Learning and Information for Families and Educators
A comprehensive, research based resource for families and educators of individuals with disabilities.
Exceptional Children Achieving Exceptional Results
301 Camp Meeting Rd.
Sewickley, PA 15143
At The Harry S. Tack Education Center at the Sewickley Campus, Watson offers an approved private school that is licensed to serve children ages 3 to 21 with autism, cerebral palsy, neurological impairments and other developmental disabilities.
The Education Center currently has 21 classrooms staffed by a special education teacher and two paraprofessionals. The staff to student ratio is approximately 1:2. Each classroom team consists of the teacher, paraprofessionals and related service professionals. Service professionals available to the classroom include speech and language therapists, occupational and physical therapists, teachers of the visually impaired, social workers, behavior specialists and a school nurse.
Additionally, there are three "special" classes: art, music, library and adapted physical education. These classrooms are staffed by a teacher certified in their respective content area. A paraprofessional is assigned to each special classroom as well. A contracted music therapist provides music on a weekly basis.
The Education Center utilizes Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as a core component of programming. ABA is a systematic process that examines behavior using principles grounded in science: observation, testing and objectivity. ABA is a framework within which students are taught appropriate behaviors using positive reinforcement and manipulation of a child's environment. Behavior is viewed from a functional perspective. By understanding the function of the behavior(s), one can then develop strategies and teach alternate appropriate behaviors or new skills that the child needs in order to interact with the world.
In the classroom, ABA involves the physical arrangement of the environment: clearly identified areas, such as work, computer, group, etc. A predictable schedule for the classroom and each student is important. Teachers plan daily objectives that lead toward established goals as well as specific activities that help students master their goals. Staff use task analysis or the breaking down of skills into smaller parts. Classrooms also have guidelines or rules. The rules about rules: make as few as possible, be specific and make sure students understand the relationship between the rules and the consequences. Stating rules in a positive manner is important and preferable when possible. These are all examples of ways to implement the principles of ABA in actual classrooms and learning environments.
TEACCH or the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children is a model also utilized at The Education Center. This model places emphasis on individualized assessments, creating programs around each child's skills, interests and needs. Structured teaching incorporates visual strategies, schedules, independent work stations and the structuring of the physical environment to help support the students' needs and communicate clear instructions and expectations for the students. TEACCH is a broad-based program that addresses work skills, communication, social and leisure skills.
Speech/language pathologists at The Education Center support the development of communication skills and language throughout every aspect of a student's school day. The goal is to maximize language in those ongoing, everyday situations and to increase a student's functional communication skills. Their expertise supports and guides many of the diagnostic and educational decisions made about a student's communication needs.
After gathering input from the student, family, team and other professionals involved with the student, our speech/language pathologist will design an appropriate augmentative communication system for a student. This could include such things as:
Services may be provided in individual sessions or in group settings: in a classroom, a therapy room, life skills settings or other areas. Most importantly they should be provided in locations where the skills taught will be used. "Pull out" therapy is used for a limited time when the student needs to learn new skills which cannot be taught in the classroom. As soon as possible, work on these skills will be transferred into the classroom and the day-to-day environment. It is important to know that all staff work on a student's communication goals throughout the day.
Other techniques such as Sensory Integration, therapeutic Listening, Discrete trial and Verbal Behavior are also incorporated as part of educational programming. The Education center strives to provide students with the necessary skills and support that allow them to be as independent as possible within both the school and community environments.
Additional components of the program include: Community Based Instruction, a service that allows students to participate in different activities and tasks that help them practice skills outside of the school environment. The campus provides opportunities for students to experience pre-vocational and vocational work samples that encourage building/practicing of skills needed for life after graduation. Students also visit and practice skills at various community sites.
The Integration Program seeks to provide opportunities for students to participate and interact with typical peers outside The Education Center. Students participate in preschool programs, local library programs and specific classes within local school districts. This collaboration has proven to be beneficial for all involved. It can sometimes serve as a "stepping stone" to transition to a less restrictive setting (LRE).
Overall, the goal for each student is to reach his or her potential, develop skills that will increase and create independence, and provide a strong foundation for continued success after leaving the Education Center.
The Education Center is accredited by The National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Services (NCASES), a subsidiary of The National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC), a non-profit association whose mission is to represent private special education centers and their leaders. NAPSEC promotes high quality programs for individuals with disabilities and their families and advocates for access to the continuum of alternative placements and services.
The NCASES accreditation process uniquely addresses the programs of private special education providers and the populations they serve. The process welcomes diversity and recognizes the importance of evaluating services based on the purpose, objectives, and ability to meet the needs of the populations served by private special education providers.