Special Services

Mission Statement

The mission of the West Springfield Public Schools Special Education Department is to provide individualized instruction and accommodations to students that will promote the achievement of students with disabilities so they can realize their full potential.

Parent Information

  • The West Springfield Public Schools are reviewed every three years through Tiered Focused Monitoring. This review process emphasizes elements most tied to student outcomes, and alternates the focus of each review on either Group A Universal Standards or Group B Universal Standards
  • DESE staff visited the Special Education Department on Tuesday, January 11. A detailed report will be issued soon.

Special Education Programs

Developmental Learning Programs:


Developmental Learning Program (DLP) - Students in grades Kindergarten to age 22, with significant developmental delays and cognitive deficits as well as complex medical and physical needs are provided a program designed to maximize their independent living skills. The teacher individualizes the program in order to meet each student’s unique needs. The classroom has a high staff to student ratio and is supported by speech and language and motor staff.

Service Goals and Expected Outcomes:

Students are serviced in the DLP classroom but have opportunities for inclusion whenever possible. Student’s goals are addressed through individualized programming within the DLP classroom. The program has a therapeutic focus to it as most of the students have multiple disabilities that require intervention from Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapists. The classroom addresses core curriculum through access points as outlined by the state. The goal of this program is to engage and move each student forward in their skill development. This may vary from student to student depending on their areas of need.

Essential Life Skills Programs:

Elementary School/WSMS/WSHS

General Description

The Essential Life Skills Program services are provided to students who require a highly specialized teaching methodology aimed at developing the student’s academic, social, executive function and adaptive living skills in a small group setting. Students receiving ELS services will require remediation of foundational skills along with core curriculum presented in a way that can be processed and understood.

Service Goals and Expected Outcomes

The goal of ELS services is to assist students in acquiring the knowledge and skills dictated by the Core Curriculum but presented at a pace and depth that reflects their individual needs and abilities. By extension students will be able to independently stay on task, will meaningfully engage in learning opportunities, develop positive peer relationships, and develop adaptive living skills. 

Applied Academics Programs:

Pre K - High School

The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program provides intensive instruction to meet the behavioral, cognitive, language, academic, and social-emotional needs of students with autism and other severe developmental disorders. Specialized instruction using the principles of applied behavior analysis, including discrete trial teaching, is provided by specially trained staff.

ABA is a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how behavior is affected by the environment. It is a widely recognized and effective treatment that is used to help students acquire basic skills such reading, conversing, and understanding another person’s perspective. ABA involves the application of behavioral techniques (such as positive reinforcement, shaping, task analysis, incidental teaching) to bring about meaningful and positive changes in behavior. The goal is to increase useful behaviors while reducing behaviors that may cause harm of interfere with learning.

The intervention programs break down desired skills into manageable steps. Instruction is provided in a 1:1 setting and focuses on skill acquisition, maintenance of that skill over time, and generalizing that skills to real life settings. Ongoing assessment and data collection is used to measure the student’s progress and the data is frequently reviewed to adjust procedures as needed. A BCBA is contracted to provide ongoing consultation to the program.

Cowing Alternative School (CAS):

The Cowing Alternative School program (CAS) is located at the Cowing School and serves students in grades K-8 who demonstrate significant deficits in the areas of social, emotional and behavioral functioning. CAS services are provided to students who require a highly specialized teaching methodology aimed at developing the student’s coping, decision-making, interaction, and self-regulation skills.

Students receiving CAS services will require behavioral therapy, and /or a highly structured, therapeutic, learning environment. Services are provided in a setting that also serves as a home base for students when a small, structured space is needed. Academic services are provided in the CAS classrooms until the students are ready to transition to the regular education setting. Transitions into the regular education setting will be done with fading support and use of developed skills within the general school environment.

The CAS program is staffed with a Special Education Teacher, Behavioral Consultant and, in general, one special education teacher and one paraprofessional. Up to 8 students may receive services within an instructional group when in the CAS classroom.

West Side Academy:

Location: West Springfield High School

The West Side Academy is a highly specialized educational setting which services students who have an emotional impairment as defined under federal law. The program incorporates both academic and therapeutic components and has a high staff to student ratio. All matriculating students have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed and approved in accordance with federal special education law. Students follow the high school curriculum but are afforded accommodations and modifications per his/her IEP. General high school requirements are followed and students receive the same diploma as the other school district students. The program embraces an incentive based behavioral modification system which emphasizes natural consequences. Philosophically the school endorses the belief that all students can learn and that students do well if they can. Existing gaps in students' emotional and academic development are addressed with a skill building approach. The staff are highly qualified in both special education and academic content area. In conjunction with a strong academic environment, the students are given consistent explicit social instruction. This leads to more effective internalization of pro social behaviors and transference into both school and outside settings. High levels of flexibility allows for individualized instruction and programming designed to meet the needs of each student. Every student is afforded one-on one career/job guidance and is encouraged and supported with future plans. Weekly group and ongoing individualized therapy is provided to all students and our highly trained staff members provide ongoing therapeutic support to students throughout the school day.

Service Goals and Expected Outcomes:

The goal of West Side Academy is to assist students in achieving a high school diploma, while at the same time acquiring the knowledge and skills to independently self-manage their emotional and behavioral lives. Students will develop the skills necessary to meaningfully engage in learning opportunities and develop positive peer relationships.

Transitions Program:

Transitions is a program designed to help adult-age students with disabilities learn both vocational and home-living skills (daily living skills), providing the students with the greatest opportunities to develop skills to be as independent as their abilities allow for. Each student in Transitions has an individualized program based on specific goals and objectives as determined by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team.