Spotlight on Special Education

February 2021

Special Education Programming

Ready, Set, Go! Toms River Regional School District Special Education students are continuing to make strides in the 20-21 school year. Students are participating in many facets of learning through the hybrid learning model. Hybrid learning has opened up a new world of online tools and learning. Assessments and goal planning have also been implemented on an individual basis through online platforms or in-person. Most importantly, our teachers and support staff have focused on routines, strategies, and safety procedures.

Read below about how our district behavior analysts and related service providers supported our students with routines, strategies, and safety procedures during the 20-21 school year!

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) update

Colleen O’Donnell and Sarah Strazzella, Toms River’s District BCBAs, have been working hard behind the scenes with families to offer support for students with virtual learning and behavior needs. They have been creating a lot of visual schedules that help support learners while they are at home. Other areas of support include virtually assisting learners with Activities of Daily Living (ADL), use of visuals to support communication, creating reinforcement systems to increase motivation and engagement during virtual instruction and much more! If your child needs behavioral support or personalized visuals, please reach out to your child’s case manager who will get in contact with a board certified behavior analyst on your family’s behalf!

Occupational Therapy Department- Where Fun(ctional) Things Happen!

The Occupational Therapists at Toms River Schools put the "fun" in functional! The goal of school-based occupational therapy is to support a student's ability to fully participate in his or her education; regardless of the learning environment's location. Some of the areas that our district's Occupational Therapists address are: fine motor skills, motor planning skills, bilateral upper extremity coordination skills, visual motor and perceptual skills, sensory processing skills, self-care and Activities of Daily Living skills, and executive functioning skills. Our district's Occupational Therapists collaborate with teachers, parents, Child Study Teams, Board Certified Behavior Analysts, and other related services professionals using a whole-child approach. We encourage families to utilize your child's Occupational Therapist for strategies, adaptations, modifications, and activities to support academic independence!

Click here to see a great resource from the American Occupational Therapy Association about setting up a virtual learning workspace!

Click here for a step-by-step visual support for hand washing!

OT Tips for Hybrid and Virtual Learning Success

  • Stick with structure!

    • Help your student follow a daily schedule or routine to help him or her stay accountable and on-task

      • Print out a visual schedule and keep it in your student’s workstation.

      • Help your student learn to plan and prioritize assignments by using a planner or online calendar system

  • Encourage your student to get a good night’s sleep!

    • Create and maintain a bedtime and morning wake-up routine.

    • Decrease electronic use at least one hour before bed. Blue light that comes off of electronics has been shown to interrupt the sleep cycle.

      • Encourage your student to keep his or her phone far away from the bed, or even better- in a different room! That way he or she won’t be tempted to use it late at night.

  • Set up an at-home “work station!”

    • Make sure your student has a comfy, organized space to use his or her Chromebook or tablet each day.

      • The chair should support his or her back

      • The lighting needs to be bright

      • Keep the device charger handy

      • Make sure your student has paper, pencils, and any other school supplies he or she might need nearby.

  • Minimize distractions!

    • Turn off the TV

    • Turn off music

    • Put away the phone!

  • Get up and move!

    • Encourage your student to take lots of movement breaks

    • Have your student try different positions for working: such as standing, sitting on a therapy ball, lying on his or her stomach on the floor, etc.

    • Give your student something to fidget with while sitting if needed.

  • Have Smart Snacks available for your student! Certain snacks and drinks actually help increase focus and attention:

    • Crunchy- pretzels, apple slices, celery, carrot sticks

    • Sour- candy, lemonade

    • Chewy- beef jerky, bagels, fruit roll-up

    • Spicy- salsa, hot sauce

    • Protein- eggs, peanut butter, greek yogurt

    • Peppermint- tea, candy

KEEP ON MOVIN' with the Physical Therapy Department

The goal of the Physical Therapy department at Toms River Schools is to help our students KEEP MOVING, regardless of where our learning environment may be. Our priorities are always to have our students supported in the most optimal position for learning, to provide opportunities for movement and efficiency throughout their school day, and to ensure they have the necessary building blocks to achieve these goals. The ways in which we provide these services are as diverse as the students we have the privilege of working with. A team model approach is essential to our students for maximum success; as such, continued communication with our families is of upmost importance during this time of hybrid learning. We encourage our students and their families to utilize your therapists for support!

Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG)

Toms River Regional encourages parent participation in the special education process. Our SEPAG group meets a few times a year to discuss all things special education.

Our first meeting of 20-21 discussed remote learning and instruction.

During our second meeting some our teachers and support staff provided specific strategies, ideas, and visual schedules to use in the home and while on virtual instruction. View a copy of the presentation and handouts HERE. If you try any of the suggestions let your teacher and case manager know how it went!

The District Special Education and SEPAG webpage offers some great resources such as local community events for special education students, SEPAG flyers and information, guardianship, township and community supports, and other useful information. Check it out here:

Our virtual SEPAG meetings have been a success and we want you to join us next!

Tuesday, March 16th. 6:00pm-7:00pm. Topic: Understanding your Child's IEP


Office of Special Services

Joy Forrest, Director of Special Services

Anna Kasper, Supervisor Preschool and Autism

Heather Mills, Supervisor High School

Kelly Umbach, Supervisor K-8 CST

Dana Weber, Supervisor K-8 instruction