Students with Special Needs Take Step Toward Equal Access to Technology

The state Senate will be considering a bill that would make it possible for nonpublic schools to include technology-based learning materials in the curriculum for students with special needs. The bill recently passed the state Assembly (76-0) with unanimous bipartisan support.

Introduced by Assembly Member Joe Coto (D-San Jose), AB 1742 will expand the kinds of “technology” permitted in the classroom for students with special needs who attend nonpublic schools. Working with Representative Coto, staff and students from Spectrum Center Schools and Programs presented the bill to the California State Legislature to demonstrate their public support for its adoption.

“Nonpublic schools, such as Spectrum, serve an important role in California’s education system by providing specialized instruction and support for students with special learning needs,” Coto, a former public school teacher and superintendent said. “Technology continues to evolve into a powerful learning tool to help students with autism and other special needs advance academically, and it is vital that students with special needs who attend nonpublic schools in our state have access to the same resources as their peers. As a leader in special education, Spectrum Center and its students should be commended for advocating on behalf of all students in California.”

The California State PTA has officially taken a support position on the bill, which provides an opportunity for nonpublic, nonsectarian schools to incorporate the use of technology when customizing teaching strategies and curriculum for students with special needs such as autism spectrum disorders, pervasive developmental disorders and developmental delays. In other states, technology-based learning tools have been shown to help students learn skills for use in future jobs and in independent living.

The bill supplements AB 1398, signed into law last year, which defined technology-based materials to include electronic equipment if used as a learning resource. AB 1742 will encourage nonpublic, nonsectarian schools to incorporate technology-based materials, as defined in AB 1398, into the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of students with special needs, when appropriate and permitted by the school district.

“Many of our students with special needs have trouble accessing information through traditional means, because text in book-based materials may be difficult to process or because their challenges make reading and writing difficult,” said Amy Crye, Assistant Vice President of Autism Services for Spectrum Center Schools and Programs. “This initiative will provide a new way for our students to access their curriculum materials so they have as many opportunities as their peers receive in a traditional classroom.”

Spectrum Center’s state-certified nonpublic schools and public school integrated collaborative classrooms provide special education services to students ages five to 22 with a wide array of special needs, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), developmental delays, behavioral challenges, pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) and emotional disturbance.