Special education refers to a range of educational services provided by the Hingham Public Schools to individuals with disabilities who are between three and 21 years of age.

Child Find

Hingham Public Schools, at least annually, reaches out to groups in the community who may be aware of students in need of special education and/ or related services. These groups include shelters servicing students eligible for support according to the McKinney Vento Education Act for Homeless Children, group homes, agencies, parental and community organizations, other private or public schools, early intervention and health care agencies.

Parents, who are concerned about their child’s development, may contact the Office of Student Services at 781-741-1500  ext. 3 to request a screening or an evaluation as early as two and a half years old. All parents of two and three year olds receive this notification annually. All children are screened for kindergarten.

Local physicians, daycare providers and preschools in Hingham are encouraged to assist Hingham Public Schools in finding eligible students. School districts must conduct child find activities to identify Hingham resident students whose parents have placed in a private school and who may have disabilities, including those students with special education needs placed in private schools out of state by their parents. In the fall notice is sent to all private schools, where Hingham students attend and in January another letter is sent to these schools.

The district conducts outreach with those groups below from which promotion or transfer of students in need of special education may be expected, or which would include students in need of special education:

  • Professionals in community
  • Private nursery schools
  • Day care facilities
  • Group homes
  • Parent organizations
  • Clinical /health care agencies
  • Early intervention programs
  • Private/parochial school

Other agencies/organizations

The school or schools that are part of the district, including Horace Mann charter schools agencies serving migrant and/or homeless persons pursuant to the McKinney-Vento Education Act for Homeless Students.

English Language Learners

Hingham Public Schools student population contains a small, but diverse, English Language Learner (ELL) student population from a variety of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Hingham Public Schools serves our ELL students through a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) program and a number of other language development supports, as determined necessary by the Language Assessment Team.

According with Chapter 71A of the Massachusetts General Laws districts are required to educated students identified as ELLs in a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) program. In our SEI program all classroom instruction, books, and instructional materials are in English, and all subject matter are taught in English. The SEI Program consists of two components: Sheltered Content Instruction taught by a certified content teacher with SEI Endorsement or SEI/ESL license & English as a Second Language (ESL) Instruction taught by an ESL certified teacher.

Hingham Public Schools is committed to ensure excellence for all our ELL students. In order to accomplish this goal and to establish annual achievement of objectives for language acquisition and academic achievement of our students, we provide ELL students with multiple opportunities for developing English language proficiency to improve their education in the content areas.

In grades K-12 Hingham Public Schools utilizes a qualified English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and SEI endorsed teachers in the core content areas (Math, ELA, Science, Social Studies, Elementary, & SPED). Many of our educators are in process of training on how to effectively teach English Language Learners in content area classes. SEI & ESL teachers make use of specific teaching techniques to assist ELL students in five different English proficiency levels. Teachers also are working on the alignment of curricular models with the Massachusetts Common Core and WIDA standards to improve the ELL students’ progress towards their attainment of English language of proficiency.

There are three different avenues that a parent, guardian, or teacher may initiate if a student experiences difficulty in Hingham Public Schools

1. Curriculum Accommodation Plan

Hingham Public Schools District Accommodation Plan is developed for the district and is included in the Student Parent Handbook. The plan is a set of instructional practices that are responsive to student needs and ensure that adequate instructional support is available for students and teachers. Instructional support may include remedial instruction for students, consultative services for teachers, availability of reading instruction at the elementary level, appropriate services for linguistic minority students, and other services consistent with effective educational practices.

2. Instructional Support Team

The Instructional Support Team (IST) provides support to teachers as they develop alternatives for students experiencing difficulties (behavioral, social or academic) in the general education classroom. The IST is school-based and uses a collaborative problem-solving approach. The IST ensures that the needs of students who are experiencing difficulty in school are identified and that a variety of solutions and interventions are implemented. In addition, the support of guidance counselors, curriculum or technology specialists, administrators, TEAM leaders, and community agencies may provide ideas and/or peer assistance to their colleague, or offer suggestions for better utilization of resources or staff time.

3. A referral for Special Education and/or Related Services

A referral is basically asking for help or information pertaining to a particular situation. In the case of a referral for Special Education and/or Related Services, the parent, guardian, or IST is asking a group of professionals (referred to as a “TEAM”) to more closely examine how the student performs on tasks or how they processes information in an attempt to determine if the student has a disability.

An Eligible Student

If the Special Education Team has determined that the student is presenting with one or more disabilities in the areas identified by federal and state law, and has determined that the student, as a function of their disability, is failing to make effective progress in the regular education curriculum, the Team may recommend the development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The Special Education Team, including the parent, will then work collaboratively to develop an IEP which meets statutory compliance and is reasonably calculated to provide the student with educational benefit. The disability categories, as identified under the IDEA 2004 and their characteristics are as follows:


Autism is a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction. The term shall have the meaning given it in federal law at 34 CFR 300.7.

Federal Definition:

(i) Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3 that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. The term does not apply if a child’s educational performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has an emotional disturbance, as defined in paragraph (b)(4) of this section.

(ii) A child who manifests the characteristics of “autism” after age 3 could be diagnosed as having “autism” if the criteria in paragraph (c)(1)(i) of this section are satisfied.”

In April, 2006, Chapter 71 B, Section 3 was amended to insert the following:

Whenever an evaluation indicates that a child has a disability on the autism spectrum, which includes autistic disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rhett’s Syndrome as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV, 2000), the IEP Team shall consider and shall specifically address the following: the verbal and nonverbal communication needs of the child; the need to develop social interaction skills and proficiencies; the needs resulting from the child’s unusual responses to sensory experiences; the needs resulting from resistance to environmental change or change in a daily routine; the needs resulting in engagement in repetitive behaviors and stereotyped movements; the need for any positive behavioral unusual responses to sensory experiences; the needs resulting from interventions, strategies and supports to address any behavioral difficulties resulting from autism spectrum disorder; and other needs resulting from the child’s disability that impact progress in the general curriculum, including social and emotional development.”

For more information:

National Autism Center

Association For Science in Autism Treatment

Autism Speaks

Communication Impairment

The capacity to use expressive and/or receptive language is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: speech, such as articulation and/or voice; conveying, understanding, or using spoken, written, or symbolic language. The term may include a student with impaired articulation, stuttering, language impairment, or voice impairment if such impairment adversely affects the student’s educational performance.

Developmental Delay

The learning capacity of a young child (3-9 years old) is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: receptive and/or expressive language; cognitive abilities; physical functioning; social, emotional, or adaptive functioning; and/or self-help skills.

Emotional Impairment

As defined under federal law at 34 CFR 300.7, the student exhibits one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects educational performance: an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors; an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances; a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression; or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems. The determination of disability shall not be made solely because the student’s behavior violates the school’s discipline code, because the student is involved with a state court or social service agency, or because the student is socially maladjusted, unless the Team determines that the student has a serious emotional disturbance.

Health Impairment

A chronic or acute health problem such that the physiological capacity to function is significantly limited or impaired and results in one or more of the following: limited strength, vitality or alertness including a heightened alertness to environmental stimuli resulting in limited alertness with respect to the educational environment. The term shall include health impairments due to asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, and sickle cell anemia, if such health impairment adversely affects a student’s educational performance.

Intellectual Impairment

The permanent capacity for performing cognitive tasks, functions, or problem solving is significantly limited or impaired and is exhibited by more than one of the following: a slower rate of learning; disorganized patterns of learning; difficulty with adaptive behavior; and/or difficulty understanding abstract concepts. Such term shall include students with mental retardation.

Neurological Impairment

The capacity of the nervous system is limited or impaired with difficulties exhibited in one or more of the following areas: the use of memory, the control and use of cognitive functioning, sensory and motor skills, speech, language, organizational skills, information processing, affect, social skills, or basic life functions. The term includes students who have received a traumatic brain injury.

Physical Impairment

The physical capacity to move, coordinate actions, or perform physical activities is significantly limited, impaired, or delayed and is exhibited by difficulties in one or more of the following areas: physical and motor tasks; independent movement; performing basic life functions. The term shall include severe orthopedic impairments or impairments caused by congenital anomaly, cerebral palsy, amputations, and fractures if such impairment adversely affects a student’s educational performance.

Sensory Impairment

The term shall include the following:

  1. Hearing – The capacity to hear, with amplification, is limited, impaired, or absent and results in one or more of the following: reduced performance in hearing acuity tasks; difficulty with oral communication; and/or difficulty in understanding auditorally-presented information in the education environment. The term includes students who are deaf and students who are hard-of -hearing.
  2. Vision – The capacity to see, after correction, is limited, impaired, or absent and results in one or more of the following: reduced performance in visual acuity tasks; difficulty with written communication; and/or difficulty with understanding information presented visually in the education environment. The term includes students who are blind and students with limited vision.
  3. Deaf-Blind – Concomitant hearing and visual impairments, the combination of which causes severe communication and other developmental and educational needs.

Specific Learning Disability

The term shall have the meaning given in federal law at 34 CFR 300.7 and 300.541.

Federal Definition:

Specific learning disability is defined as follows:
(i) General. The term means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
(ii) Disorders not included. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.

An Ineligible Student

The Team must make a finding of no eligibility:

  • If the student does not have a disability;
  • If the student does have a disability but is making effective educational progress without the need of supportive services;
  • If the student shows a lack of educational progress but is not due to a disability;
  • If the student does not require specialized instruction.

Acronyms & Definitions in Special Education

Acronyms in Special Education by the Federation for Children with Special Needs

Dictionary of Common Special Education terms and Acronyms from the Parent Information Center of New Hampshire

Disability and Special Education Acronyms from the Center for Parent Information and Resources