Special Services

Overview of Special Services:

Special Services for students in the Sterling Community School are provided by a number of professionals, including the:

  • Social Worker
  • School Psychologist
  • Speech/Language Pathologist
  • Occupational Therapist and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Physical Therapist
  • School Nurse
  • Special Education Teachers
  • instructional support specialists as necessary to meet the particular needs of student(s)  

The delivery of Special Services for students is driven by the individual needs of each student, the requirements of the Federal and State mandates (IDEA), and the availability of resources within the student's home and the Sterling School District or extended school community. 


The full complement of student services in the Sterling Community Schools includes the following services and programs: Child Study Team, Child Find, Gifted and Talented Identification, Homebound Instruction, Occupational and Physical Therapy, Out-of-District Placements, School Based Counseling Pre-K - Grade 8, School Psychological and Behavioral Services Pre-K - Grade 8, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Speech/Language Services, Transition Planning, Vocational/Transitional Services, School Health Services.


More information on each of these services and programs can be found below

Whenever possible, students' educational needs are met in the general education program. Students are referred for assessment and possible Special Education services only after the resources of the general education program have been fully expended. SRBI procedures and protocols must be properly followed. The Child Study Team is made up of staff members who review student concerns, plan strategies to assist students in the general classroom, monitor student progress and, if necessary, refer for assessment of eligibility for Special Education. 
Screening for Identification of Preschool Students with Disabilities (3-5 Years of Age)

The Special Education screening for preschool aged children takes place at Sterling Community School. The screening is provided to assist parents of preschoolers in monitoring the developmental growth of their children and serves as an opportunity to identify any youngster who may need Special Education and Related Services. Assessment includes a developmental screening and a parental interview regarding the child’s health history and developmental milestones. Time will also be provided for feedback to parents. Screenings can be scheduled to assist parents who have questions regarding their preschooler’s language and/or motor development.
The purpose of assessing to identify Gifted and Talented students is to determine areas of excessive high performance or potential in students and to develop them to the maximum extent.  Gifted and Talented Students possess a range of giftedness and talents which can be demonstrated in one or more specific areas. Students’ academic development may not always match their advanced creative/artistic development.  Identification goes beyond the traditional, narrow definition of ability and talent.  New work by researchers and theorists such as Gardner (1985) and Sternberg (1984) has resulted in the general acceptance of the belief that traditional intelligence tests fail to capture the multi-faceted nature of human potential. Therefore, identification occurs through multiple procedures which examine different dimensions of student performance. 
Homebound instruction is a type of tutoring provided for students who are unable to attend school for an extended period of time due to an illness or hospitalization. Recommendations by a physician and the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) are required for this service.
Occupational therapy/physical therapy consists of fine/gross motor services provided to students Grades PK-8 through the Planning and Placement Team (PPT)/Individualized Education Program (IEP), or 504 Plan process. 
These placements are provided for students with exceptional educational needs and/or unique non-educational needs, or placed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  Decision for placement is made through the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) with consideration to the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in which the student can learn and progress. 
School clinical staff works to help students focus on academic, personal/social and career development so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society. 
The School Psychologist administers and interprets psychological data and develops educational intervention strategies.  The School Behaviorist coordinates and develops staff and student services and provides behavioral/problem solving strategies and techniques for students to assist them in the learning process in the school environment. 
Students with disabilities who do not qualify for Special Education services may be eligible to receive accommodations and/or modifications to their general education program under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This federal program is a general education program which all students, as needed, are entitled to participate and benefit from.
A Speech/Language Pathologist provides speech and language development services to students Grades Pre-K - Grade 8 through the Planning and Placement Team (PPT)/Individualized Education Program (IEP), 504 Plan process or general education program.
When a student reaches age 14 and for each year thereafter, his/her Individualized Education Program (IEP) will include a statement of the transition services needed by that student (such as participation in vocational education classes or programs) to accommodate his/her educational needs to facilitate the student’s completion of the high school program into higher education or work. 
Vocational and Transitional Services are an integral part of facilitating and guiding the transition planning process, the career education preparation, and the vocational field experiences. These services also coordinate with post-graduation adult services which are available to students with special needs. Based on the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals, a wide variety of vocational experiences, from unpaid internships to paid employment may take place.  Assistance may be provided to students and their families as they transition from the Sterling Community School District by developing connections with appropriate education programs, training schools and state agencies.

Sterling Community School District provides a school health services program which includes placement of a registered nurse at Sterling Community School. The primary purpose of the Sterling Community School Health Services Program is to facilitate and promote optimal learning for students. Thus, the program strives to meet the following goals: 

  • To promote early identification and remediation of health problems and needs of students. 
  • To assist students to assume responsibility for their own health and to develop healthy attitudes and practices.
  • To provide health education and counseling for students, school personnel, and parents.
  • To provide health services and first aid for students and staff.
  • To promote environmental safety and awareness of hazards.
  • To maintain a liaison with health care providers and community health programs / agencies.
  • To protect the health of students and staff by preventing the outbreak and spread of communicable diseases through enforcement of health laws and school policies.
  • To promote school health services as part of the educational process. 

The goals and objectives of the School Health Services Program are based upon Connecticut State Law pertaining to school health, the policies of the Sterling Community School Board of Education, and the needs of the school population of students, faculty and staff. 

Medical advisory services are provided by the School Medical Advisor who assists with school policy and procedure development, maintains standing orders, and provides medical consultation.

School nursing services are provided on a full-time basis by the registered school nurse who helps students attain a high level of wellness and is a liaison between education and health care. The school nurse also provides a link between the school, home and community. The school nurse services include:

  • Emergency first aid care for illnesses and injuries.
  • Administration of medications and other treatments for students with special health care needs.
  • Surveillance and control of communicable diseases.
  • Screening and referral for vision, hearing, and postural abnormalities.
  • Review of health assessments and immunization status to ensure compliance with state law and school district policies. 
The Connecticut State Board of Education believes that all students are unique and are influenced by cultural, linguistic, intellectual, psychological, medical, social and economic factors. These factors create a need for a varied educational environment that provides for, and accommodates, each child’s strengths and areas of needed improvement. The Board also believes that a unified and coordinated continuum of educational opportunities and supports, designed to address individual needs, serves and benefits all students. The Board encourages the implementation of educational models that promote multiple instructional strategies which encourage and accommodate students in the general environment to the maximum extent appropriate. It is the responsibility and obligation of educators to design and provide teaching strategies, methods and materials that are suitable for each individual learner. As appropriate, a continuum of these strategies should be implemented before a child is referred to special education. However, when a child is identified as in need of special education services, he or she is entitled to access any or all of the following special education services and programs in Connecticut schools.
A continuum of adapted physical education services that provides students the opportunity to receive instruction in the least restrictive environment. The physical education teacher provides support, consultation, and collaboration for students requiring specialized instruction in their physical education classes. The physical education teacher may also provide specialized instruction for students in self-contained adapted physical education classes.
A Pre K-8 Applied Behavior Analysis program has a primary objective of supporting the special education instruction of students with autism and related disorders through the use of principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the application of the principles of learning and motivation from the science of Behavior Analysis, and the procedures and technology derived from those principles. ABA is used to modify behaviors and teach new skills. Certified personnel provide ongoing training and direct support to school staff to enhance the delivery of services using ABA methodologies, including the development and implementation of individualized instructional curricula and behavioral programs, resulting in improved student outcomes.
All students, including those with disabilities, are required to be assessed on statewide accountability measures.  These assessments can be taken with or without accommodations as determined by the IEP team. In Connecticut, students with disabilities participate in statewide assessments in grades 3-8 and in grade 10 in the high school.
Technology is a part of the instructional program for all Sterling Community School District students. Assistive Technology Services (ATS) may include the use of computers, augmentative communication devices, and adaptive technology peripherals to maximize the potential of Sterling students with disabilities. 

Behavior Intervention Services provides comprehensive behavior intervention and support to school teams for students receiving general and/or special education services. Services are provided for students Pre-K through grade 8.

Sterling Community School behavior intervention services are committed to:

  • Providing collaborative behavioral support to teachers and school teams to help build capacity to meet the needs of a broad range of students.
  • Providing professional development opportunities for school staff in the design and implementation of research based behavior strategies.
  • Assisting school teams in the development, collection and analysis of data to provide informed, effective behavioral programming for students.
  • Providing school teams with student crisis intervention support.

The Sterling Community School District Preschool Program serves children ages 3 to 4 who may have been identified as having significant developmental delays in one or more of the following areas: speech, language, fine and/or gross motor, social/emotional, vision and hearing. Children who may be in need of special education or related services are referred to Child Find for information, developmental screenings and possible referral for additional comprehensive evaluations to determine eligibility for services.

The “mission” of the early childhood identification and services is a commitment to:

  • Providing family focused services.
  • Meeting the diverse needs of our children in the most appropriate environment.
  • Building positive relationships to enhance our children’s learning.
  • Providing quality services to improve our children’s learning through the use of developmentally appropriate best practice.
  • Expanding effective collaboration throughout the Sterling community.
Extended school year (ESY) refers to special education and/or related services provided beyond the normal school year of a public agency for the purpose of providing a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with a disability in accordance with the child’s IEP, at no cost to the family. The IEP team must discuss ESY services at an initial IEP meeting and at every annual IEP meeting. Team members may also discuss ESY services through an addendum to the annual IEP if necessary. School staff members, parent(s), and/or the student may request an IEP meeting at any time to discuss ESY services. ESY services are only necessary to FAPE when the benefits a disabled child gains during the regular school year will be significantly jeopardized if the child is not provided with an educational program during breaks in instruction. 

The IEP team may consist of parents; the student, as appropriate; the special education teacher; a related-services provider; a general education teacher if the student participates or may participate in general education classes; a representative of the school system who is qualified to provide or supervise special education services; and others as requested. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Connecticut special education regulations require that an IEP contain the following:

  • A statement of the child’s present levels of academic and functional performance, as well as any concerns of the parents.
  • A statement of measurable annual goals which may also include short-term objectives.
  • A description of how the child’s progress toward meeting the annual goals will be measured, and when progress reports will be provided.
  • A statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided to the student.
  • A statement concerning the extent to which the student will participate in general education.
  • A list of required curriculum, testing, and classroom accommodations and modifications.
  • A statement concerning the extent to which a student will participate in the district-wide and statewide assessment programs and accommodations that a student will need during testing. If the student will not participate in the assessments, the IEP must indicate how the student will be assessed.
  • The date when special services and modifications will begin and the frequency, location and duration of the services.
  • A statement of needed transition services for students 14 years of age, or younger if determined by the IEP team.

As related service providers, physical and occupational therapists (assistants) in Sterling Community School District work to assure that students in special education benefit from their educational program. Therapists work closely with teachers and other members of the school team to identify and establish solutions and/or adaptations that help students to participate as fully as possible in their school settings. As team members, therapists share information and integrate their specialized knowledge in child development, motor learning and task performance to provide a unique perspective within the educational environment.

The process of developing and achieving student goals is shared among team members, and may include: teachers, therapists, parents, student, instructional aides, and other school personnel, as needed. Interventions are provided as part of the student’s daily routine in the natural setting and may include: 

  • Adapting activities naturally occurring within the student’s routine.
  • Developing opportunities for the student to practice new motor skills
  • Positioning for school task performance.
  • Monitoring of adaptive equipment.
  • Problem solving with others to encourage motor development and independence.

Therapy time includes all anticipated therapist interactions pertaining to the individual student needs such as: 

  • Consultation and collaboration.
  • Equipment and task modifications/adaptations.
  • Hands on interventions.
  • Training in implementation of interventions and equipment.

A student’s need for occupational and physical therapy services may vary over the course of their educational career, related to changes in environmental and curricular demands, as well as changes in student roles and performance requirements. Any team member may request the expertise of the occupational and/or physical therapist regarding concerns that arise within the school environment.

The focus of the speech-language pathologist in our District is to facilitate the development of effective and efficient communication skills so that students may participate as fully as possible in educational, social, and vocational interactions. Working as members of school-based teams, the speech-language pathologist participates in the prevention, identification, assessment, evaluation, eligibility determination, treatment plan development, and treatment management of those students with disorders in the areas of speech and/or language.

Speech-language services are designed and delivered in a variety of ways across multiple settings to best meet the individual student’s needs. Decisions regarding particular service delivery models are based on a variety of factors including the type and/or severity of the weakness, its impact on the student’s ability to access the curriculum and/or effectively navigate through meaningful social interactions, and integration of services with educational experiences. Our speech-language pathologist and the team with which she consults strives to provide services that are…

  • curriculum based;
  • outcome oriented;
  • integrated with educational activities;
  • diagnostic in nature, dynamic and changing as the student’s needs change;
  • based on research-proven strategies; and 
  • designed to ensure access to the student’s curriculum.

Special Services Office: +1 (860) 564-2720

Director of Special Services

Margaret Pearson

Director of Special Services

Jean Congdon

Jean Congdon

Administrative Assistant

Special Services Staff


The following publications are required to be available to parents of students receiving Special Services. If you would like a physical copy mailed to you, please contact the Special Services office at (860) 564-2720 or Main Office at (860) 564-2728 Option 1.