Child Services Frequently Asked Questions
Early Childhood (Birth - 5 years)
Do parents pay tuition or any other costs?
There is no cost to parents for any of our Early Childhood programs as long as the child qualifies for services and those services are authorized by their home school district.
Is transportation provided?
Transportation is provided by the county to and from all center-based programs. If you choose to transport your child, reimbursement is available from the county. For evaluations or related services, parents must make transportation arrangements.
What are the qualifications of the staff?
All teachers are NYS Certified Special Education Teachers. All therapists carry the required NYS license for their discipline. The Director of these programs is a NYS Certified School Administrator. All nursing staff are properly licensed as either a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse.
What are student-teacher ratios in the center-based programs?
We offer two kinds of center-based special education classrooms: 8:1:3 and 12:1:4. 8:1:3 means 8 students, one teacher and three additional teacher assistants/aides. 12:1:4 means 12 students, one teacher and four additional teacher assistant/aides.
What are the student-teacher ratios in the integrated preschool programs?
In the Hyde Park Universal PreK program, each classroom has 18 students, two teachers and one teacher assistant/aide. These classrooms are structured to include 14/15 regular education students and 4/5 special education students.
In the Poughkeepsie program, there are 18 students per classroom, two teachers and one teacher assistant/aide. These classrooms are structured to include 8 regular education students and 8 special education students.
What is the role of the home school district Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE)?
The CPSE is responsible for gathering the team of stakeholders for each child including parents and professionals to determine what special services the child needs and where the child will receive those services. All placements in Abilities First preschool programs are made based on referral from the child’s home public school district CPSE. All changes in placement and/or changes in services for children are also made by the CPSE.
How do I find out if my child needs Special Education Preschool Services?
You may consult your child’s Pediatrician for advice. To initiate formal evaluation, you must register your child in your home school district and request an evaluation. You will be provided with a list of organizations authorized to conduct Special Education Preschool Evaluation, including Abilities First. The results of this evaluation will tell who the kind of services for which your child qualifies.
Is there a summer Preschool Special Education Program?
Yes, all of our Preschool Special Education Programs run year round with the exception of typical school breaks. The Universal PreK program in Hyde Park does not operate in the summer; however the Special Education component of that program does.
Where do children go after they have completed Abilities First Early Childhood Programs?
The primary goal of all Abilities First Early Childhood Programs is to prepare children for success when the begin Kindergarten and in the years beyond. Any child that is prepared, enters regular education classrooms in their home school district Kindergarten program. Children who are not quite ready for this step, may be referred to a Kindergarten program that specialized in education for children with disabilities.
Childhood (5 – 21 years)
Do parents pay tuition or any other costs for school services?
There is no cost to parents for any of our School Programs as long as those services are authorized by their home school district. Parents may be required to provide lunch.
Is transportation provided?
Transportation to and from school is provided by the student’s home school district. Abilities First provides transportation to and from field trips and other outings that take place during the school day.
What are the qualifications of the staff?
All teachers are NYS Certified Special Education Teachers. All therapists carry the required NYS license for their discipline. The Principals of schools are NYS Certified School Administrators. All nursing staff are properly licensed as either a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse. Teacher Assistants require certification from NYS, and Teacher Aides do not require certification.
What are student-teacher ratios in the school programs?
We offer three kinds of special education classrooms: 6:1:3 (6 students, one teacher and 3 additional teacher assistants/aides); 8:1:3 (8 students, one teacher and 3 additional teacher assistants/aides); 12:1:4 (12 students, one teacher and 4 additional teacher assistants/aides). Placement in these various classrooms depends on supervision and support needs of each student.
What is the role of the home school district Committee on Special Education (CSE)?
The CSE is responsible for gathering the team of stakeholders for each child including parents and professionals to determine what special services the child needs and where the child will receive those services. All placements in Abilities First school programs are made based on referral from the child’s home public school district CSE. All changes in placement and/or changes in services for children are also made by the CSE with guidance from Abilities First School staff.
How do I find out if my child needs a specialized school program like Abilities First?
Ideally, all children should be educated in the Least Restrictive Environment, which is the general education classroom. Students with disabilities should only be moved from the general education classroom as it is determined that their educational needs require it. If and when it is determined that a student’s needs require a highly specialized school program for intellectual and developmental disabilities, the school district might recommend placement in an Abilities First School.
Does Abilities First serve students with Autism?
Yes, many children with mild to severe forms of Autism have attended our school programs with great success. We offer a combination of educational and therapeutic techniques that are specialized for students with Autism. Contact us for more information.
What other kinds of disabilities is Abilities First authorized to serve?
New York State uses specific disabilities categories and among those categories our program is authorized to serve the following: Intellectual Disability, Speech Language Impairment, Multiple Disabilities, Autism and Other Health Impairment. These classifications, however, do not necessarily represent diagnoses. As long as a student has been placed in one of these disability categories they can attend an Abilities First School. Many of the students who do attend our school have diagnosed disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Autism and many others.
Is there a summer School Program?
Yes, our school programs operate year round including the summer. There are several extended school breaks throughout the year such as Spring Break and school recess before and after the summer session. During these breaks we offer a Day Camp for students who qualify. Contact us for more information.
Where do children go after they have completed an Abilities First School Programs?
The primary goal of all Abilities First School Programs is to prepare children for success after they graduate. Depending on their personal goals and readiness upon graduation, students can pursue college, vocational training, employment and/or adult services.
Does Abilities First provide Transition Services to school students?
Yes, we place great emphasis on the importance of transition planning. Transition planning means planning that takes place with students beginning at the age of 14 that is designed to facilitate a smooth transition to life after school. Transition planning and related activities include vocational exploration, internships and other work related activities.
Family Support and Advocacy
What is a Care Coordination Organization?
A Care Coordination Organization (also known as a CCO) is an organization/corporation that provides Care Coordination as its sole purpose. This service has taken the place of Medicaid Service Coordination (MSC) that was offered by individual non-profit service providers. Now Care Coordination can only be offered by a state-authorized CCO that is owned by groups, or coalitions, of individual non-profit service providers.
How is Care Coordination different from MSC?
There are two main differences between MSC and Care Coordination. First, MSC involved only the coordination of services for developmental disability, whereas Care Coordination also involves the coordination of medical and health services too. Second, MSCs were employees of non-profit service providers like Abilities First. Care Coordinators under the CCO model are employees of a CCO that also has a role in a Managed Care system.
What is LIFEPlan CCO?
LIFEPlan CCO is the Care Coordination Organization with which Abilities First has chosen to align. This means that all MSC services under Abilities First were transferred to LIFEPlan CCO as Care Coordination. LIFEPlan CCO spans all of New York State except for Western New York and New York City and provides Care Coordination to approximately 18,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Since MSC has changed to Care Coordination who will advocate for my family member with a disability?
Care Coordinators are charged with the responsibility to coordinate services, supports and medical health services that are in your family member’s best interest for their health, growth and satisfaction. There may be other kinds of advocacy that you find are not part of the Care Coordination service. For this reason, Abilities First has chosen to retain professional Family Support and Advocacy services. For questions or help please contact Gina Carminucci at (845) 485-9803 x385.
Home and Community Services
What are the eligibility requirements for these services?
To receive Home and Community Services, children and adults must be authorized for services through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). Some Home and Community Services also require enrollment in the Medicaid Waiver.
What kind of screening is conducted for employees?
For all staff members in these programs, we conduct personal and criminal background checks, as well as screening through the NYS Justice Center for Protection of People with Special Needs. We also evaluate driving history for safety and provide all staff members with extensive training prior to working with people in Home and Community Services.
Do you provide transportation?
When transportation is needed as part of Community Habilitation, we do provide it. Transportation is not provided for other Home & Community Services.
Am I able to choose our schedule of services and workers?
We encourage people receiving services and their families to participate in selection of staff and arranging services schedules. In cases where people receiving services and their families are not interested, we will arrange for staffing and schedules with input.
Is there a cost for these services?
For people who qualify, there is no cost for these services.