Wilton sees increase in students with disabilities

There was an increased number of Wilton public school students with disabilities this year, according to the 2017-18 year-end summary of the Wilton Public School District’s student services department.

The annual report, prepared by Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Andrea Leonardi, Assistant Director of Special Services Sharon DeAngelo and several instructional leaders, outlines services provided by the district, as well as some statistics on students serviced by the department.

This school year, 615 Wilton public school students were classified as having some sort of disability, reflecting a 30-student increase over last year. This number breaks down as follows:

  • Learning disability: 188.

  • OHI-ADD/ADHD: 115.

  • Autism: 102.

  • Speech/language: 50.

  • Emotional disturbance: 41.

  • Dyslexia: 33.

  • Other health impairment: 33.

  • Developmental delay: 20.

  • Multiple disabilities: 17.

  • Intellectual disability: 10.

  • Hearing impairment: 6.

Wilton’s public schools provide accommodations and services to students with disabilities who require special instruction under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or be eligible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Section 504 is a civil rights statute in the Rehabilitation Act that requires “the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met,” according to greatschools.org.

According to the year-end report, there were 35 more Wilton public school students with 504 Accommodation Plans, also known as Section 504 plans, this year than there were last year — 288 in 2017-18 versus 253 in 2016-17.

Here’s a breakdown of Wilton public school students with 504 plans this year:

  • Preschool: 2.

  • Miller-Driscoll: 16.

  • Cider Mill: 44.

  • Middlebrook: 66.

  • Wilton High School: 160.

Eligibility for special education and related services is determined by a Planning and Placement Team (PPT), consisting of district professional staff members and students’ parents or guardians. There were 1,652 PPTs in the district in 2017-18, according to the report, compared to 1,632 last year.

Environments and services

According to the report, in preschool through 12th grade — and sometimes until age 21 — students’ instructional environments can range from general education with or without paraprofessional support to day programs in specialized out-of-district schools.

More students were outplaced this school year than last year, with outplacements ranging from 30 to 33 this year compared to 26 to 30 last year. Both this year and last, high school students accounted for the majority of outplacements.

According to the year-end report, the number of outplacements this year was seven more than the 25 projected outplacements for 2017-18.

Here’s a breakdown of the number of district outplacements each month during the 2017-18 school year:

  • September: 30.

  • October: 30.

  • November: 31.

  • December: 31.

  • January: 31.

  • February: 30.

  • March: 32.

  • April: 33.

  • May: 33.

  • June: 33.

There was an increased number of students receiving homebound instruction this year, according to the report — from 14 in 2016-17 to 17 in 2017-18.

Students receiving homebound instruction typically include “students who cannot access their instruction at school because of medical conditions” and students who “would be unable to come to school because of a disciplinary issue,” the district’s former assistant superintendent of special services, Ann Paul, told the Board of Education last year.

Ten of the students receiving homebound instruction this year did so for medical reasons, six for social, emotional or behavioral reasons, and one for disciplinary reasons like suspension or expulsion.

According to the report, the school district provides “additional services” to students with disabilities, designed to maximize their access to the curriculum and participation in school activities; as well as “related services” that range from speech/language, occupational and physical therapies to special transportation and specialized equipment.

Preschool enrollment

The school district saw a year-over-year increase in preschool special education students this year. The district’s monthly preschool special education enrollment in 2017-18 was:

  • September: 29.

  • October: 34.

  • November: 36.

  • December: 33.

  • January: 37.

  • February: 42.

  • March: 45.

  • April: 49.

  • May: 46.

  • June: 48.

In the 2016-17 school year, it was:

  • September: 23.

  • October: 24.

  • November: 25.

  • December: 26.

  • January: 26.

  • February: 26.

  • March: 29.

  • April: 34.

  • May: 33.

The year-end report did not provide enrollment information for June 2017.

At the preschool level, children are served in integrated classrooms and through “‘itinerant’ support services,” which means they receive therapies instead of full programs.

For the last three years, special education students have outnumbered “peer model” students in Wilton’s preschool program.

FERPA requests

As part of its ongoing initiative, the student services department has been focused on support for staff responding to requests for records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) — a time-consuming and sometimes challenging task, as Paul explained to the Board of Education last year.

According to the 2017-18 year-end report, the Wilton Public School District responded to 47 FERPA requests during the 2017-18 school year — 23 fewer than last year.

Click here to view the full 2017-18 year-end report.