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Our Services

Special Education Evaluations

Hiawatha Academies has a special education evaluation team who conducts comprehensive evaluations to determine student eligibility for special education services. Testing and measures for all evaluations are determined by the student’s IEP team in collaboration with the evaluation team.

Hiawatha Academies conducts testing and measures in the following need areas:

  • Intellectual
  • Academic
  • Social/Emotional/Behavioral
  • Communication
  • Sensorimotor
  • Functional/Adaptive
  • Motor
  • Sensory/Health/Physical
  • Secondary Transition
  • Other

In order to qualify for special education services, a student must undergo an Initial Evaluation and meet criteria for one or more of the following Minnesota disability categories:

  • Speech or Language Impairments
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Other Health Disabilities
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Emotional or Behavioral Disorder
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Developmental Cognitive Disabilities
  • Severely Multiply Impaired
  • Blind-Visually Impaired
  • Deaf-Blind
  • Physically Impaired
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Developmental Delay

Students receiving special education services undergo a Re-evaluation a minimum of every three years to determine continued eligibility for services.

Disability Categories

Disability categories and criteria are determined by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). A brief description of each category can be found in the table below.


Brief description of how this disability is diagnosed

Speech or Language Impairments (SLI)

A Speech Language Impairment is a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects that student’s educational performance. 

Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD)

A Specific Learning Disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using language that may impact a person’s ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations. 

 The state of Minnesota has established two methods of identifying a student with a SLD:

  • Severe Discrepancy: The IEP Team determines that a severe discrepancy between cognitive potential (as measured by a standardized intelligence test), and achievement (as measured by a standardized test of knowledge), is present. A significant discrepancy value is greater than or equal to a value of +1.75 standard deviations. 
  • Inadequate rate of progress on Scientific Research-based Interventions (SRBI): The IEP Team determines that the student is not responding to research-based interventions or responding at a rate that is significantly slower than his/her peers in similar interventions.

As an organization, Hiawatha must designate one method for making eligibility determinations.  Currently, all SLD eligibility determinations are made using the Severe Discrepancy model.  However, our team goal is to build the quality of our interventions to the point where we can transition completely to the SRBI model.

Other Health Disability (OHD)

The Other Health Disability category addresses a wide range of chronic or acute health conditions that impact a student’s ability to learn and function at school. This disability type is very broad. A student must have a medically documented health condition that  is adversely affecting their educational performance.

The following health conditions may qualify a student for OHD: ADHD, heart condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, diabetes, or Tourette’s syndrome. This is not an exhaustive list of potential qualifying conditions.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that features deficits in social interactions and communication, and unique patterns of behavior. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders may exhibit a wide range of characteristics that range from mild to severe. Frequently, individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders demonstrate a combination of difficulty interacting with others, repetitive or restrictive behavior, interests or activities, and difficulty communicating with others.

Emotional or Behavioral Disorders (EBD)

An Emotional or Behavioral Disorder is a consistent demonstration of emotional or behavioral responses that adversely affect a student’s educational or developmental performance in a minimum of 3 settings..

An Emotional or Behavioral Disordered is determined by an established pattern of of one or more of the following:

  • Withdrawal or anxiety, depression, problems with mood, or feelings of self-worth;
  • Disordered thought processes with unusual behavior patterns and atypical communication styles; or
  • Aggression, hyperactivity or impulsivity

Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH)

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing disability requires that an audiologist has diagnosed the student with a hearing impairment or deafness, either permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects the student’s educational performance.

Developmental Cognitive Disabilities (DCD)

A Development Cognitive Disability is characterized by deficits in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. The rate or capacity of learning for a student with a Developmental Cognitive Disability may be different from their peers. A student may fall into the Mild-Moderate category or the Severe-Profound category determined by their rate and capacity for learning.

Development Disability (DD: Ages 3 through 6)

A Developmental Delay is a short-term disability status for students younger than 7 who either: 1)  have a diagnosed physical or mental condition that will likely lead to a developmental delay, or 2) have a measurable delay greater than 1.5 standard deviations below the mean in at least two developmental domains.

Severely Multiply Impaired (SMI)


A Severely Multiply Impaired student meets criteria for two or more of the following categories:

  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Physically Impaired
  • Developmental Cognitive Disability (Severe-Profound)
  • Blind-Visually Impaired
  • Emotional or Behavioral Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders

The combination causes educational needs that cannot be accommodated in a special education program solely for one of the impairments.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)



A Traumatic Brain Injury is an acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force or by certain medical conditions such as stroke, encephalitis, aneurysm, and anoxia, or brain tumors with resulting impairments that adversely affect educational performance.

The term includes open or closed head injuries or brain injuries from certain medical conditions resulting in mild, moderate, or severe impairments in one or more areas, including cognition, language, memory, attention, reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, problem-solving, sensory, perceptual and motor abilities, psychosocial behavior, physical functions, information processing, and speech. The term does not include injuries that are congenital or caused by birth trauma.

Blind or Visual Impairment (BVI)

A Blind or Visual Impairment is an impairment in vision, including blindness, that even with correction, adversely affects that student’s educational performance. The category includes both partial sight and blindness.

Physically Impaired (PI)

A Physical Impairment is a severe physical or orthopedic impairment that adversely affects their educational performance.  This may include impairments caused by congenital anomaly, impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis), and impairments from other causes (e.g., cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures or burns that cause contractures)



Deaf-Blindness is a combination of hearing and visual impairments which causes severe communication, developmental and educational needs that cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for students with deafness or students with blindness.

Range of Services

State and federal special education law requires students with disabilities to be educated in their “least restrictive environment (LRE)”. For every scholar, their LRE will be different and is based on current academic, emotional, and social abilities. A student with a disability should be removed from participation in the general education environment only when it is determined that the child cannot make adequate progress, even with the help of supports and services, in a general education setting. These exceptions are rare and reflect a very small percentage of our population. The table below outlines Hiawatha Academies’ continuum of educational placements ranging from least to most restrictive. 

Note: A very small percentage of students with disabilities may require a placement which is not within Hiawatha’s continuum of placements, such as a specialized school.  Before making this decision, we strive to create new settings to meet the student’s needs.  In situations where the IEP team believes that the student’s least restrictive environment falls outside our continuum of services, we support the parent to find the right placement. 

A student’s placement should be made independently for each daily activity and content area.  A student may have a different setting for each content area. For example a student may receive literacy instruction in a supplanting resource room, math instruction in a co-taught general education classroom, and science in a general education classroom with accommodations only. 

Setting (From least to most restrictive)


General Education classroom with no supports

Scholars with disabilities are general education students first, and as such, should have access to general education curriculum and peers to the extent appropriate, and as determined by the IEP team.  In many cases, students on IEPs are participating with nondisabled peers without additional accommodations or support

General Education classroom with accommodations ONLY

For some scholars with disabilities, additional supports related to their disability in the general education setting are sufficient to meet the scholar’s IEP goals and to make adequate progress.  These accommodations will be implemented by the general education teacher in collaboration with the student’s case manager.

General Education Classroom with general paraprofessional support

In this setting, a paraprofessional supports the general education teacher to ensure that students receive needed accommodations and support related to their disability. The goal with this setting is to provide students the least invasive interventions to allow them to be successful in the general education curriculum. 

Co-taught General Education Classroom

Co-teaching instruction is the most common form of specialized instruction at Hiawatha Academies. Effective co-teaching classes supports students to be successful by reducing the student-teacher ratio and shrinking the feedback loop so students have more opportunities to correct their thinking. There are several co-teaching models which are well supported by research and can be used, including team teaching, parallel teaching, station teaching, and alternative teaching. Students with IEPs receive direct services related to their individualized goals.

Supplemental Resource Classroom

A supplemental resource classroom is a class which supports but does not replace, the student’s core subjects. For example, a student may take a literacy class, then also receive a Wilson Reading System pull-out class which supports the student’s literacy program.  This also includes resource “study halls” and “organizational skills” classes. 

Supplanting Resource Classroom

A supplanting resource classroom is a class that the student takes instead of participating in the general education class. For example, a student may take a resource math class, rather than participating in their core math class.  The decision to place a student in a supplanting resource class must be supported by overwhelming data which shows that the student is not currently able to be successful in the general classroom, even with comprehensive supports. 

Specialized Program

A small percentage of students with IEPs require a specialized program for the majority of their day at school.  These programs typically support students with similar needs and focus on specific disability classifications, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders and  Developmental Cognitive Disabilities

Contracted Services
Hiawatha Academies contracts with outside service providers for all related services (excluding school social work) as well as services required to conduct student evaluations.  Table 5 lists the current services for which we contract and the current individual or company that provides these services.

List of contracted services and providers

Contracted Service


Speech/ Language Services

WordPlay Speech and Language Services, LLC

Occupational Therapy

Integrative Therapy, LLC

Physical Therapy

Capernaum Pediatric Therapy

Developmental Adaptive Physical Education

Theresa Christofferson

Deaf/ Hard of Hearing Instruction

Jason Milano

Additionally, Hiawatha Academies partners with a number of outside mental health providers to provide co-located mental health services.  Therapists spend time at each campus meeting with students and families, as well as supporting families to connect with other outside providers and agencies. 

Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (34 C.F.R. Part 104) is a federal civil rights statute that assures individuals will not be discriminated against based on their disability. All school districts that receive federal funding are responsible for the implementation of this law.

Section 504 protects a student with an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, whether the student receives special education services or not.

  • Examples of physical or mental impairments that may be covered under Section 504 include: epilepsy, AIDS, allergies, vision impairment, broken limbs, cancer, diabetes, asthma, temporary condition due to accidents or illness, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, depression, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Examples of major life activities that can be affected by the student’s disability include: learning, thinking, concentrating, reading, speaking, walking, breathing, sleeping, caring for oneself, as well as major bodily functions, including brain function, immune system function, or digestive functions. This is not an exhaustive list

Students may be eligible for a 504 plan to accommodate impairments outside of special education. If you would like to learn more about Section 504 Plans, or believe your child may be eligible for a 504 Plan, please contact your child’s homeroom or advisory teacher, or your campus social worker.

Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC)

A Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) is a group that provides input on special education issues in a district. Its purpose is to advise and advocate. Minnesota law requires each school district must have a SEAC, and each SEAC may have a unique mission and structure.

At least half of the members of a district’s SEAC must be parents of students with disabilities. Other members of the SEAC may include special education staff and leadership, general education staff and leadership, board members and staff from outside agencies. 

Please check back for more information regarding Hiawatha SEAC’s schedule for the 21-22 school year.

If you would like to get your child tested, please reach out to your homeroom teacher or the staff listed below
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