Special Education

Special Education 2017-10-24T13:25:32+00:00

In keeping with the mandate from IDEA, Williamson County Special Education seeks to provide the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for all students. This means the door to schools, classrooms, and school activities are open to every student and they are afforded every opportunity to be included with their non-disabled peers. A continuum of services is available for each student based on the IEP team decision on the placement of those services – either in general education or special education setting. The focus is on giving each student the help he/she needs to learn.

We Believe . . . .

  • All individuals are important and valued
  • All individuals have unique needs and abilities
  • All individuals can learn and succeed
  • All situations are unique
  • All individuals deserve a safe educational environment
  • All individuals have access to all services
  • All members of the community impact the learning experience of all individuals
  • All individuals have access to training to increase knowledge and skills
  • All individuals develop to their fullest potential when educators, parents, students and the community work together, thus providing a seamless learning environment



Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act there are specific criteria for special education eligibility. There are also specific criteria for eligibility for special education under the Tennessee Department of Special Education. The link below provides a list of disability categories for the State of Tennessee.

List of Eligible Disabilities


Students receiving special education services (IEPs) are enrolled using the same enrollment process as that used for students who do not receive special education services. Parents must enroll new students at their zoned school. Parents are asked to contact their zoned school as early as possible in the enrollment process so that an IEP meeting can be scheduled. Providing the receiving school with current special education paperwork including the current IEP, Eligibility Determination, and current assessments is helpful as plans are made to determine appropriate special education services in our district.


The link below provides information about the special education process for evaluation, eligibility, and IEP development.

Special Education Process Information

“Connecting Special and Gifted Education Families, Educators, and the Community in Williamson County”

Williamson County Schools is dedicated to working hand-in-hand with parents and families across the district. wcsLink is our Special Education parent organization that works collaboratively with our Student Support Services department to create supportive relationships between home and school. wcsLink sponsors several initiatives including seminars/training sessions, information fairs, opportunities for collegial conversations with district administrators and a structure for supporting parents of students with special needs and giftedness. For additional information and/or to become involved in this group, please access the brochure link below.


Assistive Technology is defined as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device” (Tech Act of 1990). This would include “ any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that increases, maintains, or improves functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Tech Act of 1990). The Williamson County Schools Assistive Technology provides assessment, training and equipment for students with special needs.

Assistive Technology Services Include:

  • Individual student assessment
  • Classroom consultation
  • Equipment trials and set up for individual students
  • Implementation of individualized software programs to adapt the curriculum
  • Maintenance of a lending library of equipment and software
  • Staff and parent training for individual student needs
  • Staff development

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.
A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of an individual’s abilities and behaviors. Parental (and caregiver) and/or teachers’ input and developmental history are important components of making an accurate diagnosis.

There are many differences between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination, or school evaluation, of a disability. A medical diagnosis is made by a physician based on an assessment of symptoms and diagnostic tests. A medical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, for instance, is most frequently made by a physician according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychological Association (2013). This manual guides physicians in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder according to a specific number of symptoms.

An educational determination, by contrast, is made by a multidisciplinary evaluation team comprised of various school professionals. The evaluation results are reviewed by a team of qualified professionals and the parents to determine whether a student qualifies for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Source: Autism Society of America

An educational evaluation for autism will include:

  • Parent interview
  • Behavior observations
  • Physiological and neurological information from a licensed physician, pediatrician, or neurologist
  • Evaluation of speech/language, communication, cognitive, developmental, adaptive behavior, and social skills
  • Documentation of how autism adversely affects educational performance in the general education classroom

Williamson County Schools is proud to have Autism Consultants on staff. These consultants serve as support to the educational staff and families of students with autism. Additional roles include observing students, providing professional development and support for staff, developing behavioral goals and plans, assisting with student transitions, and providing information to families.

Williamson County is fortunate to have system wide Behavior Specialists who work with school teams in each school. Behavior Specialists are a member of the support team, but do not work directly with students.

If a student is displaying behavior that is not responding to the school wide support plan, then the student’s team will meet, along with the parent, to look at a more individualized approach. This team will typically include the teacher, the school psychologist, an administrator and any other supporting staff members. The Behavior Specialist may or may not be invited to join the team at this point. Many times, simple changes to instructional approaches or a change to the classroom environment will help the child respond in more appropriate ways. If not, the Behavior Specialist will be asked to join the student support team. At some point the team may decide that a Functional Behavior Assessment is needed. This is a process that is employed to determine the function of the student’s behavior; or why he/she does what they do. It is a methodical approach to determine what reinforces the behavior or what makes it worthwhile for the student. After gathering the information, the team will create a Behavior Intervention Plan, which is a very systematic approach to support the student in shaping more appropriate or desired behaviors. Behavior Specialists assist school teams in developing intervention strategies, ways to teach and reinforce new skills, as well as how to collect the data to make future decisions.

Behavior Specialists believe that behavior, whether appropriate or not, serves a purpose and is another form of communication. They are committed to make every child in Williamson County successful and productive.

Under the Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2007, students ages 3-5 who are identified to have a disability and require special education, can be served by the public school. Under Child Find, a child is referred to the Williamson County Schools for initial screening by the parent through the family’s pediatrician, or medical specialist, a day care or preschool, a private agency, or through TEIS (Tennessee Early Intervention System) who serves young infants and toddlers who have been identified to have disability and are between the ages of birth to 3. Once the child find referral and screening process is completed in the public school with the family and child, the child may then be referred for additional formal evaluation if appropriate to determine the need for special education. A multidisciplinary team of professionals may evaluate your child. The team could include some or all of the following: school psychologist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, special education teacher, and vision or hearing consultant. Once the evaluation is completed, the family with the rest of the evaluation team meets to determine eligibility for special education based on the criteria of the Tennessee State Department of Special Education. If appropriate, an Individualized Education Plan to support the child’s needs is developed collaboratively with all family and team member’s input.
Early intervention services in the Williamson County Schools are a continuum of services. The individualized education planning team determines the appropriate supports and services for the young child with mild to severe disabilities through the IEP process for each individual child. The IEP is then reviewed annually and eligibility is reviewed at least every 3 years or as the team deems necessary.

Extended School Year (ESY) refers to special education and/or related services that can be provided beyond the normal school year. These services are different from enrichment programs, summer school programs and compensatory services and are not simply an extension of time. These services, at no cost to the parent, will vary in type, intensity, location, inclusion of related services and length of time depending on the individual needs of students. The consideration of ESY is a part of the IEP process.

What Extended School Year Services Are Not

Because ESY services are uniquely designed to provide FAPE to students with disabilities, it is necessary to emphasize that these services are not:

  • based on the category of student’s disability – services must be based on the student’s unique educational needs;
  • mandated twelve-month services for all students with disabilities;
  • a child care service;
  • necessarily a continuation of the total IEP provided to a student with a disability during the regular school year;
  • required to be provided all day, every day, or each day;
  • an automatic program provision from year to year;
  • summer school, compensatory services, or enrichment programs;
  • required to be provided in a traditional classroom setting; and
  • a service to be provided to maximize each student’s potential.

Determining the Need for Extended School Year Services

The IEP team should consider the need for these services at least annually. The request to consider ESY services may be initiated by the parent, the student, the student’s teacher(s), related service providers, or administrators. It is important that the decision regarding whether ESY services are provided not be delayed. The IEP Team should make the decision early enough to ensure that parents can meaningfully exercise their due process rights if they wish to challenge an ESY decision. The following factors may be considered:

  • Degree of regression/ time of skill recoupment,
  • Degree of disability,
  • The child’s rate of progress,
  • Consideration of any behavioral/ physical problems which the child may possess,
  • The availability of alternative resources for serving the child,
  • The ability of the child to interact with children who are non-disabled,
  • Areas in the child’s program which require continuous attention.

SPECIAL EDUCATION MANUAL 2010, TN Department of Education


In the state of Tennessee, intellectually gifted students are served through a special education process.  The State of Tennessee defines a student who is intellectually gifted in the following manner.

“Intellectually Gifted” means a child whose intellectual abilities, creativity, and potential for achievement are so outstanding that the child’s needs exceed differentiated general education programming, adversely affects educational performance, and requires specifically designed instruction or support services. Children from all populations (e.g., all cultural, racial, and ethnic groups, English Learners, all economic strata, twice exceptional, etc.) can be found to possess these abilities. Children identified as intellectually gifted are exempted from the discipline procedures at 34 C.F.R. §300.530- 537. Children with a dual diagnosis that includes intellectually gifted must be considered as children with a disability and may not be exempted from the discipline procedures at 34 C.F.R. §300.530-537.


Anyone, including the parent(s), guardian, teacher, the student, or community professional may refer a student for screening or full evaluation.

If a student is referred for screening:

A screening team of educational professionals considers screening information, previous evaluations, and teacher/parent input to determine if a comprehensive evaluation is needed. The team’s decision is based on multiple data sources.

An assessment team will determine the types of assessment needed. All procedural safeguards are followed to ensure evaluation procedures are nondiscriminatory.

The three areas of assessment are:

  1. Cognitive
  2. Educational Performance
  3. Creativity

In addition to meeting assessment criteria, a student must demonstrate a need for services beyond the differentiation that is provided in the general education classroom.

If a parent requests an evaluation in writing the school system has 60 calendar days to complete the evaluation.


Special services are often required to meet the unique needs of gifted children. A team of professionals and the child’s parent(s) plan the student’s educational program based on the assessments and information obtained through the evaluation process.  An Individualized Education Plan is created for those students who are eligible for gifted services, and it is updated at least annually.


Students transferring with an IEP already in place for gifted services will continue to receive those services.  Please notify the school and bring copies of the plan.  Students who have been accepted for a program without an IEP should contact the school Gifted Education Teacher for more information.


Screenings are scheduled  throughout the school year for children who are ages 3 to 5 years old whose parents believe they are at risk to be Intellectually Gifted.  In these screenings several educational professionals work to provide some tasks for the child for review and evaluation, and parent input is reviewed also.  If the screening team believes the student may be eligible for special education, they may recommend a comprehensive evaluation to the parent to assist the determination of eligibility for Intellectually Gifted.  This process is not used for attending the district’s 4 year old Pre-K classes. This is a special education process for special education eligibility.


State of Tennessee Education website

National Association  for Gifted Children

Gifted Education Resources


Toni Brown  615-472-4133
Gifted Specialist
Williamson County Schools

Williamson County Schools employs certified teachers of thle hearing impaired who serve students in any of our public schools, from early childhood (3 to 5 year olds) through high school. WCS also employs educational interpreters who assist deaf and hard of hearing students who use visual communication as a primary means of communication in both academic and nonacademic settings. Services may include direct therapy, inclusion supports in the student’s classroom, consultation, or collaboration with the other educators.

The district’s teachers of the Hearing Impaired work closely with both general and special education staff to ensure that students are provided the services that integrate curricular areas with the student’s goals and objectives written in their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. The hearing department of WCS also works closely with the Assistive Technology department to provide current technology supports for students with hearing loss.

In order to be eligible for these services, the student must meet eligibility standards set forth by the Tennessee State Department of Education as hearing impaired or deaf or be identified as needing accommodations under Section 540 of the American with Disabilities Act. Eligibility determination begins with a referral to the school psychologist at the student’s school followed by obtaining a current hearing report from an audiological professional.

Note that hearing services do not include supports for students with auditory processing disorders or other perceptual difficulties.

Both Occupational and Physical Therapists provide services for students who demonstrate difficulties accessing or participating in learning opportunities within the educational environment. The range of OT and/or PT services may include screening, evaluation, consultation, and direct service. The focus of occupational and physical therapy intervention may include improving the student’s skills; collaborating with the educational team regarding assistive technology; designing/recommending adaptations for the school environment; modifying classroom materials; and/or training of educational staff. OT and PT services are provided for those students who qualify for Special Education services and/or have 504 plans and are determined by their IEP or 504 team to need such services. Services are determined on an individual basis.

Williamson County Schools offers extensive Speech and Language services to eligible students with communication needs. Services are available in the areas of speech sound production, language, fluency (stuttering), and voice. Each school in Williamson County has a qualified Speech and Language Pathologist on staff. To receive services, the student must meet eligibility standards set forth by the Tennessee State Department of Education and the Individualized Education Team (IEP team) must determine that the communication delay adversely affects educational performance. Services may include direct therapy, inclusion in the student’s classroom, consultation, or collaboration with other educators. The Speech Language Pathologist works closely with both general and special education staff to ensure that students are provided services that integrate curricular areas with the student’s communication goals and objectives.

Speech FAQs

Common Terms

Home Practice Activities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act defines transition planning as…

A coordinated set of activities designed within a results oriented process that:

Improves the academic and functional skills of the student in order to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post school activities such as postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living and community participation

Is based on the individual student’s needs, taking into account his or her strengths, preferences, and interests

Includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other post school adult living objectives, and when appropriate, the acquisition of daily living skills and a functional vocational evaluation.

Transition toward adulthood really begins when children are born; everything they do and learn is designed to assist them in becoming a competent and independent adult. The focus becomes really strong as students enter middle school. In Williamson County, we begin involving students in their IEP meetings by age 14. Students must learn to advocate and be able to ask for the supports they need both in school and on a job site.

Your student’s team will help guide you through the many steps along the way, from selecting courses to sampling jobs.

If a student who has an IEP does not earn a general education diploma, he/she is eligible to stay in school until age 22 and participate in the Williamson County Transition II Program. However, if a student earns a general education diploma, he/she is no longer eligible for special education services through the school system.

Transition II is designed to provide the training, support, work-based learning, and community experiences needed to maximize the probability of Transition II students, ages 18-22, being gainfully employed and/or otherwise meaningfully engaged in their community upon exiting Williamson County Schools.

Williamson County Schools employs certified teachers of the visually impaired who serve students in any of our public schools, from early childhood (3 to 5 year olds) through high school. WCS also employs a braille transcriber who transcribes classroom materials that are in print into braille as well as creates tactile aids (maps, graphs, charts, etc.) for students who use braille as their primary reading medium.

Our staff works collaboratively with the general education classroom teacher, the special education teacher and other professionals at the school to provide the supports that are needed based on individual student needs. The vision department of WCS also works closely with the Assistive Technology department to provide current technology supports for students, such as the use of scanners and various computer programs. We also participate with Project PAVE, of Vanderbilt University, in order to have students evaluated in a low vision clinic and provided with optical devices, if necessary, at no cost to the student
Williamson County Schools employs a certified Orientation and Mobility specialist. Orientation and Mobility instruction is a related service that provides blind or visually impaired individuals with the skills and knowledge to travel independently, safely and efficiently to the best of their ability in their surrounding environment.

To qualify for vision services, the student must be certified as visually impaired and show a need for adapted materials in the classroom. Certification begins with a referral to school psychologist followed by obtaining a current eye report from the student’s eye care professional. For Orientation and Mobility services, students are referred to the Orientation and Mobility Specialist by their teachers, staff, or parents for a consultation or screening to determine if a full evaluation of the student’s orientation and mobility skills is appropriate.

Please note that vision services do not include vision therapy or supports for students having dyslexia or other perceptual difficulties.