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The OI program ensures that all students with physical and health impairments fully engage and participate in academic and/or vocational environments. We offer integrated academic and career-training programs with personalized supports like assistive technology, curriculum modifications and environmental adaptations.
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Most of the children in Leslie Anido's 4th and 5th grade class at Blackford Elementary School are dependent on wheelchairs. But that doesn't keep them confined to their San Jose campus.
In one month alone this spring, the orthopedically impaired students went hiking at Sanborn County Park to explore forest ecology... sailed on a Marine Science Institute research vessel to meet the denizens of San Francisco Bay... and rode CalTrain to Sacramento to learn about state government.
"My children should have the same learning experiences as other students," says Anido, who has taught special education classes for the Santa Clara County Office of Education for 30 years.
Anido does whatever it takes to make sure her students encounter the larger world firsthand. She's become a virtuoso at securing grants to pay for specialized transportation, and recruiting volunteers to help with logistics.
At Blackford, special education students are mainstreamed into regular classes for part of the school day. The school runs its own program for the orthopedically impaired, in addition to the County Office of Education's three classes on campus. Anido's charges come and go with such frequency that it takes a five-page schedule to track their movements.
As the day progresses, half a dozen aides help children in and out of the fleet of walkers, standers and a sporty tricycle parked outside the classroom door. Students buzz off to speech therapy or literature class in motorized wheel chairs. A nurse administers medication to a boy with breathing problems, while the rest of the class focuses on the bird lesson.
"They are so busy all day long, I would call it choreographed," says Darci Hammond, principal of the Della Maggiore cluster of special education programs, which includes the Blackford classes.
Students' physical limitations are treated as merely another part of classroom life. Adaptive technology and aides are there when needed, but students are encouraged to be as independent as they can.
As Anido presents a science lesson on the life cycle of birds, one boy follows along on a CCTV reader that enlarges reading materials for the visually impaired. On the other side of the room, another child uses a computerized "talker" to participate in the discussion.
"Everyone can do everything," the teacher declares. "It's just a different way."