Salem-Keizer Public Schools
Support Services Center
2575 Commercial St. SE
Salem, OR 97302
Director of Student Services
Eric Richards has 35 years of Executive/Administrative experience focused and the rights and aspirations of children and adults with disabilities and their families. He served as Executive Director of non-profit organizations in Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska (1983-2002) before moving to Oregon to become Director of Operations in the Oregon Department of Education’s Office of Special Education (2002-June 2010). He then served as Student Services Coordinator and Assistant Director of Student Services for Salem-Keizer School District 24J from July 2010 to June 2016, and has been Director of Student Services for Salem-Keizer School District 24J since July 2016.
Eric holds a Masters Degree in Counseling from Central Michigan University, a Masters Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Iowa State University, and an EdS from Lewis and Clark College in Educational Leadership. He also completed the Initial School Administrative Licensure and Continuing School Administrative Licensure Programs through Lewis and Clark College.
Popular Resources for Salem-Keizer Parents of Students with Special Needs
Special Education Resource Links
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Salem-Keizer Related Student Services
Service Teams and Programs
All Salem-Keizer Related Service Providers are available by Student Services
This team of specialists provides training, evaluation and consultation to schools and IEP Teams for students whose needs require specialized technology or equipment to access their education. They also serve as the loaning bank for this equipment.
This trained team of specialists is accessed through a referral process to the Local Education Service District, and provides training, consultation and direct services to students who have severe communication disorders that impact their ability to access their educational program. They provide staff training and attend IEP meetings as appropriate. The Augmentative Communication Team conducts assessments and recommends specialized technology and serves as loaning bank for this equipment.
This team consists of a Special Education Coordinator, Autism Speech Language Pathologists, Program Assistant, District Autism Specialists, School Psychologist, Autism Assistants, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and the WESD Autism Coordinator. Autism Spectrum Disorder Team processes evaluations as well as provides the coordination of autism services for the District. Attend IEP meetings and gives impromptu advice to staff and parents regarding strategies to help students with autism be successful.
The Community Transition Program – is designed for students who are at least 18 years old with lower cognitive functioning and problem behaviors. The CTP – LSC program curriculum consists of functional reading, math and language. The program teaches job skills and preparation for independent living. Students are assisted to manage as independently as possible in health care, leisure time, community living, legal systems and other areas of transition.
Counselor/Child Development Specialist’s primary function is to develop and implement the guidance program and activities consistent with District Guidance Administrative Guidelines. Planned activities are conducted to enable students to achieve District Guidance Goals and Objectives. The four areas of counselor responsibility relate to student needs in the following domains: social emotional, academic, career, community involvement and Section 504. Development and implementation of Section 504 plans including conducting meetings and attending IEP meetings as needed.
The Crisis/Trauma Response Team’s purpose is to support schools during times of crisis due to death or trauma. Requested by the building principal, the team is called in to assist with a timely and systematic response to crisis at a school site.
Employment Specialists are based in each High School, Community Transition Programs and the Youth Transition Program. They work with licensed staff to facilitate the education/employability needs for identified students. Employment Specialists develop job sites within the business community, assess student skill levels, place students in work experience and job shadowing sites, provide skills training and job coaching, mobility training, and review performance evaluations with students. Employment Specialists are knowledgeable in rules and regulations specific to state and federal labor laws, reasonable accommodations available through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and specific guidelines required by OSHA, SSI, and SSDI. Employment Specialists are knowledgeable in Individual Education Plans (IEP), Transition Plan procedures and practices.
This team is comprised of Nurses, Occupational and Physical Therapists, and Speech and Language Pathologists who evaluate and develop protocols for students with feeding and swallowing issues. The Feeding and Swallowing Team trains building staff and may attend IEP meetings as well.
School Health Nurses are a part of the School Health Services Program and work with school-age students with health conditions in Salem-Keizer Schools. The nurses work with the school staff, families and health care providers to develop individualized health management plans (HMP) for students with the most complex health needs. School Health Nurses are registered nurses (RN), with bachelor’s degrees licensed to practice nursing by the state board of nursing. They may give impromptu advice or attend IEP or 504 meetings to discuss health care needs and concerns. Nurses also train school staff on medical treatment and care.
The Independent Living Program is designed to support students ages 18 through 21 to learn skills for living independently in an apartment setting. The three-strand curriculum focuses on consumerism, personal growth, and daily living (i.e. cooking and cleaning). The goal of this program is to raise students’ awareness and skill levels as they prepare for transition from high school to adult independent living. This course is designed to be completed within one to two semesters. This is a day program, with no evening/overnight component.
The District OT/PT Team is staffed by licensed Physical and Occupational Therapists, as well as Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA’s). Evaluative, consultative and direct services are provided to students who have difficulty moving and participating fully in their school environment whether on an IEP or a 504 plan. They also assist with adaptive equipment and assistive technology (i.e. wheelchairs, walkers) and provide appropriate training to school teams. The OT/PT/COTA team has a bank of equipment that they loan to students and also provide swim classes.
These teachers on special assignment serve as a resource to building-based special education programs, staff and parents. Program Assistants assist with training, staff development, consulting, and transition in and out of special placements. Program Assistants are often the initial point of contact for building staff and parents. Program Assistants attend IEP meetings and serve as district representatives.
School Psychologists work with school special education teams, administrators and testing specialists to provide consultation, assessment, eligibility, intervention, prevention, evaluation and planning services. Psychologists can help identify potential learning difficulties, design programs for children at risk of academic failure, and provide parents and staff with skills to cope with disruptive behavior. They may also provide school trainings to help staff better understand emotional complexities of students and provide useful strategies for redirecting. They develop a Summary of Assessments – Confidential Psychological Report for determining qualifications for specific disability categories. Psychologists help others understand about child development, personality development, emotional development, and social skills learning. Psychologists can also develop programs covering topics such as teaching and learning classroom strategies, classroom management techniques, or handling residuals of abuse.
Speech Language Pathologists are housed in schools and are specialists who serve children who have communication disorders. SLP’s conduct assessments, and provide direct service to students. They prepare and conduct IEP meetings for students with a communication disability and may act as a District Representative at IEP meetings as needed.
This trained team of specialists provides consultation to school-based teams who serve students that have experienced traumatic brain injuries. They attend IEP meetings as appropriate. This team works in conjunction with the Willamette ESD to coordinate services region-wide.
Testing Specialists are special educators who are qualified to give academic and cognitive evaluations for initial special education identification and 3rd year re-evaluations for IEP’s. Testing Specialists also complete file reviews, observations, and consult with staff on bilingual evaluations, eligibility issues and students new to Salem-Keizer Public Schools.
The Youth Transition Program is designed to serve students age 17 through 21 with disabilities and/or 504 plan students who have a barrier to employment. Trained staff work with students in the areas of employment, appropriate work behaviors, social skills, budgeting, housing and post secondary training. This is a cooperative grant with Vocational Rehabilitation Department and the University of Oregon. This program is designed to work with students with mild disabilities who are eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation services and are able to become competitively employed without long-term support. The goal of the YTP Program is for students to find placement in meaningful competitive employment or career-related post secondary training.
Is my child eligible for Special Education?
All students, birth to 21 years old may be eligible for specially designed special education services. Students qualify under guidelines established by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or, IDEA.
School districts must locate, identify and evaluate all resident children with suspected or established disabilities. This is called Child Find.
When a student is referred for special education an evaluation may be recommended. All referrals start at the neighborhood school. Trained staff, which might include a school psychologist, speech clinician, testing specialist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, autism consultant or behavior specialist, will complete observations, conduct diagnostic evaluations and gather information from a variety of sources. All initial evaluations begin with signed parental consent and knowledge from the parent/guardian. Parent/Guardian input is encouraged at all stages of the evaluation, eligibility, IEP development and placement decision.
What’s the difference between Special Education and a Section 504?
Section 504 is a civil rights law designed to protect individuals with disabilities. It’s intended to allow students supports or accommodations necessary for them to access their education. A Section 504 Plan is developed, much like an IEP, but without specially designed instruction. Generally, most students on a Section 504 plan are able to fully participate in general education.
Typically, an IEP (individual education plan) is designed for students with disabilities whose disability prevent them from accessing general education without specific interventions, such as specially designed instruction, related services and supplementary aids and services.