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Exceptional Support Branch

Supports schools and complex areas through the research and development of policies, procedures, guidelines and tools to ensure that children/youth (ages 3-22) with disabilities have a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

The Exceptional Support Branch (ESB) supports districts and complex areas with policies, procedures, guidelines, tools and professional development, ensuring students with disabilities the access and opportunity to succeed in engaging learning environments like all other students. 

The primary goal of both sections within the ESB is to provide leadership and support for our students with disabilities who receive special education and related services throughout Hawaii Public and Charter schools. This is done under the authority of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004), Section 504 Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and their corresponding administrative rules, HAR Chapter 60 and 61. 

Within the HIDOE tri-level system, implementation of IDEA requirements is carried out by state offices, complex area offices, and schools. ESB leads the development of vertical and horizontal systems of support to administrators, teachers and families to ensure effective implementation of special education processes and best practices. 

The general operations of the ESB include the following: 

  • Develops procedures and standards of practice for the education of students with disabilities, ages 3 to 22, to be applied throughout Hawaii Public and Charter schools. 
  • Provides technical assistance and training to districts, complex areas, schools, cooperating agencies and parents on addressing the needs of students with disabilities. 
  • Develops and manages statewide contracts, memorandums of agreements and affiliations to ensure students receive services by qualified staff. 
  • Manages both federal and general funded programs allocated to complex areas for the purpose of serving students with disabilities. 

The ESB consists of the Special Education Section and the Special Needs Section. Both sections work collaboratively to ensure an accurate and timely response to the field’s needs. 

Exceptional Support Branch Programs and Services

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) 

The ESB provides guidance and resources to all complex areas to ensure students that need ABA services are provided by qualified professionals.

  • Incarcerated Adult Students 

The ESB manages the Interagency Agreement ​and collaborates with ​​the ​​Hawaii State Department of Public Safety to identify eligible students (youth up to age 22), offer Free Appropriate Public Education​ (FAPE), and ensure the implementation of ​​special education and related services as indicated on their IEP.​​​​​

The ESB is sponsoring a statewide Inclusive Practices initiative. Through this initiative, HIDOE established a clear vision and expectations for inclusive practices. Over the past four school years, the ESB in collaboration with Stetson and Associates conducted inclusive practices implementation training and consultation to complex area staff and schools statewide. Certified Complex area staff can provide onsite assistance in building a community that embraces students with disabilities as valued community members and provides support to teachers, schools, and staff to ensure student success. Schools are provided with assistance on the use of resources and personnel, student-centered decision making, various models of support services and instruction.​​

The ESB provides targeted and sustained professional learning opportunities to strengthen teacher practice and improve student outcomes. Professional learning is guided by the principles of adult learning theory research on effective professional learning for teachers. With the goal of improving academic and functional outcomes for all students with disabilities, ESB’s capacity-building efforts include implementation training, guidance documents, tools, and other various resources. ​

  • Po‘okela Special Day Program Center 

Po'okela provides intensive specialized support for students who have a combination of severe social, behavioral, and communicative needs with cognitive impairment, neurodevelopmental disorder, and who are not progressing in special education settings in school.

  • Post-Secondary Transition 

The ESB provides support to staff, families, and communities to improve the academic and functional achievement of students with disabilities as they transition from school to post-school. Activities include postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.

  • Preschool 

The ESB provides technical support and resources to schools and districts to ensure children ages 3-5 years old are provided special education and related services in the provision of a free and appropriate public education. Preschool students focus on developing appropriate skills.

  • Public Charter Schools (PCS)

All PCS are public schools run by independent, autonomous governing boards and are required, pursuant to both federal and state laws, to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which​ includes providing SPED and related services identified in a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP).​

  • School-Based Related Services​​

Related services are intended to enable children with disabilities to benefit from specially designed instruction in the least restrictive environment. Related services include transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education.

The ESB ensures​ students with disabilities ​have access to opportunities ​​that their non-disabled peers ​​are provided, free from discrimination. The ESB 504 program allocates ​resources for and provides technical assistance to ​​complex areas and schools ​​on the implementation of ​​the federal law (34 CFR 104) and ​​HAR Chapter 61 through professional learning​ opportunities, ​resources, and materials.

  • Students in Residential Facilities 

The ESB provides Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) for students with mental health needs placed in residential treatment facilities. Students are placed in residential facilities for mental health reasons that can include referrals made from the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division (CAMHD) or court-ordered. Students are placed in facilities, either in-state or out-of-state.

  • Visually Disabled Including Blindness​​​​
The ESB provides information ​on accessible ​​educational​​ materials and assessments in audio, braille, and large print ​​for students who are identified as Visually Disabled including Blindness.​​​​
  • Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind Support Program​​
The ESB provides targeted and sustained professional learning opportunities and consultative support to ensure students who have been identified as deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind have access to the general curriculum through language enriched instruction and learning environments. The ESB also supports complex areas and schools to implementation deaf education programs ensuring communication access through the provision of educational interpreters, computer-assisted note-taking, and Communication Access in Real Time (CART) statewide.​​ ​

District and Complex Area Resources

Each Complex Area within the state has a Special Education team of specialists supporting schools and families. For help with your student/child or school please contact the District Educational Specialist for your school.

Community Partners

The ESB recognizes the value of its community partners and works closely with the following entities on increasing outcomes for students with disabilities. 

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