Tribal Education is rebranding and expanding special education services

March 2, 2018


Aaron J. Tohtsoni

Gila River Indian News


The Tribal Education Department’s Early Childhood Special Services (ECSS) is providing additional services and will be rebranded as the Child Development and Education Support Services (CDESS).


The expanded services were added to address the Community’s needs for special education advocacy for students attending kindergarten through 12th grade on and off of the Community.


“The Special Education process can be confusing and overwhelming. We really want parents and guardians to have an advocate there to help them understand the process that their child may be going through when it comes to special education,” said Joann Nelson, Special Services Manager. “Whether its providing info about their parental rights, student’s rights or understanding plans that their child may be placed and how often that plan will be revisited. We want the parents and guardians to know we are available to help them through the process by phone, email or in-person.”


The goal of the program is to enhance the development of children with disabilities and to minimize their potential for developmental delays by evaluating and identifying the needs of all children that reside in the Gila River Indian Community that have special needs. 


The program has components for birth to three years old, three years to five years old and kindergarten through 12th grade. The birth to five services are provided to children residing within the Community and are offered in the child’s natural setting (home or center-based). The K-12th grade services are offered to any student that is enrolled in the Community, regardless if the school is within in the Community or off the Community.


The additional services have been available since October 2017 and the program is referral-based and parents/guardians can request services at any time. 


The program continues to accept birth to five year olds referrals from hospitals, various tribal and state agencies and schools. The program requests the referral source has notified parents.


Plans that students can be placed on include Individual Family Service Plans (IFSP), Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and 504 Plans depending on age and student’s needs. The plans are in place to help the student succeed in their schooling. The CDESS program has a variety of professionals on staff to assist children and families throughout the special education process.


In addition, to these services the original services that have always been available will remain intact. Those services include hearing, vision and development screening for children birth to five years old, home and school/center-based services, special education and related services (speech, occupational and physical therapies, etc.), transportation to and from therapies and early intervention, including monitoring and tracking for infants and toddlers.


The program is funded through the Community’s education budget as well as through federal funding for the birth to five years component under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Parts B & C.


For more information or referrals please reach out to the Child Development and Education Support Services at (520) 562-3882 or at the Tribal Education Department.