Working with Students with
Complex Needs

The resources and trainings provided by SESC are aligned with disability categories as defined by IDEA. 

Resources for Working with Studends with Complex Needs:

  • The Kentucky Peer Support Network provides a variety of resources, including  narrated “How To Modules”
  • Assistive Technology can open up opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. The Special Education Technology Center provides resources for assistive technology.
  • Augmentative-alternative communication, or AAC, is any method other than oral speech used to communicate. Children and adults who are non-verbal or whose oral speech is not sufficient to meet their communication needs benefit from AAC. The Northwest Augmentative Communication Society provides background information and resources to assist families and educators with Augmentative Communication.
  • The Charting the Life Course Framework provides a method and resources to enable families and educators development of a vision and course of action to enable youth with intellectual disabilities live a good life. Individuals and families may focus on their current situation and stage of life but may also find it helpful to look ahead to think about life experiences that will help move them toward an inclusive, productive life in the future.
  • Support for improving behaviors can be found at Intervention Central.


Some students may qualify for special education services due to an intellectual disability. Washington Administrative Code defines an intellectual disability as: a significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. 

States vary in the specific definition of intellectual disability, but there is broad agreement that a student with an intellectual disability has a lowered intelligence quotient and experiences a lack of proficiency in a wide variety of adaptive skills including conceptual, social and practical skills.

These students have complex needs which often require the services of speech and language, occupational and physical therapists to address their communication, academic, adaptive and functional needs.

Classes we offer to support teachers and parents working with students with complex needs:

(Click the course titles for full descriptions and registration information)

State Standards Instruction and Special Education (6 hours)

This course allows participants to examine the intersection of special education, Washington State Standards and district curriculum for practical use in designing individual student learning goals.  Attendees will have the opportunity to unpack the standards/ develop learning progressions to create IEP goals where appropriate.  Topics include: Development of IEP’s that meet student needs, and where appropriate, align with WA State Standards and identifying evidence based supports necessary to enable each student to move towards meeting the standards.

The Provision of Health Services in Public Schools (3 hours)

Participants in this course acquire knowledge necessary to help ensure the adequate delivery of health services to children with special healthcare needs.  As a result of participating in this course, participants will be able to: 1. Describe the statutory obligations dictating the provision of school health services. 2.  List potential school staff roles and responsibilities involved in the provision of school health services. 3. Understand the statutory obligations surrounding staff training, nurse delegation, and staff’s right of refusal.

Successful Inclusion of Students with Significant Disabilities (6 Hrs.) PDN 2232

Participants learn why and how to include students with significant disabilities. Participants will examine research around the benefits of including students with significant disabilities in the general education classroom and learn implementation strategies for evidenced based inclusive practices. Participants will be given tools and examples and are highly encouraged to bring their general curriculum or general education unit plans, school schedules, and student schedules to plan for current or future students whom they want to or are currently including, though bringing these items are not required. This course is most beneficial for special education teachers, general education teachers, administrators, ESPs (paraeducators) and ESAs (counselors, SLPs, OTs). Participants are highly encouraged to come with their Multi-Disciplinary teams, if possible.

Participants will demonstrate:

  • Understanding of what is a “significant disability”, inclusion, and the special education laws and services around inclusion.
  • Understanding of why inclusive practices benefit students with and without disabilities.
  • How to implement evidence based inclusionary practices. Participants will analyze tools and resources and engage in implementation of these into their practice.