Washington’s Master’s-Prepared Teachers Help Achieve Special Education Inclusion
The number of special education students in Washington State has gradually increased in the last two decades, from about 11 percent in 1996 to 13.4 percent in 2015, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
This increase is due to several factors, including better methods for identifying students in need of services and the trend toward early assessment and intervention. Students with special needs have made up around 12 percent of Washington’s total student population for the past four decades.
Washington’s commitment to special education inclusion has allowed schools to better meet the unique needs of students with challenges ranging from intellectual disabilities, autism, vision and hearing loss, to those with traumatic brain injuries, and emotional-behavioral disabilities, among others.
The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among special needs students is increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rising from about one in 150 children in 2000, to one in 68 children in 2010.
Washington’s Special Education Population
According to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, special education served 135,757 students (ages 3-21) in Washington State as of November 2015.
That year, the largest portion of Washington’s special education students were recognized as having challenges that included:
- 45,376 students with learning disabilities
- 25,334 students with health impairments
- 20,614 students with communication disorders
- 17,034 students with developmental delays
- 12,582 students with Autism
How One Special Education Teacher in Rural Washington is Making a Difference in the Lives of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Olympic View Elementary teacher Elizabeth Loftus was named Regional Teacher of the Year and was nominated for the Washington State Teacher of the Year Award in 2016.
Loftus is a special education teacher and a board-certified behavioral analyst who works with students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). She began her career teaching special education at a high-poverty school in an area burdened with gangs, drug abuse and other societal problems.
After moving to Olympic View Elementary, Loftus dealt with more challenges, including many staff changes and a high turnover rate in the special education department. During this time, she continued to stay strong and positive, both for her students and their families.
Olympic has a high percentage of special education students. It is designated as an “exceptional family member” (EFM) base, meaning there’s a higher concentration of special needs students here than found elsewhere in the state.
Even as the school struggles with a lack of resources and large class sizes, Loftus said that although she has considered moving on, she decided to stay and work with the team she has built because of the excellent support and positivity of her colleagues.