Overview

Erie 1 BOCES Special Education provides programs which are designed for students with disabilities whose instructional needs cannot be appropriately served by their local school district.  Special education classes, for students ages 5-21, are hosted within our component school districts. 

 A team effort by related services itinerant professionals supports the classroom teacher in meeting the demands of the New York State Common Core Learning Standards.  The following itinerant services are provided, based on the student’s IEP:  speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, itinerant hearing services, itinerant vision services and social work counseling.

Special programs exist to specifically meet the needs of students with autism, behavior disorders and students who have previously not been successful in a traditional public school setting.  Transition services are an important part of the curriculum for all Special Education students.  Students have an opportunity to participate in a simulated workshop and in community internships.

For all students, learning is based on the New York State Common Core Learning Standards.

Special Education
Pacers Program Pumps Up Muscles and Spirits

Swimming pool noodles and plastic bottles filled with colored water are the humble tools building strength and flexibility for students in Erie 1 BOCES Pacers Program.

Physical therapist Dr. Kirsten Norman and her assistants utilize a special education exercise program that was created in Texas in 1992, when a special education preschool teacher asked her school’s physical therapist, Tim Erson, to design a way to introduce fitness as a life skill to her students. The local program, formally known as Courageous Pacers, became the subject of a book and was embraced nationwide.

Pacers kids meet on Monday and Wednesday afternoons at the Erie 1 BOCES Learning Center in West Seneca. The program was run for some time by Erie 1 BOCES physical therapist Deborah Robida, with Kirsten Norman taking the reins this year. Norman said besides affordability, there’s sound science behind the colorful bottles and noodles.

“The focus is on strengthening and flexibility, and there’s also a walking component,” she said. “It’s cool for them to use something that has more of a sensory input to it. It’s better that using something boring that adults may like. For the kids, it helps them to use something that has other benefits from using colors and textures.”

The number of students participating varies, as teachers treat participation as a reward to be earned through good behavior. That fact shines through in the enthusiasm shown by the kids.

“You can see that the kids look forward to it,” Norman said. “They’re excited to hear music and some of them know it’s a reward that they earn if they have good behavior. It’s nice to see when they get excited. They’re looking at you and you just say one cue and they start doing it and it’s nice to see how responsive they can be to the program. Some of them love it so much that you’ll see actions that show they know what exercise is coming next.”

Norman noted that a team of classroom aides and personal aides help out during the 15-minute Pacer session, encouraging the kids and knowing them well enough to give the kind of cues they need to more fully participate.

Beyond the bottles and noodles, Robida also established a weight room in the boys’ locker room using donated equipment, which Norman said has been a boon to older kids who want to do more than the basic props allow.

“They need more endurance and strengthening, so we have a weight machine, a treadmill and an elliptical. That’s great that we can use that for therapy or if a kid has a lot of sensory needs, sometimes doing something like treadmill or weights gives them that deep pressure (exercise) and helps them to relax. It gets their blood flowing and exercise makes you feel good.”

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