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    We serve students, families, and schools to empower students to achieve world-class outcomes by providing specialized instruction & services

  • Universal and targeted services at all school sites

Department Contact

Special Education

Sarah Cannon
Director of Personalized Learning
Special Education

Lynnette Steinhoff
Director of Personalized Learning
Special Education

Mimi Ernst

Assistant to Director of Personalized Learning

Meet the staff

620 Wilcox Street
Castle Rock, CO 80107
Phone: 303-387-0080
Fax: 303-387-0119

Special Education Reocrds

The Douglas County School District Special Education Department provides instructional and programming support and professional development to 85 school sites. Services are provided to approximately 7,000 students district-wide by approximately 1,225 special educators, related service providers, and educational assistants. Additionally, the special education department oversees the administration of Section 504 plans which afford approximately 1,000+ students who experience a substantially limiting physical or mental impairment the opportunity to benefit from the educational program and activities of the school.

Universal and targeted special education support and services are delivered at all school sites within the framework of moderate needs support and itinerant services. Itinerant services include mental health, speech-language, behavior support team, autism assessment and training team, occupational therapy, physical therapy, assistive technology, vision, deaf hard of hearing, and audiology.

Consistent with our mission of empowering all students to achieve world-class outcomes by providing specialized instruction & services, the Special Education Department also provides an intensive level of support in center-based programs for students who experience significant support needs, serious emotional disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing, and autism. Center-based programming is designed to enable students to build the skills required to access and make progress in the general curriculum/environment to the fullest extent possible. To this end, the Special Education Department currently offers 64 significant support needs programs, 11 serious emotional disability programs, 4 deaf and hard of hearing programs, and 2 autism center-based programs district-wide. 

Special Education Programs

The Douglas County School District is committed to providing support services to our students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. We provide a continuum of services to best meet the needs of all our unique learners.

The Douglas County School District Special Education Department provides instructional support and programming to 85 school sites.

Moderate Needs Program

This programming is located in each school and assists the student in developing skills and learning behaviors which enable him/her to benefit from the general education program, even with the challenges presented by their disability. Programming offers support in the learning content area or language processing area which makes learning in the conventional sense, difficult. Delivery of service is through collaboration (team teaching), consultation, differentiated instruction, materials modification, small group instruction and/or direct insturction within the special education setting.

SSN Program (Significant Support Needs)

This program is designed for students K-12th grades who experience cognitive impairment and may have one or more additional disabilities in language, motor, or other areas of development.  Academic and living skills instruction are modified to meet student needs.  SSN programs are available in various neighborhood schools throughout the district. Follow this link for questions about elementary SSN programs that are at capacity and placement.  Guidance to Parents: Elementary SSN Program Capacity


SED Program ( Serious Emotional Disability)

This program is for students in elementary, middle and high school who have significant emotional disorders which interfere with the student’s ability to benefit from existing school programs. The program focuses on appropriate social-emotional behaviors as well as academic instruction. Students return to their home schools as soon as they develop appropriate behavioral control.

Plum Creek Academy

Plum Creek Academy offers special education programming and services for DCSD middle and high school students whose emotional and/or dual diagnoses deny them access or progress in their neighborhood school. 

Early Childhood Education (ECE)

This program supports 3-5 year old students with disabilities in obtaining special education services prior to entering Kindergarten. The ECE program is set in an inclusive environment where students learn and interact with typical peers in the classroom setting while also receiving special education services.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program (DHH)

This program is designed to meet the diverse needs of students with hearing loss in Pre-K through High School.  The DHH program services students throughout Douglas County and represents a variety of communication modes, degrees of hearing loss, programming needs and service delivery options.

Transition Program (18-21 yrs.)

This program is an extension of Douglas County Schools transition services. The program serves students 18-21 years of age with significant support needs in the areas of adult living skills and vocational goals. Students qualifying for this program concentrate on preparing for adult living and working experiences.

Levels of Support

In-class/Indirect Support-Special Education teacher or Educational Assistant works in the Regular Education classroom to provide additional accommodations including small group instruction and testing accommodations

Pull-out/Direct Support– Students travel to a designated room to get more direct instruction from Special Education staff. This may often include behavioral support and/or significant modifications to the curriculum in the Regular Education classroom setting. Students in this setting receive support based on their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) in order to progress in the state education requirements and grade level expectations.

Center-Based Programs

The SSN, SED, PCA, ECE and DHH program descriptions listed previously are programs available only on designated campuses and address more significant needs in cognition, learning and/or behavior.  Each setting provides a continuum of services with inclusive opportunities students can access as deemed appropriate by the IEP committee.


 The Vision Program for students who are blind or visually impaired provides appropriate services and resources, which empower students to access the general curriculum and promote personal independence.


Related Services

Related services are determined by evaluation data and the IEP committee, and are provided to help students access the general curriculum.  Individual service providers are itinerant and serve a variety of campuses in Douglas County.

Speech Services – Students can receive speech services for articulation, voice, fluency and/or language development. This can be provided in a variety of settings including direct services, in-class support or through a pull-out delivery model.

Douglas County Assistive Technology Team (SWAAAC) – The Douglas County School District Assistive Technology Team (DCSD AT)  primarily addresses Assistive Technology (AT) needs in the area of communication and academics for students on an IEP or Section 504 plan.  DCSD AT team provides differentiated levels of support based on students' individualized needs.  Assistive Technology (AT) is a consultative resource for students. 

Orientation & Mobility (O&M) - Students who are blind or visually impaired may qualify for O&M services. O&M skills provide freedom of movement and independence, which promotes high self-esteem and offers increased opportunities for social interactions and employment. A certified orientation and mobility specialist is responsible for teaching a student with a visual impairment to attain systematic orientation to and safe movement within their environments in school, home, and community using a long cane or other mobility tools and devices. 

Occupational Therapy or Physical Therapy (OT/PT) – Students with significant fine and/or gross motor deficits may qualify for supports to enable them to benefit from their educational environment. This can be provided in a variety of settings including some direct services or through in-class support. Students may receive writing or cutting devices, standers and/or various other fine or gross motor equipment to enable them to access instruction.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Itinerant Services (DHH) -  These related services can be provided for students who do not require center-based levels of support. Services can be provided in a variety of settings including in-class support, direct services or through a pull-out model.

Timeline for the Special Education Process

In most cases the process begins at the school level and follows the timeline below. If you believe that your student may require Special Education services, please contact your child's school to start the process. 

  • Initial referral for Special Education and procedural safeguards given to parents.

  • Consent for assessment given by parents.

  • School personnel have 60 calendar days to administer formal assessments to assist in determining if students meet eligibility requirements for Special Education. All assessments and reports must be completed by this time.

  • School personnel have another 30 days to set up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. Parents will recieve Notice of IEP meeting to confirm date/time to meet and review/discuss information obtained.

  • IEP meeting convenes within 30 calendar days of completion of assessments. If student qualifies for Special Education servies, parents must sign a consent form to begin services.

  • Special Education services begin. Another IEP meeting will reconvene in a year from the date of the meeting to review services. 

Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability

What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights statute that protects persons with disabilities from discrimination. It states that:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall solely by reason of her or his disability be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) contains similar prohibitions against discrimination.

Under Section 504, school districts are required to make their programs and activities (including non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities) accessible to all individuals with disabilities and to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). A FAPE includes the provision of regular or special education, related aids and services, and other accommodations designed to meet the individual educational needs of the student.

Please note that Section 504 applies to all students with disabilities – including those students eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). The attached information focuses on the process associated with identifying, evaluating, and serving the “Section 504-only student.”  

READ MORE: Section 504 - A Guide for Parents of Students 

If you have questions regarding Section 504 concerning students or members of the public, contact your school's Section 504 coordinator.

For additional questions call:

Special Education Department
Douglas County School District
(303) 387-0080

Additional information can be obtained from the U.S.Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights
Region VIII, Federal Building, Suite 310
1244 Speer Blvd.
Denver, CO 80204-3582
(303) 844-5695

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Does the IEP team have to accept outside testing?

A. The team must consider and discuss the information from independent evaluations, but they are not required to accept any or all the recommendations.

Q. What if I disagree with the schools assessment of my student?

A. If a parent feels the school’s assessment is incomplete or inaccurate, they can ask for additional testing. If after an evaluation is completed by the District the parent still disagrees with some of the results, they may request additional assessments.  The process is outlined in the Parent Rights Handbook.


Home School

Q. My child attends Home School. What services can they get?

A. Special Education services cannot be provided to full-time home school students, but they can be provided for students who are dually-enrolled. However, a student who is home schooled may not enroll at the neighborhood school just for his/her IEP services. Your child may receive some of the IEP services if the classes they attend are classes the IEP would support. For example, a student with IEP objectives for math would not be eligible for those services if he/she does not attend their math class at the public school. Schools are not required to adjust their schedules to meet the needs of a dual-enrolled student. For example, if a student chooses to attend in the afternoon and math is not being taught, the child will miss out on IEP related math instruction. Schools are not obligated to provide all of the services listed on the IEP that a student would have if he/she was enrolled full time.

Q. Extended School Year Services (ESY)*What are ESY Services?

A. Extended School Year (ESY) is a program for eligible students with disabilities that are provided beyond the regular school year.  ESY eligibility is considered each year for every student with a disability and is based on a student’s individual progress on their goals and objectives.

Q. How do I know if my child qualifies for ESY services?

A. The IEP team makes the decision based on data collected by the student’s teachers/service providers after breaks in service (i.e: Fall break, Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, Spring break). The need for ESY services is determined by regression/recoupment and predictability data gathered by teachers over school breaks. Also, students with significant cognitive and/or behavioral data may be eligible if their data can predict there will be significant issues over a summer break. Teachers are trained in assessing and collecting this data and addressing ESY eligibility.



Q. What is an IEP?

A. An IEP is an Individualized Education Program written for a child with a disability who meets qualifications for one or more specific disabilities in accordance with federal law. The IEP is a legally binding document tailored specifically to a student’s unique and individual needs.

Q. How often must the IEP team meet?

A. The IEP team must meet at least annually to discuss, review and revise the IEP. An IEP meeting can be scheduled anytime throughout the year if the school or parent feels it is necessary.

Q. Can the IEP team meet without the parent?

A. Except for an Initial meeting to determine if a student is eligible for services for the first time, yes, the IEP team can meet without parents if:
  1. The parents indicate via phone, in person or in writing they are in agreement for the team to meet without them; or
  2. If the school has made 3 attempts to meet with parents with either no response from parents or no agreement on date/time.

Either way, the school must provide parents with a copy of the IEP after the meeting if the parents are not present. Phone conferences can be an alternative way to have the IEP meeting if the parents cannot be there in person.


Private School Services

Q. My child attends a private school. How does the referral for Special Education happen there?

A. If the student is a resident of Douglas County the evaluation process will occur at the student's neighborhood school.  If your child attends private school in Douglas County, but lives outside the district boundaries click here for the  Private School Evaluating School List. 

Q. If my child is eligible for Special Education services and they attend a private school, how do they receive their services?

A. The district/school that conducted the evaluation and IEP meeting (see previous question/answer) will determine the services that will support your child in the private school setting. If the student is a resident of Douglas County the evaluation process will occur at the student's neighborhood school. If your child attends private school in Douglas County, but lives outside the district click here for the Private School Evaluating List. An Individual Service Plan, not an Individual Education Plan, will be developed. If the child has had an IEP in the past, whether it is current or not, the team may use this information to assist in writing the service plan. Please note that services provided in a private school may not be as comprehensive as those readily available at the public school campus.



Q. As a parent, I feel my child needs to be tested for special education. Where do I start?

A. The parent needs to talk to the child’s teacher or counselor regarding their child’s progress. The teacher will refer the child to the school’s Response to Intervention (RTI) team so interventions can be made as needed. If the RTI team feels the student is not making adequate progress with interventions in place, a referral to special education will be made. The parents are always part of the referral team.


Related Service Providers

Q. Can my child’s outside therapist provide services in the school setting?

A. It is district policy that outside service providers do not provide special services in our classrooms. The disruption of the learning environment and the confidentiality of all students in special education settings must be protected. Outside service providers are welcome and encouraged to meet with teachers to collaborate on services and methodologies; however, the district recommends this happen outside of the instructional environment.



Q. My child has been identified with a disability and has an IEP. Does the school district provide transportation?

A. Transportation is considered to be a related service for students. The IEP committee will determine if special transportation services are needed based on the student’s individual needs and IEP.

Q. Do the parents have to pay for special transportation?

A. No, not if it is part of the child’s IEP.

What is DCSEAC?

Douglas County School District Special Education Advisory Committee is comprised of parents of students with disabilities and district staff who share a common interest in quality education for students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Interested in being a DCSEAC member?

Interested in becoming a DCSEAC Board Member?  Please visit our DCSEAC website for upcoming Parent Network meetings to learn more about helpful topics for parents and caregivers supporting children in special education. Confidentiality: All members will maintain confidentiality in relation to students with disabilities.
Our Parent Board is currently not accepting applications. However, we do review applications when openings do become available. Feel free to fill out the survey form and we will be in touch with upcoming availablity. DCSEAC Board Memebr Application Survey.

Scheduled Meetings and Locations for 2017-2018

DCSEAC's Parent and District Board meetings are at Lone Tree Elementary School; 9375 Heritage Hills Cir, Lone Tree, CO 80124 from 6:30-8:00pm on: September 6th, November 1st, January 10th, March 7th, May 2nd.
If you would like to attend a meeting please email us at info[at]dcseac[dot]org so we may add you to our agenda.

Shining Star Week

Recognize a staff member who goes above and beyond during our annual Shining Star Week in early March.
Would you like to thank a member of your child's Special Education staff or other staff member for their hard work and dedicated service?
DCSEAC is excited to announce a new program called Shining Star Week. It is an easy way to say thank you to those Special Education STARS who go above and beyond to make your child's day special. Click here for a printable flyer. to present to your STAR

Our community has many resources that support individuals and families with disabilities.

Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network

Providing professional, culturally inclusive mental health and substance abuse services. Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network offers outpatient services such as individual, family, marital and group counseling therapies – plus a full range of group and inpatient programs. 

Arc of Colorado
Building better lives for persons with intellectual developmental disabilities and their families by improving connections to schools, work, and the community through influencing public policy, increasing public awareness, supporting local chapters, and collaborating with other organizations sharing the same values. 

Autism Society of Colorado
The mission of the Autism Society of Colorado is to improve the lives of all affected by autism. This includes families, providers, educators, and members of the community. At ASC, we say that we advocate, inform, and share the journey with thousands of Coloradoans. 

Colorado Department of Education
Through setting a clear vision for increasing student and overall system performance, CDE continually supports the advancement and improvement of the state’s education system to prepare all learners for success in a rapidly changing global workplace. We have clear goals related to student achievement, educator effectiveness, school/district performance and state agency operations – all aimed at preparing students for success after high school.

Developmental Pathways
Developmental Pathways is a Colorado non-profit agency created to serve persons with developmental disabilities and their families. It was established in 1964 as a community-based alternative to institutional care. Since that time, Pathways has developed a broad array of services based on the principle that full inclusion and participation in community life is attainable for every individual with a developmental disability. Developmental Pathways serves citizens of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, and the portion of Adams County within the city of Aurora city limits. 

Highlands Ranch Therapeutic Recreation Program
HRCA Therapeutic Recreation Programs are intended to enhance the quality of life of individuals with special needs. Programs are facilitated by Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists and/or qualified staff. We provide a quality and compassionate community-based environment for participants of all ages and abilities. Our goal is to challenge participants and support general independence, choice, self-determination, and self-confidence. We want each participant to enjoy recreation. We work towards social independence in a fun and safe environment, while encouraging a general sense of health, wellness, and improved quality of life. 

The mission of PEAK Parent Center is to provide training, information and technical assistance to equip families of children birth through twenty-six including all disability conditions with strategies to advocate successfully for their children. As a result of PEAK's services to families and professionals, children and adults with disabilities will live rich, active lives participating as full members of their schools and communities. 

Rocky Mountain Branch of The International Dyslexia Association (IDA- RMB). The International Dyslexia Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals living with dyslexia, language and literacy challenges, their families and the communities that support them. The IDA-RMB provides local workshops and resources to educate and increase public awareness of dyslexia, a learning difference that affects up to 20 percent of the U.S. population. 

Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Society
The mission of Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association is to assure inclusion and enhance independence of people with Down syndrome. We will achieve this by providing education, resources and support in partnership with individuals, families, professionals, and the community.

DC Youth Resource Guide
The Douglas County Youth Initiative is a collaborative project between Douglas County government, the Douglas County School District, the City of Lone Tree, the Town of Castle Rock, the Town of Parker, and Douglas County Libraries. It serves to coordinate local youth-serving efforts and assess the needs of the community's kids.


Voices Colorado
Making Colorado a better place for children and youth with special health care needs.


Printable Community Resources