Special Education » Special Education Department

Special Education Department

What is Special Education? 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to any student that has met disability eligibility standards and whose needs cannot be met in the general education setting without the provisions of special education supports and services in the least restrictive environment.

 The term “special education” is defined as “specially designed instruction” to meet the needs of a child with a disability. This instruction can occur in a variety of settings including but not limited to the following: the general education classroom, a special education classroom, at home, and/or in the hospital or private program.  

Continuum of Services Explanation

 Alcoa’s special education program offers a continuum of services for students that qualify for special education services.  The district must ensure that a continuum of placements is available at all times to meet the needs of children with disabilities for special education and related services. 

Child Find Statement:

This statement is part of an effort to locate and serve children that may need special education and related services and/or special accommodations. If you know of a child who may qualify and is not receiving available services, please contact Emmery Snyder at (865) 982-3120 or via email at: esnyder@alcoaschools.net

Parents that have children ages 3-5 who have concerns that their child may be in need of special education should contact Emmery Snyder at (865) 982-3120 or via email at: esnyder@alcoaschools.net

Parents who have educational concerns about school age children who attend an Alcoa public school, are being homeschooled, or attend a private school within the Alcoa City jurisdiction can access special education services by contacting the Department of Special Education for more information.

Special Education Programs and Services





Assistive Technology

Comprehensive Developmental Classes/Intensive Intervention Classes


 Occupational/Physical Therapy





 Psychological Services 



 Resource Classes



 Child Find





 Speech/Language Services





Work Based Learning






Special Education Terms

OCR   Office of Civil Rights
SDE   State Department of Education
OSEP   Office of Special Education
TEIS   Tennessee Early Intervention Program
TIPS   Tennessee Infant Parent Services
TP&A   Tennessee Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
OI   Orthopedic Impairment
SLI   Specific Language Impairment
ELL   English Language Learner
ESY   Extended School Year
IEE   Independent Education Evaluation
IDEA   Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
FAPE   Free Appropriate Public Education
IEP   Individual Education Plan
LRE   Least Restrictive Environment
LEA   Local Education Agency
FERPA   Family Education Rights and Privacy Act
FBA   Functional Behavior Assessment
BIP   Behavior Improvement Plan
ADHD   Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
SLD/LD   Specific Learning Disability/Learning Disability
DD   Developmental Delay
OT   Occupational Therapy
PT   Physical Therapy
MR   Mental Retardation
OHI   Other Health Impaired
HI   Health Impaired
VI   Visually Impaired
TBI   Traumatic Brain Injury
504   Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974
ED   Emotional Disturbance
ADD   Attention Deficit Disorder
FD   Functional Delay
IG   Intellectually Gifted
MD   Multiple Disorders
PWN   Prior Written Notice


Autism is a developmental disability, which significantly affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction that is generally evident prior to age three. The term of Autism includes students that have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder such as Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) or Asperger's Syndrome. It may also include other pervasive development disorders such as Rett’s of childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

 General Characteristics

  • Difficulty with social interactions (playing or relating to children and adults)
  • Lack of spontaneous seeking to share interests or achievements with others
  • Cannot start or maintain a conversation
  • May not respond to eye contact
  • Does not refer to self correctly
  • Shows little pretend or imaginative play
  • Engagement in repetitive activities (repeating phrase or story, performing same motor task over and over)
  • Engagement in stereotyped movements
  • Resistive to environmental change or change in daily routines
  • Unusual responses to environment (over sensitive to sight, hearing, touch, smell, and/or taste)
  • Varying levels of intelligence (Many children with autism are average or above average intelligence, some also have mental retardation. Even within a child with autism, the intelligence levels can vary. He may be great at spatial relationships [puzzles, geometry, etc.], but not be able to read even sight words.)


Deaf-Blindness refers to a noncomitant hearing and visual impairment, the combination of which causes severe communication and other developmental and educational needs that cannot be accommodated in special education programs by addressing any one of the impairments. A child may be diagnosed with a degenerative condition or syndrome that may lead to deaf-blindness or a child may have severe multiple disabilities due to a generalized central nervous system dysfunction that may fall into this category.


 Deafness is defined as having a hearing impairment so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing with or without amplification. The term deaf implies that a person has a very severe hearing loss and relies primarily on lip reading or sign language for communication. 

General Characteristics             

  • Inability to communicate
  • Inability to perform on expected grade level
  • Delayed speech and language development
  • May misunderstand information presented
  • Difficulty understanding concepts that are not concrete; takes things literally. 

Developmental Delay

Developmental Delay refers to children ages 3-9 that are experiencing delays in one or more of the following areas: physical, cognitive, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive behavior that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.

Emotional Disturbance

Emotional disturbance is defined as a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over an extended time and to a marked degree during which time informal assessments are being documented and interventions are being implemented. The term may include other mental health diagnosis. But it does not apply to children that are socially maladjusted unless it is determined that they have an Emotional Disturbance. Social Maladjustment includes substance abuse related behaviors, gang-related behaviors, oppositional defiant behavior, and/or conduct behavior problems.

 General Characteristics

  • Inability to learn which cannot be explained by limited school experience, cultural differences, or intellectual, sensory, or health factors
  • Inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and school personnel
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings when no major or unusual stressors are evident
  • General pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression
  • Tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems 

Functional Delay

Functional Delay is defined as a continuing significant disability in intellectual functioning and achievement which adversely affects the child’s ability to progress in the general education setting. Adaptive behavior measures in the home/community are not significantly impaired.  

General Characteristics

  •  Impaired intellectual functioning-- two or more standard deviations below the mean
  • Academic achievement at or below the 4th percentile in two or more of the following areas: basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation, mathematics problem solving, written expression
  • Home or school adaptive behavior scores that fall above the mental retardation range

Hearing Impairment

Hearing impairment is defined as impairment in hearing, whether it is considered permanent or fluctuating that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. It does not include deafness.

General Characteristics

  • Language and speech delay, different voice characteristics
  • Inability to communicate effectively
  • Inability to perform academically on a level commensurate with grade placement because of the hearing impairment
  • May misunderstand information presented
  • Difficulty understanding concepts that are not concrete; takes things literally.  

Intellectually Gifted

Intellectually gifted applies to a child whose intellectual abilities and potential for achievement are so outstanding that the child’s educational performance is adversely affected. 

General Characteristics

  • Advanced ability to make judgments
  • Highly alert
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • High aptitude for critical thinking
  • High level of creativity
  • Self-motivated
  • Strong vocabulary and verbal skills
  • Develops creative solutions to social and environmental problems
  • Inquires to the how’s and why’s of things
  • Draws inferences at an early age
  • Demonstrates intense focusing strategies
  • Prefers to socialize with adults and/or older peers 

Intellectual Disability

An intellectual disability is characterized by significantly impaired intellectual functioning as well as deficits in adaptive behavior which is manifested during the child’s developmental period. There is an adverse affect on the child’s educational performance in all areas due to problems of significant delays in thinking, communication, and daily living skills.

General Characteristics

  • Requires more time and repetition to learn things
  • Immature for age
  • Failure to meet intellectual milestones
  • Lack of curiosity
  • Decreased learning ability
  • Continued infantile behavior      

Multiple Disabilities 

Multiple Disabilities refers to concomitant impairments such as mental retardation-deafness, mental retardation-orthopedic impairment of which the combination causes severe educational needs that cannot be accommodated by addressing only one of the impairments.

 General Characteristics

  • Low cognitive ability
  • Often needs assistance in daily activities or tasks (eating, toileting, mobility)
  • Goals primarily non-academic (life skills)

Orthopedic Impairment/Physical Impairment

Orthopedic impairment refers to a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The impairment may be caused by a congenital anomaly such as club foot or absence of some member; a disease such as polio or bone tuberculosis; and other causes such as cerebral palsy, amputations, and/or fractures and burns that cause contractures.

General Characteristics 

  • Hard to control limbs
  • Involuntary movements
  • May need assistance with toileting, eating and general life skills
  • Motor difficulties in mobility, writing and sitting 

Other Health Impairment

A child that demonstrates limited strength, vitality or alertness, and/or a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli because of chronic or acute health problems such as asthma, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and/or Tourette’s Syndrome in need of specifically designed instruction is considered a child with OHI.


General Characteristics           

  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Fails to give close attention to details
  • Difficulty sustaining attention
  • Difficulty with following instructions
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained effort such as schoolwork
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty awaiting turn—often blurts out answers
  • Excessive absenteeism related to health issues
  • Impaired cognitive functioning due to medications 

Specific Learning Disability

The term specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. 


General Characteristics          

  • Usually average to above average intelligence
  • Distractible
  • Erratic and/or fluctuating performance
  • Reasoning difficulty
  • Problems with spatial relationships
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Difficulty forming appropriate social relationships
  • Easily frustrated


A speech and language impairment implies that there is a communication disorder such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, and/or voice impairment that adversely affects the child’s education performance.  


General Characteristics 

  • Receptive Language Delay
  • Expressive Language Delay
  • Poor auditory processing skills
  • Sound Production Errors
  • Hard for others to understand
  • Fluency problems
  • Difficult time conveying messages 

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury occurs when there is an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force that results in either total or partial damage or a psychosocial impairment or both. The term refers to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in one or more of the following areas: cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory abilities, perceptual abilities, motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech. The term does not apply to brain injuries that are congenital or degenerative or those induced by birth trauma. 


General Characteristics             

  • Speech, vision, hearing, and other sensory impairments
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of coordination
  • Spasticity of muscles
  • Paralysis
  • Seizure Disorder
  • Problems with attention or concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Verbal or physical aggression
  • Impulsivity
  • Inter- and intra- personal problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Inability to initiate, organize , or complete tasks
  • Poor judgment and perception skills
  • Inability to acquire and/or retain new information
  • Inability to process information
  • Inability to sequence, generalize ,or plan
  • Long-Term and short-Term memory problems
  • Inability to perceive, evaluate, or use social cues appropriately
  • Inability to cope with over-stimulation
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Inability to demonstrate age appropriate behavior
  • Limited self-esteem and self-control
  • Shows signs of restlessness, limited motivation, and initiation
  • Problems relating to others 

Visual Impairment 

Visual Impairment is defined as impairment in vision (even with correction) that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. This term includes both partial sight and blindness. 


General Characteristics 

  • May tire easily
  • May need assistance in moving from place to place
  • Unusual blinking patterns
  • Delayed fine and gross motor skills
  • Light sensitivity
  • Inability to understand facial expressions or respond appropriately to expressions


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and ESSA require that all students, including those with the most severe disabilities, must be included in state-mandated assessments. The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) includes alternative assessments available to students with disabilities whom participation in the regular state assessment is inappropriate, even with the use of extensive accommodations.


Restraint and Isolation Policy and Procedures


The purpose of these procedures is to ensure that every student receiving special education services is not subject to unreasonable, unsafe, and unwarranted use of isolation and restraint practices.  The goal of Alcoa City Schools is to implement positive behavioral support and intervention to reduce the use of isolation and restraint.  Any faculty or staff that uses isolation or restraint must be trained and certified in the district’s chosen method, Certified Restraint Training.

More information can be found here.

Continuum of Services of Explanation

1. The general education classroom with additional support services: The child remains in the general education classroom. The teacher and/or child is provided with special education and supplies, special transportation, paraprofessional services, or other supportive services. The general education classroom teacher or paraprofessionsl conducts classroom activities while the special education teacher or therapist works with the general education classroom teacher or paraprofessional conducts classroom activities while the special education teacher or therapist works with the general education classroom teacher or paraprofessional to implement the IEP.


2. The general education classroom with direct services from special education personnel: The child remains in the general education classroom. Special education personnel works with the general education classroom teacher and provides instruction in the general education class to an eligible child whose identified needs can be met with part-time support. The instruction may be on an individual or small group basis and is always coordinated with the general education class activities.

3. The general educational environment with special education itinerant or resource support: The child receives as much of the general education classroom instruction as appropriate. Additional educational experiences are provided by special education personnel in a pull-out program designed to meet identified needs. the duration of time spent with the special education personnel is determined by the degree of intervention necessary to meet the child's needs. The instruction may be provided on an individual or small group basis and is always coordinated with the general education class activities.

4. The general education environment with self-contained classroom support: The child receives any general education classroom instruction from which he or she can benefit. The Majority of instruction is provided in a self-contained classroom. Integration with nondisabled peers may occur in the general education classroom, and in non-academic and extra-curricular activities as determined by the IEP Team.

5. Full-time instruction in a separate day school: The child receives all instruction in a separate day school. These experiences are supplemented by involvement in those parts of the general education school program that are appropriate.


6. Home or hospital instruction: The home or hospital program consists of instructional and/or supportive services provided by the school to a child in his home, in a convalescent home, or in a hospital.

7. Residential/institutional services: The child resides in or receives all instruction in an institutional setting involvement with nondisabled peers is provided as indicated in the IEP.

Child Find Activities

ACS conducts on-going child find activities in various ways. Alcoa City uses several methods to locate, identify, and evaluate any child suspected of having a disability.  Documentation of these activities is on file. These are summarized below:

Each year Child Find statements are placed in our local newspaper, posted on our School/Community TV-Station Channel 3, on our website, and on social media.

Brochures are distributed throughout the community in various business locations, churches, community centers (MLK Center), Dr.’s offices, Child/Day care centers, and other agencies such as Head Start and TEIS.

Letters are placed in the Homeschool packets for those parents registering for homeschool with Alcoa.

Screening activities are conducted each year in conjunction with our Voluntary Pre-k programs and our Kindergarten programs. Letters are sent home to all Alcoa students and this activity is advertised throughout the community in the above manner.

Intervention activities are conducted throughout the schools through the RTI programs that will locate students that may not be progressing as compared to typical peers.

Mary Beth Warwick
Director of Special Education
524 Faraday Street
Alcoa, TN 37701
 (865) 984-0531 Ext. 1200

Email Mary Beth Warwick