student make that first step and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh! They’ve done it!’”
The SCOE Special Education Department serves students with moderate to severe needs from birth to 22 years of age. Students from ages 3 to 22 attend programs at locations throughout Sacramento County. SCOE operates 40 special day classrooms at approximately 23 sites within Sacramento County, and has special education teachers at 12 preschool inclusion settings. The programs are all on typical, comprehensive school campuses where the students have additional opportunities for inclusion.
SCOE’s special education staff works closely with families and specialists to provide creative and individualized services. The staff teaches students daily living skills, ranging from daily routines, to feeding, hygiene, and toileting skills. Highly trained teachers and paraprofessional educators work closely with students and families. They all have direct access to designated instructional support staff (nurses, speech therapists, teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility specialists, physical therapists, and/or occupational therapists).
“The goal is to always make [students] as independent as possible—to open up communication so they can let us know what they want and don’t want,” says Terri Edinburgh, who teaches at SCOE’s special education program at Prairie Elementary (Elk Grove USD).