Special Services

The Special Services Office works collaboratively with school and District leaders, teachers, students, and families to provide the tools, guidance, supports, and services needed to ensure access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities.

Families are important partners in educating and preparing Cumberland students for a successful future. Our office looks forward to partnering with you as we strive to assist students to become life ready, college ready, and/or career ready with 21st century skills.

What is Special Education?

Special Education is specialized instruction provided for children from ages 3 through 22 who qualify according to the laws and regulations outlined by the State of Rhode Island and federal government. A student may qualify for special education services as an individual with special needs in one of twelve areas identified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004).

These are:

  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing
  • Deaf-Blind
  • Visually Impaired
  • Speech-Language Impaired
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Multiple Handicapped
  • Orthopedically Impaired
  • Other Health Impaired
  • Mentally Retarded
  • Emotionally Disturbed
  • Autism
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

The Special Education Process

If your child is demonstrating a pattern of serious difficulty in school and frequently exhibits learning problems, consideration of Special Education may be considered. Below is a general outline of the process:

Referral and Identification

  • A referral may come from a parent, teacher, physician, or building administrator.  If you suspect that your child has a disability you should contact your child’s classroom teacher, school counselor or building administrator to discuss further.


  • If your child is referred to the Evaluation Team for evaluation, the team will review all pertinent data to determine if further evaluation is needed to assist with determining if your child has a disability.  If your child is determined to require further evaluations, evaluations will be completed within 60 calendar days of receiving your authorization to conduct evaluations.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

  • Upon reviewing the results of evaluations, the Evaluation Team will determine if your child is eligible as a student with a disability who requires specialized instruction from a special educator under one of the twelve eligibility categories.  If your child is eligible for special education services an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be developed by the IEP team. The IEP team consists of the parents/guardians, a school administrator, a special education teacher, the child’s general education teacher, and other special education staff as determined by the team. During the IEP, annual goals are developed to help the student progress in the general education curriculum. Parents must give approval prior to placement and services beginning.

IEP Review

  • Your child’s program will be reviewed by the IEP team at least annually to determine progress in meeting established goals and to determine new goals as appropriate.


Common Evaluations in Special Education

Educational Evaluation

Educational Evaluations are used to determine the student’s general knowledge in the areas of reading, writing, and mathematics.  Educational evaluations are administered by Special Educators in a one-on-one test setting with the student.  Often one Educational test battery is used to gather this information; however, additional subtests may be administered to gain more detailed information about a student’s profile of strengths and needs.  The selection of evaluation tools is determined by the Special Educator conducting the evaluation.  Common educational tests include the Woodcock-Johnson (general educational battery), Key Math, Gray Oral Reading, and the Test of Written Language (TOWL).

Psychological Evaluation

A comprehensive psychological evaluation is used to develop a multi-faceted picture of how a student thinks, learns, and approaches new information.  This may consist of a number of evaluation procedures including test batteries, rating scales, observations, and interviews.  The selection of evaluation tools is determined by the School Psychologist conducting the evaluation.  Common components of psychological evaluations include:

Cognitive Batteries – A battery of tests administered one-on-one with a student to measure general intellectual functioning (e.g., Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-WISC, Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-WIAT, the Stanford-Binet, WISC Non-Verbal)

Memory Battery– A battery of tests that is administered one-on-one with a student to assess memory ability as well as attention and concentration (e.g. Wide-Range Assessment of Memory and Learning- WRAML)

Measures of Social and Emotional Functioning – Rating scales given to parents, teachers, and/or the child that measure numerous aspects of behavior and personality.  This may include symptoms of Inattention, Hyperactivity, Depression, Anxiety, trouble with interpersonal relationships, and self-reliance.  Scales include the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children (BASC), the Conners, and the Children’s’ Depression Index (CDI).

Measures of Executive Functioning – Rating scales given to parents and/or teachers that measure executive functioning (a collection of processes that are responsible for guiding, directing, and managing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functions, particularly during active, novel problem solving).  This helps determine a child’s ability to in areas such as inhibiting impulsive behaviors, organizing materials, and planning long term projects (e.g., the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning-BRIEF)

Measures of Adaptive Skills – Rating scales given to parents and/or teachers that provide a picture of adaptive skills across the lifespan and look at areas such as communication, community use, functional academics, school and home living, health and safety, leisure, self-care, self-direction, and social skills (e.g., the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System- ABAS)

Interviews – May be conducted with teachers, parents, and/or the student

Observations – May take place in a number of settings such as the classroom, cafeteria, and school-wide activities

Social History

The Social History consists of an interview with one or both of a student’s parents or guardians and the School Social Worker.  This interview is used to gather background information about the student including family history (e.g., members of the family, where the family has lived), environmental or family stressors, and the student’s early development and medical history.  Parents also provide their perception of their child’s academic and social abilities.

Clinical Psychological Evaluation

At times, a more comprehensive psychological assessment may be necessary to gain a better understanding of a child’s functioning in school.  In these instances, a Clinical Psychological evaluation is requested.  These evaluations are completed by a licensed Clinical Psychologist.  The psychologist will often interview parents, teachers, and/or the student, observe the student, and review the school’s files.  Occasionally, additional evaluations (e.g., test batteries or rating scales) may be completed.

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