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Disability Awareness Icons

October is National Disabilities Awareness Month

To further provide information to families in regards to the services that the school district offers to students with special needs, Erin Trussell, Director of OKCPS Special Education, provided answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic.


What is considered a disability?

“A child with a disability means a child evaluated as having an intellectual disability, a hearing impairment (including deafness), a speech or language  impairment, a visual impairment (including blindness), a serious emotional disturbance (referred to in this part as “emotional disturbance”), an orthopedic impairment, autism, traumatic brain injury, another health impairment, a specific learning disability, deaf-blindness, or multiple disabilities, and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services. If it is determined, through an appropriate evaluation that a child has one of the disabilities, but only needs a related service and not special education, the child is not a child with a disability. If the related service required by the child is considered special education rather than a related service under State standards, the child would be determined to be a child with a disability.”


What are some of the legal rights that parents and students with disabilities have?

“Like any other citizen, they have numerous rights. But as the parent(s) of a child who is receiving or may be eligible for special education and related services, they have certain rights according to State and federal laws. These rights and procedural safeguards are in accordance with Federal Law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004. Rights include but are not limited to communicating in a language that the parent is able to understand, written notices, parental consent, evaluations, education records and personally identifiable information, and more.”

To see a complete and detailed list, please visit


Does OKCPS hire individuals with disabilities?

“Yes, absolutely. OKCPS does not discriminate, but instead works with the individual to make sure that they have everything they need to be successful in their job.”


What programs does OKCPS offer for students with disabilities?

“Each elementary school has a lab/resource room where students are pulled for their services based on their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Some of our buildings have specialty programs for students who need more services. These programs serve students in the areas of Autism, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, and Emotional Disturbance. These services are also determined by the IEP team.

All of our secondary schools have a lab/resource room as well as a self-contained room for students needing more services in either Emotional Disturbance or Intellectual Disabilities. Some of our buildings have specialty programs for Autism and Multiple Disabilities.”


How does the district serve and accommodate students with disabilities to make sure that they learn their academics and are treated fairly?

“Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability including instruction in the classroom, at home, hospitals, institutions, and other settings. Specially designed instruction means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible student, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction to:

        (1) Address the unique needs of the student that result from his or her disability; and

        (2) To ensure access to the general curriculum so that the student can meet the academic standards that apply to all students. All services and accommodations are determined by the IEP team when writing the child’s IEP. There is no “one size fits all” list of what services a school must provide to students. Services are meant to be individual and specific to the child. The school’s responsibility is to give the student a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).”


Is Down syndrome considered a disability? How does OKCPS help identify students with Down syndrome or any other disability?

“A parent of a child or a public agency may begin an initial evaluation to determine if a child is a child with a disability.  Down Syndrome is a condition in which a third copy of the 21st chromosome causes limited cognitive ability and developmental delays. In the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, there is not a specific category for those students who have Down Syndrome.  Every evaluation must be sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the student’s special education needs, whether or not commonly linked to the disability category being considered for the student. If the student is found eligible for special education services, this information translates into the present levels of academic achievement and functional performance and forms the basis for making decisions in the IEP.” 


What are some external resources available to families who have children with disabilities? What are some of the resources available for students with disabilities?

“There are many resources available, and we have several in Oklahoma, including the following:

Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services

Oklahoma Parents Center

Oklahoma Office of Disability Concerns

Oklahoma Able Tech

Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma

Autism Society of Central Oklahoma  

J.D. McCarty Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities

Keyes Speech and Hearing Center

Learning Disabilities Association of Oklahoma




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