NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City School Chancellor David Banks announced a system-wide effort to re-imagine school special education programs to better serve students.
"Our dedicated educators and staff work every day to serve students with disabilities, yet our system has not fully delivered on our commitment to these students. We need to transform our systems and approaches to achieve the goal of a truly inclusive public school system," Banks said. "I am proud to share that we are making strides towards this goal with the expansion of these successful programs serving students with disabilities across the city."
A $205 million investment will be made to expand current programs and create new initiatives to provide better individualized education programs for students and their families.
Programs like the ASD Nest and Horizon and the SEED Pilot program are just a couple that will receive additional aid to introduce the programs to more classrooms to serve more students with autism and intensive sensory needs.
The SEED program serves students like Diego Ortega who's on the autism spectrum. He's one of 1,100 student's in the program.
"My son is more social, because of all of these options; sensory gyms, speech therapy, and speech services," Diego's mother, Myriam Ortega, said.
The program was launched 11 months ago at 10 sites and will expand to 80 by the end of the school year thanks to the additional funding.
"What happens in the seed room is our students who have the most intensive sensory needs that are impacting," Senior Executive Director Suzanne Sanchez said. "Their ability to participate and be successful at school they participate in a 12 week cycle."
A new Special Education Advisory Council will be created to identify gaps in current instruction and programs so that all students with disabilities have consistent access to resources they need to achieve alongside their classmates.
"We want to make sure everything is afforded to every child from pre-K all the way up and beyond," said advisory councilmember Lorraine Kitchen.
And for the first time, high school students with a current individualized education program will be able to participate in a paid internship on Saturdays thanks to a partnership with Training Opportunity Programs. Students will have the opportunity to explore careers in physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
"By expanding special education initiatives, investing in student wellness, and providing additional opportunities to gain new experiences, the Department of Education is taking a positive step forward for our communities," New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said. "It is also critical for parents and families to be engaged throughout this process, and the creation of a new advisory council is welcomed."
This announcement comes as the education department announced changes to the Gifted and Talented Program application process.
Parents will be able to apply beginning Wednesday of next week and will have until January 20.
Decisions will be released in April.
There will be 2,500 open seats and preschoolers will be chosen through teacher evaluations instead of testing.
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