About Special Education Services

Welcome to Special Education Services!

The Huntsville City Schools’ Special Education Services Department provides a wide range of services and programs to meet the needs of students eligible for Special Education services.              

Special Education Services includes qualified Special Education Teachers, Speech/Language Pathologists, Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Autism Specialists, Behavior Intervention Specialist, other related services providers, and Instructional Assistants.  Together we plan and provide educational programs for students with disabilities in partnership with general education staff, administrators and parents.

We nurture individuals, who value themselves and others and provide an educational foundation that enables students to have the ability to think, communicate, create and apply their unique learning experiences throughout their lifetime. We believe that parents are a valuable and essential part of the educational process and that their aspirations for and insights about their child’s program are an integral component as we plan together for their child’s educational success.

General Information
What is Special Education?

Special education is simply specially designed instruction, provided at no cost to parents, aimed at meeting the unique needs of entitled students.  This requires school personnel to adapt the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction according to the functional abilities of a given student.  Although some students are provided alternate curriculum and specialized teaching methods, most receive special designed instruction in the form of adjustments in the frequency, intensity, or duration of instruction, the amount of content covered, the explicitness of instruction, modifications or adaptations to instructional materials, the frequency of feedback, and/or prescribed motivational or reinforcement strategies.

Disability Areas for Special Education in Alabama
  • Autism
  • Deaf-Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Emotional Disability
  • Hearing Impairments
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Multiple Disability
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment
Related Services

Related services are developmental, corrective, and other supports or services that are necessary for an entitled child to incur benefit from special education services.  These may include:

  • Assistive Technology
  • Audiological Services
  • Counseling Services
  • Hearing Impaired Services
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Orientation and Mobility Services
  • Physical Therapy
  • School Health Services
  • School Social Work Services
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

IDEA requires state and local education agencies that receive federal funding to provide all students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate education (FAPE).  School districts must identify, locate and evaluate students with disabilities to determine whether they are eligible for special education services.  When students are entitled to special education, districts must develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to meet their unique needs.  In implementing a student’s IEP, districts are obligated to educate entitled students within their least restrictive environment (LRE) or alongside typical peers to the maximum extent appropriate.

Parental Referrals

Parents who suspect that their child may be in need of additional services should confer with their child's teacher regarding their concerns and request a referral to the Problem-Solving Team (PST). If the child continues to exhibit difficulties after exhausting services and modifications in the general education program, the Problem-Solving Team (PST) and/or parents may request an assessment to determine eligibility for special education services.

Service Options

The Special Education program in the Huntsville City Schools serves students from three through twenty-one years of age. Instructional and support services are delivered by special education teachers, school psychometrist, speech language pathologists, behavior intervention specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and paraprofessionals. In compliance with federal and state law, students with disabilities are served in the least restrictive environment to the maximum extent possible. All special education students at all district schools participate as appropriate in general education classrooms. Special education services include individualized specially-designed instruction in academic skills, adaptive skills (self-help; self-advocacy, community, independent living etc.), communication and language skills, motor skills, social skills, behavior and vocational skills. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed at least annually for each special education student, and goals and objectives (where appropriate) are written based upon formal and informal testing and on-going quantitative data.

Special Education Records Notice

Public Notice:  Destruction of Special Education Records

In accordance with Federal and State regulations, Huntsville City Board of Education will give notice of intent to destroy the special education records of students who graduated and/or ended services FIVE YEARS PRIOR TO THE CURRENT YEAR.

With proof of identity, the parent, guardian, or adult student may request student files between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at the Huntsville City Board of Education Special Education Office.  These records may be needed for social security benefit applications or other purposes.

Five-year old special education files not requested by NOVEMBER of the current year, will be DESTROYED in DECEMBER of each year.

A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT will be published in the local newspaper and posted on ETV to notify the public that student files will be destroyed if not picked up.

HCS has 20 business days to release records after the request has been submitted and/or the consent for records has been signed.

If you have any questions concerning this process, please call the Special Education Office at 256-428-6872.

Continuum of Services

The Huntsville City Schools will provide a full continuum of services and placements for eligible individuals from age 3 to 21, including preschool. The Huntsville City School’s continuum of services will include the placement options found on the Continuum of Services page.

Special Education Mandates
Child Find

States and districts are required to ensure that all children in need of special education services are identified, evaluated, and entitled.

What is Child Find?

Child Find is a statewide effort by the Alabama State Department of Education and the Department of Rehabilitation Services to locate, identify, and evaluate children with disabilities from birth to age 21.

How Does Child Find Work?

Early Intervention and Special Education Services work closely with community service agencies, parents, and local school systems to locate children with disabilities.

Why Is Child Find Important?

It helps the child, the family, and the provider to plan appropriate services and link families to services for students meeting eligibility requirements.

What Are Early Intervention Services?

Early Intervention Services from birth to age 3 are identified through the Early Intervention Program.  For information about these services, contact Wendy Pittard at 256-650-1727 or Jackie Criswell at 256-650-1723.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

Free means at no cost to parents.  Appropriateness is based on: (a) compliance with specific procedural requirements regarding the development/implementation of IEPs and 9b) whether the IEP is “reasonably calculated” to confer “educational benefits.”

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Presumes that student will be in the general classroom, with supports, from the outset, unless it is determined that the child cannot benefit from the general curriculum.

To the maximum extent possible, students with disabilities are provided the opportunity to be educated with age-appropriate non-disabled peers and receive all necessary supports and services to benefit from their educational program.

All services are provided in the Least Restrictive Environment, usually at the student’s home school in collaboration with the general education program.  However, some services and programs are only available at specified schools throughout the District and may require enrollment at a designated site. 

Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)

An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a written document, developed in collaboration between educators and parents, that describes the entitled child’s abilities and needs, and explains the placement and services that will be provided to meet the child’s unique needs.

After receiving parent consent, qualified staff will conduct an assessment. An Individualized Educational Planning team, which includes parent participation, will meet to review the assessment information, determine eligibility, develop appropriate educational goals and objectives and identify the services that are needed to address the goals and objectives.  The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is reviewed at least annually with the parent and team members.

Due Process

Procedures to guarantee parent involvement and challenge the school system when parents disapprove of decisions.


Improving educational results and functional outcomes for students with disabilities through a systematic approach to progress monitoring, intervention design and implementation, and data-based decision making.

Program Options
Early Childhood Programming

The early childhood program is intended to provide all students in the program with a high quality comprehensive curriculum, which is adapted to meet the individual needs of both the special education students, and their general education peers. Preschool students learn best through meaningful play experiences. The program utilizes instructional practices that promote developmentally appropriate learning centers as well as small and large instructional groups.

All students involved in the program gain from their interactions with peers. The general education students, as well as their special education peers, learn, grow and play side-by-side in a caring and nurturing environment. The program provides a caring and supportive environment where all students are treated as equals and are provided with the same opportunities to learn and play with each other. Students will learn to respect and value all people.

Resource Program (Available K-12)

Programming consists of supplemental instruction up to 45 minutes daily per goal area. Instruction follows grade level benchmarks with some accommodations and modifications to the general education curriculum. The focus of the program is to support academic, independence or social skills within the grade level curriculum and provide direct instruction in goal areas. Instruction will be provided to entitled individuals in general and/or special education classrooms.

Academic Skills Program (Available K-12)

Programming consists of moderate supplemental instruction beyond 60 minutes in at least one goal area. Instruction may include modified or alternate grade level benchmarks. The program will focus on improving academic performance, particularly in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics, personal independence and self-advocacy skills, and/or social skills that are not addressed in the grade level curriculum. Instruction may occur in the general education or special education setting, and consist of large group, small group or one-to-one student teacher interactions.

Functional Skills Program (Available var. Elementary, P-8, Middle, & All High School)

Programing consists of significant supplemental instruction beyond 60 minutes in multiple goal areas. Instruction typically includes alternative grade level benchmarks and the focus of the program is to improve communication, daily living or independence skills. Most instruction is provided in the special education classroom with social activities and some academic activities in the general setting.

The functional skills program will help students develop the following skills: general academics, communication, social, life, self-help, community mobility, transition, goal setting and work experience.

Behavioral Skills Program Elementary (SOAR)

Programming consists of a moderate to significant behavior plan with specialized instruction beyond 60 minutes in behavioral goal areas. Behavior instruction typically includes grade level benchmarks and positive behavior skills training that are not explicitly taught in the general education setting. The focus of the program is to improve social skills and decrease problematic behaviors. Instruction is provided special education classroom and during transition time-frame, in both the Special education and regular education classroom.

Behavioral Skills Program Secondary (LEAP)

Programming consists of a moderate to significant behavior plan with specialized instruction in behavioral goal areas. Behavior instruction typically includes grade level benchmarks and positive behavior skills training that are not explicitly taught in the general education setting. The focus of the program is to improve social skills, self-advocacy skills, independence skills, positive peer and adult relationships and positive decision making; as well as generalizing positive behaviors into the general education setting and community.

High School Transition Program (Project Search)

Project SEARCH originated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996 as a program to teach career-readiness job skills to young adults with special needs. Locally, Project SEARCH is a partnership between Huntsville Hospital, the ARC of Madison County, Vocational Rehabilitation Services (a division of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation) and Huntsville City Schools.

At Huntsville Hospital, Project SEARCH interns complete three rotations that are 10 weeks each. The ultimate goal of the program is to prepare interns for employment within the hospital or elsewhere in the community.

High School Transition Program

Students with disabilities participate in community-based education to learn the academic, social, and vocational skills necessary for success in today's society. The Transition Program ensures a seamless transition from school to independent adult life for students with disabilities who need continuing employment and agency supports, as well as community and life skills training.  It is our intent, that students, upon exiting the program, will have full or part time employment in a vocation of their choosing.  They will function independently in the community and in the home to the best of their abilities and will contribute positively to their family and to their community.

Home Bound Instruction

Students, ages 3-21, receive specially-designed instruction at home due to medical, physical, emotional, or behavioral needs or students who have been suspended or expelled from their school receive specially-designed instruction as per their IEP team.

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