Main navigation

Special Education

Access Program

John Hay Access Program

John Hay Elementary is proud to offer an Access program, which has many benefits for the entire school community.


John Hay’s commitment to inclusive education means that all students are full members of their classrooms and the wider school community. Each child at Hay is provided with varied, meaningful opportunities to learn at their level and make progress academically, socially and behaviorally while achieving the highest possible level of independence. For students on the autism spectrum and beyond, the Access program at Hay provides a variety of individualized supports designed to meet each child’s needs on his or her own “pathway to the stars.”

Student Demographics

There are two Access programs at John Hay. Each program serves 10 students (20 total), grades K-5, who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, high-functioning autism, or other disorders with characteristics on the autism spectrum (not all students necessarily have “Autism”).

For information on Autism, visit the Autism Society of America or the Council for Exceptional Children.

Program description

Our special education teachers for the Access program at Hay oversee instructional assistants (3 full-time for each program) who provide support in the general education classroom. Access students spend as much time in the general education environment as possible. Depending on individual need, some students are pulled out for specialized academic instruction, speech services and/or occupational/physical therapy. When possible and appropriate, this specialized instruction is given in the general education classroom. The special education room serves as a place for pull-out academic instruction, a place to take breaks and interact socially, and a cool-down place for escalated students.

In the general education classrooms, students are provided with individualized supports, accommodations, and modifications to help them succeed. These supports can include schedules, checklists, incentive systems, social stories, peer buddies, organizer notebooks, AlphaSmarts, scribes, instructional assistant prompting, and modified assignments.

Students work on social skills as natural opportunities occur and in more formalized social groups run by the Speech Language Pathologist. Access staff also run “Recess Club” every afternoon, in which they lead organized indoor and outdoor activities during recess to help students with autism practice their social skills. All students on the playground are welcome to participate in Recess Club.

Access at Hay means:

  • Individualized service
  • Promoting students to be independent and cue to their general education teacher
  • Providing specially designed instruction, modifications and accommodations to support student learning in all areas in the general education environment
  • Collaboration between general educators, special educators, and parents who respect each other’s expertise and differences
  • Full participation and membership in general education classrooms
  • Teaching students with autism to “fit in” while also teaching other students to accept     differences.

Access at Hay is not: “One-size-fits-all”

  • All-day, one-on-one assistant attached to a student or classroom
  • Expecting that all students learn exactly the same thing exactly the same way at exactly the same pace
  • Telling anyone how to teach or what to do
  • Self-contained classroom with “visits” to general education classrooms
  • Allowing students to be inappropriate because of their disability, nor forcing them to be exactly like everyone else

Benefits of Access

For children with special needs:

  • affords a sense of belonging and membership
  • provides a diverse, stimulating environment in which to learn
  • enables friendship development with typical peers
  • enhances self-esteem
  • students not stigmatized by labels or being in a special class
  • provides peer models
  • natural opportunities to practice social and language skills
  • access to general education curriculum

For typically developing students:

  • provides opportunities to experience the diversity of society on a small scale
  • greater acceptance of differences and sensitivity towards others
  • understanding of the strengths and weaknesses we all have
  • increases abilities to help and teach all classmates
  • develops empathy
  • provides a diverse pool of classmates from which to make friends

For teachers:

  • furthers appreciation of diversity
  • increases ways of creatively addressing challenges
  • develops collaborative problem
  • solving skills and teamwork
  • allows general and special education teachers to better understand each others’ curriculum and methods
  • increases communication between teachers and builds community
  • presence of special education staff benefits all children in the class
  • combats monotony