Special Needs Programs

More than ever before, Catholic schools are seeking ways to effectively address the learning differences and the myriad special needs of students that affect learning. Some special needs are directly related to learning. Others have a different focus, but nevertheless have a significant impact on learning. Whether a school can address a specific special need depends upon the extent it can make adjustments in the instructional process, the resources it has available, and the obligation to balance the individual and the common good.

The goal of addressing special needs should be to enable students to more successfully learn the regular curriculum of the school in the regular classroom setting. For nearly 15 years, the Catholic Education Center has recommended the learning consultant model as the most effective way to address special needs directly related to the learning process. The learning consultant works primarily with classroom teachers to help them understand the special learning needs of specific students and to help them design or select alternative instructional methods, materials, or activities that hold promise of meeting those needs.

The care team model is recommended by the Catholic Education Center as the most effective way to address those students with special needs which have a primary focus other than learning. A care team consists of teachers, administrators, and other knowledgeable persons that work together to collect and analyze information, identify the nature of the special need, and generate possible solutions to address them. The care team model encourages a united effort to increase academic and behavioral performance through consistent implementation of strategies. It also assists students and families with accessing support services outside the school.

The care team model can be effective in addressing needs related to learning in school circumstances where it is not feasible to establish a learning consultant position. In these situations, the care team also functions as a teacher support team by assisting teachers with the design and implementation of instructional modifications. A comprehensive approach to addressing special needs would include a care team and a learning consultant, with the learning consultant serving as the facilitator or as a member of the care team.

The Catholic Education Center has published a manual that gives guidance to schools seeking to implement a learning consultant model for addressing special learning needs. In addition, schools have been provided with a manual that includes information on the mission of addressing special needs, policies and procedures, educational approaches, and professional and community resources.

For additional information contact:

Dr. Cathy Johns
Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Catholic Education Center
20 Archbishop May Drive
St. Louis MO 63119