Special Education

“Special education services are educational services that are specially designed to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability. These services are provided by qualified individuals at no cost to the parent. Special education services can vary a great deal based on the student and his or her needs.”    -Maine Department of Education

The Brunswick School Department recognizes its responsibility to identify all children between the ages of five and twenty within its jurisdiction who may have a disability which requires special education. This identification shall be accomplished through a unit-wide screening process which, while not a definitive or final judgment of a student’s capabilities, is a possible indicator of special educational needs. Final identification of students with disabilities and programming for such students occurs only after an appropriate evaluation and determination by the Individualized Education Program (I.E.P.).

A child with a disability is an individual who:

  • has reached the age of 5 years
  • has neither graduated from a secondary school program with a regular high school diploma nor reached 20 years at the start of the school year
  • has been observed in the learning environment/classroom setting, and
  • has been evaluated according to these rules and has been determined to have a disability which requires the provision of special education and supportive services

It is the policy of the Brunswick School Department to refer all school-age students suspected of having a disability that requires special education to the I.E.P. for an evaluation in the suspected areas of disability. These referrals may be made by professional school staff, by parents/guardians, and by other persons knowledgeable about the child’s educational needs. If you feel your child may have a disability, please contact your school principal. If you would like to read or download a copy of the Parent/Agency Special Education Referral form, please click here.

The Individual Education Planning Team (I.E.P.) serves as a communication vehicle between parents and school personnel. The school district takes steps to ensure that the parents of children with a disability are present at each I.E.P. meeting or are afforded the opportunity to participate, at a mutually-agreed-upon time. This enables parents, as equal participants, to make joint, informed decisions regarding

  • identification and eligibility for general education
  • the child’s needs and appropriate goals
  • the extent to which the child will be involved in the general curriculum and participate in the regular education environment and state and district-wide assessments, and
  • the services needed to support that involvement and participation to achieve agreed-upon goals

Parents are considered equal partners with school personnel in making these decisions, and the I.E.P. Team must consider the parents’ concerns and the information that they provide regarding their child in determining eligibility; developing, reviewing and revising I.E.P.s, and determining placement.

The I.E.P. Team ensures that all students are educated in the Least Restrictive Educational Environment based upon the individual needs of the student. To this end, the Brunswick School Department offers a range of special education services to meet the needs of special needs children. Students are enrolled in the following (from least restrictive to most restrictive):

  • Student is enrolled in a general education class; learning activities are supplemented by special education instructional materials or equipment identified by the I.E.P. Team.
  • Student is enrolled in a general education class; learning activities are supplemented by special education instructional materials or equipment identified by the I.E.P. Team; the general education teacher receives education consultation from certified special education staff as identified by the I.E.P. Team.
  • Student is enrolled in a general education class and receives direct instruction from a certified special education teacher in a resource room setting for up to 50% of his/her day.
  • Student is enrolled in a self-contained special education class for more than 50% of his/her school day and receives direct instruction from a certified special educator.
  • Student is enrolled in a private special education day treatment facility as ordered by the I.E.P. Team.

Who do I talk to about my child’s school program? Your child’s teacher is the best place to start. If the teacher is not able to answer your questions, you could talk with your child’s principal and/or the director of student services.

What happens if I cannot attend I.E.P. meetings? I.E.P. meetings are scheduled at mutually-agreed upon times between you and your school staff, with appropriate notice provided to parents. If an emergency occurs that cannot be avoided, the school will do its best to accommodate your needs. However, if rescheduling a meeting causes the school to be out of compliance with mandated timelines, the school may need to hold the meeting on the originally agreed upon date in order to stay in compliance. In that case, and at the request of you (the parent), the school will schedule an additional I.E.P. Team meeting for the next mutually agreed upon day and time.

Who makes decisions about my child’s special education program? The I.E.P. Team will work to achieve consensus on the specific programming needs of your child. These decisions will be made with your input as well as information from a variety of other sources (e.g., classroom teacher, academic functioning, etc.).

How will I know my child is making progress toward his/her I.E.P. goals? The I.E.P. Team determines how progress is measured and how parents are informed about progress. This information is generally provided on a quarterly basis that coincides with the school’s ranking period.

How often will my child be evaluated? State law requires that children be evaluated for special education at least every three years. However, the I.E.P. Team determines what evaluation components are necessary to make eligibility determinations. You may request that the I.E.P. Team consider an evaluation at any time.

Will my child be with his/her regular classroom for special education? The Brunswick School Department offers a wide range of services to students with special needs. The services your child receives will be based upon the decisions that the I.E.P. Team makes with a focus on providing appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.

The following information outlines DISABILITIES, PROGRAMS, and RELATED and SUPPORTIVE SERVICES.

A student with a disability (an impairment that substantially affects one or more major life activities) is an individual who has reached the age of 5 years on or before October 15, has neither graduated from a secondary school program nor reached 20 years at the start of the school year. If this disability adversely affects the student’s educational performance, special education services are provided in order that the student may benefit from an elementary or secondary educational program.

1. Intellectual Disability (ID): The student exhibits significantly sub-average intellectual functioning concurrent with deficits in adaptive behaviors which adversely affects his/her educational performance (the student demonstrates significant sub-average intelligence of approximately minus 2.0 standard deviations or lower, and demonstrates deficits in adaptive behavior).

2. Hearing Impairment (HI): The student exhibits a hearing loss of approximately 25-90 db in the better ear which is either permanent or fluctuating, and which adversely affects the his/her educational performance.

3. Deafness: The student has a hearing impairment of approximately 90 db in the better ear which is so severe that with or without amplification, he/she is unable to process language through hearing and which adversely affects the student’s educational performance.

4. Speech and Language Impairment (S/L): The student exhibits impairment in speech and/or language such as impaired articulation, fluency, voice impairment, or a receptive or expressive verbal language handicap that adversely affects his/her educational performance.

5. Visual Impairment including Blindness (VI): The student who has, after the best possible correction, a limitation of vision which adversely affects his/her educational performance (the term includes both partially sighted and blind students).

6. Emotional Disturbance (ED): The student who exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects his/her educational performance:
a. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors;
b. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers;
c. Inappropriate types of behaviors of feelings under normal circumstances;
d. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression;
e. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

7. Orthopedic Impairment (OI): The student who has impairments caused by congenital anomaly (e.g., clubfoot, absence of some member, spina bifida, etc.), caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis, etc.), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures). Physical characteristics may include paralysis, unsteady gait, poor muscle control, loss of limb, etc., any of which adversely affects his/her educational performance.

8. Other Health Impairment (OHI): The student who exhibits limited strength, vitality or alertness due to chronic or acute health problems, that adversely affects his/her educational performance.

9. Specific Learning Disability (SLD): The student who exhibits difficulties with listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, spelling and doing mathematical calculations. This disability includes disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, and includes minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia, and which adversely affects his/her educational performance.

10. Deaf/Blindness: The student who exhibits concomitant visual and hearing impairments which cause severe social, communication, educational and/or developmental deficits which adversely affect his/her educational performance.

11. Multiple Disabilities: The student who exhibits concomitant impairments (such as mental retardation and behavioral impairments, orthopedically impaired and deaf, etc.) resulting in severe social, communication, educational, and/or developmental deficits which adversely affect his/her educational performance (does not include students who are deaf/blind).

13. Autism: The student who significantly exhibits difficulty in verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, which adversely affects his/her educational performance. Characteristics of autism include irregularities and impairments in communication, engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences (does not include students with characteristics of a behavioral impairment). Intervention typically occurs in three areas, but programming is not limited to these three: Developmental Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. In the Brunswick school system, this is termed “Social Foundations.”

14. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): The student who has had an injury to the brain caused by an external physical force or by an internal occurrence such as stroke or aneurysm, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial maladjustment that adversely affects his/her educational performance. This includes open or closed head injuries resulting in mild, moderate or severe impairments in one or more areas, including cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking/judgment, problem-solving, sensory/perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech; this does not include brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by birth trauma.

15. Non-Special Education

16. Developmental Delay (kindergarten only): The student whose development, as measured by appropriate diagnostic tests and procedures, lags behind peers in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development, and who, because of such delays, needs special education and related services.

NOTE: AttentionDeficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD): A student with ADD or ADHD may be eligible for special education under Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, and/or EmotionalDisability if the ADD/ADHD condition adversely affects educational performance.

Resource Services:
Each Brunswick school has at least one resource program to provide students with mild to moderate disabilities for less than half of the school day. This program provides remedial, individualized or small group instruction designed to meet each child’s specific goals. It provides a continuum of services, from monitoring of the student’s regular educational programming to academic and behavioral consultation services outside of the regular program for up to 60^ of the school day, and acts as a supportive service to children involved with other special education programs.

Elementary Behavior Program: (Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe): Both of these schools have a behavior program that is designed to serve students with moderate behavior and/or learning problems, providing social skill training, behavior management strategies, and support for students in transition and in the classroom setting.

Behavior Programs: (Brunswick Junior High and Brunswick High School) The behavior resource programs at these schools provide therapeutic behavioral programming and additional resource or self-contained services to students identified as being emotionally disabled. Students move into mainstream classes and activities as behavioral goals are attained. In the Brunswick system, this program is called “Connections.”

Elementary Functional Skills Program: (Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe) This program serves moderate to severe students ages 5-10 who require an intensive functional language/experienced-based program along with multiple therapeutic support services. Most of these students have multiple disabilities, including mental retardation, autism, P.D.D., O.D.D., William’s Syndrome, Angelman’s Syndrome, A.S.H.D., birth trauma, and emotional disturbance.

Functional Skills Program: (Brunswick Junior High and High School) This program serves students with moderate to severe educational needs who require functional skills, academics, essential life skill development, community-based learning, vocational training, and multiple therapeutic support services (speech, OT, PT, adaptive PE).

Hospital/Homebound Instruction: This instruction is provided for students with chronic or acute health problems which prevent school attendance.

Supportive services are those services required to assist students with disabilities to benefit from special education services. Supportive services include, but not limited to, speech pathology, audiology, counseling services, psychological services, physical therapy and occupational therapy, recreation, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. The term also includes school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training. All supportive services are provided by appropriately certified or licensed professionals or appropriately supervised support staff. Available to Brunswick’s students with disabilities, as determined by the I.E.P., are the following services:

Students receive assessment, consultation, remediation and counseling as part of the treatment of speech and language conditions such as language-based learning disabilities, voice disorder, stuttering, articulation disorders, ADD & ADHD, word retrieval deficits, executive function impairment, deaf and hearing impairment.All children entering the school system are screened in the area of speech/language and phonological awareness. The Speech and Language program provides a multi-sensory approach to speech/language development. After a child is evaluated, recommendations will be made regarding what areas of speech/language skills need to be addressed. In-depth testing is necessary to determine what kind of speech/language services are needed.  The following are many different areas of speech/language development that can be addressed depending on the needs of the student:

  • language deficits, including difficulties in both understanding and verbal production of vocabulary/grammar, and receptive/expressive language delays
  • phonological awareness skills
  • articulation skills (production of specific sounds and/or error sound patterns)
  • voice impairments
  • social skills/pragmatic language
  • fluency/stuttering
  • strategies for compensating for a hearing impairment, an auditory processing disorder in the classroom, and/or a word finding deficit
  • developing functional communication skills and strengthening pre-communication skills
  • augmentative/alternative communication for those with limited verbal language
  • checking and maintaining the use of hearing aids and FM systems (auditory trainers) used in the classroom
  • receptive/expressive language delays
  • hearing impairment
  • language processing difficulties

Sessions may consist of turn taking activities, conversation, written work, listening activities, role playing, social stories, reading, and/or art activities. Students will receive direct and indirect instruction for their targeted skill area(s), as well as modeling of targeted skills by the speech/language pathologist. Therapy sessions are usually in small groups, with similarly aged peers. Strategies are taught to children with Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD), Autism, and Hearing Impairment to improve their classroom performance.

An important component of the program is assessment. Each child recommended for intervention must be evaluated and meet the criteria for identification of a handicapping condition of speech/language. Evaluative tools are kept current. Computer programs, augmentative communication devices, and hands-on materials are used to meet the multi-sensory needs of students. Speech Pathologists keep up to date through staff development and personal reading, and consult with specialists in and outside of the district to meet the needs of the students.

Computer programs, augmentative communication devices, and hands-on materials are used to meet the multi-sensory needs of students. Speech pathologists keep up to date through staff development and personal reading. They consult with specialists in and outside of the district to meet the needs of the students.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (Building Skills for the Job of Living)
Occupational Therapy (OT) deals with whatever occupies your time. For a preschool child, OT services may teach skills such as dressing, following directions, or playing with toys. For a K-12 grade student, OT services will teach skills that help with reading, writing, and physical participation. OT’s are concerned with a child’s ability to get the most out of his/her school day. Therapy that is provided in a hospital or an outpatient clinic has a different purpose than therapy in a school.

In the school setting, Occupational Therapy is a “related service” to Special Education under Part B of the Individuals with Education Act (IDEA). This means that for a student to qualify to receive OT service they must also be receiving other services as determined by the student’s “team” (see Special Education Handbook for definition). OT can never be the only service provided.

  • The school Occupational Therapist will look at skills like:
  • hand strength and coordination for writing and drawing
  • visual skills for copying from the board or following words across a page
  • balance and trunk strength to allow a student to sit quietly for desk work

The school Occupational Therapist may provide services such as:

  • direct therapy with the student in the classroom or in a separate space
  • consultation with the teacher by phone, email or conversation
  • making changes to the environment
  • providing special equipment
  • staff training

A school-based physical therapist has the same medically-based training as a physical therapist working in a hospital or a clinic. The goal of school therapists is to make sure that students with physical disabilities can access public education in the school environment and maximize their potential. This is accomplished through assessment or evaluation, planning of goals and objectives, and implementation of these goals through an I.E.P. The physical therapist deals with abnormalities of the skeletal, muscular and/or neurological systems of the body which can cause problems in position or movement.

Position: Does the child sit or stand in a position that optimizes his/her ability to learn and to move? Will this position minimize deformity and abnormal motor patterns? (This may include consultation for orthotics, wheelchairs, and adaptive seating.)

Movement: Does the child move his/her body through space in a developmentally appropriate and functional manner? (This may include a consideration of motor development, motor skills, muscle tone, strength, endurance, balance and coordination activities, gait training, strengthening and endurance work. It may include motor development and inhibition of abnormal tone. Techniques are taught to teachers and ed. tech. staff by the physical therapist so that each individual child has daily carryover to maximize his/her position and movement.

  • visual skills for copying from the board or following words across a page
  • balance and trunk strength to allow a student to sit quietly for desk work

The Adaptive Physical Education program consists of various activities outside school grounds as well as in the respective schools. The focus is on teaching activities that are considered to be “lifetime sports” whenever possible. Some of these activities include:

  • fall and spring fitness walks on the bike path and Town Commons, and walks & stations at the parcourse at Thornton Oaks
  • ice skating, usually at Bowdoin College’s Dayton Arena
  • roller skating at Roller World for Brunswick High and Junior High students
  • cross-country skiing at Riverside Golf Course and the former navy base for Brunswick High and Junior High students
  • bowling at Bowling Bowl
  • fitness clubs for Brunswick High and Junior High students
  • Long Shot Golf for mini-golf and driving for Brunswick High and Junior High students
  • weekly swimming lessons at the Bowdoin College pool

District Wide: Shane Hutchings

A team of School Psychological Service Providers administer comprehensive psychoeducational assessments to aid in identification of students requiring special education services. Testing and recommendations may involve cognitive, developmental, processing, attentional, behavioral and emotional aspects as needed. School Psychological Service Providers also act as consultants to school personnel and parents/caretakers of students in the Brunswick schools.



  • Barbara Gunn, Director of Student Services
  • Kathy Furrow, Administrative Assistant



COFFIN SCHOOL (319-1950)




Attention Deficit Disorder: chadd.org/legislative/doc_par.htm
ADD and ADHD Resourcdes: familyeducation.com/article/0.1120.1-7954,00.html
Autism: web.syr.edu/-jmwpbus/autism/
How to Learn: howtolearn.com
Learning Disabilities Association of America: LDAAmerica.org
Learning Disabilities: ala.org/roads/
Maine Department of Education Special Services: state.me.us/education/specserv.htm
National Information Center for Children & Youth with Disabilities: nichcy.org/
Perspectives on Technology in Special Education: cec.sped.org/bk/aprtec.htm
Special Needs Education: schoolnet2.carleton.ca/sne/sne
Technology for Kids with LD: familyeducation.com/article/0.1120
The Challenge of Difficult Children: smu.edu/_egibson/
The Council for Exceptional Children: cec.sped.org/
The International Dyslexia Association: interdys.org/
The Mysteries of Autism: geocities.com/athens/forum/4646

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