As a school system rooted in the Catholic faith, we are committed to providing a learning environment that is safe, inclusive and welcoming for students with special needs.
The Archdiocese of New York is committed to providing children with special needs an education that meets their spiritual, academic, emotional and social needs. Students with special needs flourish in our Catholic schools as we offer a nurturing, accepting, faith based environment with a focus on individual strengths and abilities to help each child reach his or her God-given potential.
Children with learning disabilities (LD), other health impairments (OHI), and speech or language impairment (SPL) have their special education needs met with resources that parallel those available to other students in their public school district. These may include special education teacher support services, resource room, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and counseling.
The number of students in the Archdiocese of New York that are being served in special education is growing tremendously, and we continue to rise to the challenge in meeting each of their individual needs. The one-to-one connection between student and teacher in special education produces academic, social, and emotional victories great and small, adding up to students becoming more confident and therefore more successful in and out of the classroom.
The rationale for the implementation of an Enhanced Special Education program was grounded in the commitment of the Archdiocese of New York to offer additional programs for families of students with disabilities. In keeping with the mission of the Catholic Church and the call to inclusion, the special education programs serve to provide and expand educational opportunities for students with disabilities who desire an education in a faith-filled environment.
We are currently in our fourth year of offering the Enhanced Special Education programs in the Bronx at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and St. Frances de Chantal School as well as on Staten Island at Fr. Vincent Capodanno Catholic Academy and Our Lady Star of the Sea School.
In 2020, the Enhanced Special Education programs expanded to three schools in Rockland County. Currently in our second year, students at St. Anthony-St. Paul School, St. Gregory Barbarigo School, and St. Margaret School will continue to benefit from having an Integrated co-teaching model with resources and a classroom environment that is conducive to learning with flexible seating and furniture to support small group instruction.
In 2021, the Enhanced Special Education Program was expanded to Incarnation School in Manhattan. A special education teacher was hired to provide an Integrated co-teaching model and students benefit from the resources and materials that are provided in order to support the instructional components of the program.
The desire for a faith-filled education, with Christ as the central focus of all things, and the opportunity for a child to be educated alongside typically developing peers has proven to be a critical element for the success for these programs.
Research indicates that students benefit tremendously when they remain in the least restrictive environment (LRE) with their peers and have access to the general education curriculum. In following with this notion, inclusion has become an ideology that when appropriate, each student should be educated in the environment they would traditionally attend. Instead of a student leaving the classroom to receive the services, the services come to them. Inclusion has become a dominant instructional delivery service for students.
The Enhanced Special Education programs emphasize the following:
Develop leadership capacity for implementing evidence-based practices at the school level with an emphasis on consistency and sustained focus;
Implement a co-teaching model that enables access to the general education curriculum and intentional collaboration between special education and general education teachers;
Use data to inform continuous improvement and design of instruction for students with and without disabilities;
Teachers receive intensive professional development so they are “up to the challenges” and work collaboratively within inclusive settings;
Focus attention and commitment on students in K–2 within the context of early literacy initiatives by implementing evidence-based practices and the use of data for continuous improvement;
Utilize the Learning Ally audiobooks to enhance vocabulary, fluency and reading comprehension skills for struggling readers;
Focus attention and commitment on partnerships that strengthened parental capacity to support learning and make informed decisions for their child with a disability.
While there are Enhanced Special Education programs within certain schools, Catholic schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York are able to make available the mandated services required on a student’s Individualized Educational Services Plan (IESP). Those mandated related services include: speech therapy, physical and/or occupational therapy, counseling, resource room and/or special education teacher support services (SETSS).
Meanwhile John Cardinal O’Connor School in Irvington, Westchester County, our flagship school dedicated solely to providing the needs of students with learning differences, continues to inspire all of our special education advances across our system.
The John Cardinal O’Connor School is a private Catholic school dedicated to providing an affordable, language-based academic curriculum for children in grades 2 – 8 with learning disabilities, speech or language impairments or other health impairments. Multisensory teaching techniques are used throughout the set of courses including the Orton-Gillingham Methodology to phonemic awareness. Students are exposed to a full academic curriculum modified to the goals and objectives of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Education Services Plan (IESP). In addition, social skills are taught through Catholic doctrine and a character development curriculum. The John Cardinal O’Connor School’s goal is to teach children the strategies they will need to become confident, productive members of society.
The John Cardinal O’Connor School is a resource for those who learn differently. Through a small student to teacher ratio with certified special education teachers, and additional academic guidance and instruction, students are enabled to achieve their academic and personal potential. In addition, teacher feedback and class discussions are aimed at developing skills and awareness of learning styles.
The Seton Foundation operates four programs on Staten Island:
Joan Ann Kennedy Memorial Preschool, for students 2.9 to 5 years, located on the campus of St. Joseph Hill Academy at 850 Hylan Boulevard.
Mother Franciska Elementary School, located on the campus of St. Joseph Hill Academy at 850 Hylan Boulevard.
Bishop Patrick V. Ahern High School, for students 15 to 21 years, located on the campus of Moore Catholic High School at 315 Arlene Street.
The Therese Program for children on the autistic spectrum, located on the campus of St. Joseph Hill Academy at 850 Hylan Boulevard.
The Seton Foundation is a not-for-profit, non-sectarian corporation that is affiliated with, and accredited by, the Department of Education of the Archdiocese of New York. It was founded in 1985 and is open to children of all faiths. It does not receive funding from the Archdiocese.
The Seton Foundation works cooperatively with the Departments of Education and Speech Language Pathology at St. John’s University and the Nursing Department of the College of Staten Island. Its programs are approved by the New York State Department of Education.