Students with learning disabilities at San Gabriel High School are under a special education program implemented in 1975 by the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which provided support for people who required more care due to their disabilities. In 2004, the act was modified to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal special education law, funding schools to ensure special-ed students receive an education equal to that of a regular student.
“[SGHS] serves students with a wide range of disabilities including autism, visual/auditory processing disabilities, emotional disabilities, and attention deficit disorders,” special education teacher Andrew Bitterolf said.
In special education, the students are put under two class settings: collaboration and Special Day Class (SDC). Collaboration classes consist of special education students in a general education class. Maria Arroyo, an orthopedically handicapped assistant for 17 years in the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD), goes to class with her student every school day. She prepares the work in advance so that it is easier for her student to learn the lesson.
“I go to class with him and sit right next to him. I set up all the work [and] if he’s tired, I write for him,” Arroyo said.
Instructional aids stick to their students from transferring class to class to being in the room with them. They make sure that the students are equipped and ready to learn.
“[My aid] gives me more confidence helps me to be better person, because talking to an aid helps me open up to people. It opens up your mind to understand their life and see what their choices molded them to be a person. Having an aid is having a guardian with you all the time,” senior Bruce Hernandez said.
A SDC class is designated to have instructional specialists and assistants to facilitate students with special needs. The number of students is smaller so teachers are able to spend more time with each student and accommodate their needs. Lora Pfister, an Instructional Aide for AUSD since 2010, helps special education students through explaining assignments or working directly with them.
“It is easier to concentrate [in SDC] than if it’s with 20 other people,” Jessica* said. “If you need help, the aids and teachers are down to help you real quick. They don’t judge you.”
In a typical classroom, a teacher looks over a class of 20 to 30 students and the amount of attention and devotion is lessened. Students with disabilities do not receive enough help needed in order for them to learn the materials, inhibiting their learning process and abilities to do well.
“With the classrooms I’m in, I’m able to see that the school has enough resources to help students who need special care in order for them to learn as well as a regular student,” Pfister said.
Under IDEA, the district must have a special education program and within the program, every student has an Individualized Education Plan, a document that explains the educational services they will receive, to focus on their academic goal each year. Arroyo, Bitterolf, and Pfister believe that the AUSD “has the resources to effectively address the needs of our students with disabilities.”