There are a number of program teams that provide focus and direction for special education services. They also monitor the effectiveness of programs and services for students. Each program offers a continuum of program options, ranging from least to most restrictive environments. Such options include:
  • General education with special education supports and services.
  • Special day classes.
  • Special schools.
  • Nonpublic schools (most restrictive placement requirements).
Typically, these program options are provided to students in a general education setting. A few nonpublic schools provide programs for students who require a more restrictive environment. These include:

Riley School/New Dawn

Riley School is a special education center for K-8 students with serious emotional and behavior problems. The New Dawn program, located at Riley, provides a day treatment program for students in grades 9-12 who have emotional and behavioral problems. The small school provides close monitoring, opportunities for academic successes, career and vocational counseling and a therapeutic program interwoven throughout the school day.

The New Dawn program, located at Riley, provides a day treatment setting for students grades 9-12 who have emotional and behavioral problems. The small school provides close monitoring, academic successes, career and vocational counseling and a therapeutic program interwoven throughout the school day.
Additionally, the IEP team considers and determines if a student is in need of Designated and Instruction Services (DIS) such as speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, Adapted Physical Education (APE) and mobility training. If a student needs such services to benefit from the educational program, it is included in the student’s IEP. Programs include:s

Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) Program

The district’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) Program serves students from birth to age 22 who have bilateral hearing losses ranging from mild to profound. Students with an educationally significant unilateral hearing loss may also be eligible for D/HH services. The focus of the D/HH Program is to:

  • Encourage maximum independence.
  • Foster the development of age appropriate communication skills, academic/career goals and social/emotional growth.
  • Provide educational services.
  • Provide technological education and assistance.
  • Introduce accommodations, and provide for communication access.

Learn more.

Audiology Assessment Center

The San Diego Unified School District’s Audiology Program is designed to provide audiological assessments, direct consultative services to students with a hearing impairment or with an auditory processing disorder; and to support parents, staff and other district offices in efforts of providing students equal access to district curriculum and programs. Please visit our web page for more information.


Licensed Children’s Institute (LCI)

Teachers from SDUSD in the LCI program provide educational services to students in hospitals and social agencies throughout San Diego. The hospital or agency provides a treatment program for students with emotional difficulties or other issues affecting their lives. The LCI program does not control the student’s admission or discharge. The population served may be in general or special education.

In addition to the teaching staff, SDUSD also provides an itinerant staff to assist and support students in these programs. These positions include a Special Education Administrator, DRT, psychologists, district counselors, mental health clinician, rehabilitation specialist, vocational rehabilitation specialist and school nurse. DIS services, such as Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, etc. are provided according to the IEP.


Medically Homebound/Hospital Program (MH/HP)

The Medically Homebound/Hospital Program office manages two programs designed to provide special educaiton services to students with special medical needs in accordance with their individualized Education Program (IEP):

Medically Homebound Program

Provides general educational and special education services for students while they are confined to their home according to their the recommendation of their physician, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Hospital Program

Provides general educational and special education services for students while they are confined to the hospital and under direct medical care.
The goal of both programs is to provide educational services and support in order for students to meet graduation requirements.

Parentally Placed Private School Services (PPPSS)

The Parentally Placed Private School Services (PPPSS) program is a Special Education service for students enrolled in private schools. According to federal and state law, the San Diego Unified School District has a policy to assist private schools in child-find activities, accept referrals from private schools and others, and conduct appropriate assessments for students suspected of having a disability.

Occupational and Physical Therapy Services(OT/PT)

Physical and Health Disabilities (PH) Programs

The program for students with Physical and Health Disabilities (PH) provides services for students with orthopedic or other health impairments that are established by the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Student needs can be met in a variety of settings with:
  • Physical modifications and equipment to support participation in the educational program;
  • Modifications to the curriculum based on physical needs; and
  • Specialized assistive technology requiring preparation, ongoing instruction and training.

The goal is to provide an instructional program with supplemental curriculum that leads to a diploma, letter of recognition, or a certificate of completion. .


Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Infant Program

The Infant Program provides services to 280 infants and toddlers determined eligible in accordance with California Early Start (CES), a federally mandated program, and Part C of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).


Diagnostic Learning Center

Administrative Procedure #4613 details the district’s procedures relating to the placement of students following release from juvenile court placements.  The Placement and Appeal Office is responsible for receiving and evaluating all pertinent information prior to a recommendation of a school placement.  Individuals who have been in juvenile hall less than thirty (30) days return to their last school of attendance for re-admittance.STARS Program (Successful Transitions Achieved with Responsive Support)

is housed on six comprehensive sites: 2 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools.  Student to teacher/staff ratio is low and students are taught in small groups when appropriate.  Teachers, aides and multi-disciplinary service providers work collaboratively to support the needs of all students. 

Due to the average to superior range of intellectual abilities of the students in the STARS program, the students are able to access the core curriculum with appropriate accommodations.  Many of the students have neurological deficits that affect processing, organizational skills, and communication.  Students can access the general education curriculum with support and modifications either in the general education classroom or in a separate classroom for students whose disabilities are in the mild to moderate range.  The STARS program provides services to students in grades 1 – 12.

The program includes an emphasis on assistive technology with staff to support implementation and usage of the technology.  Parental involvement and consultation with private practitioners are employed in the development of positive behavior support plans.

The STARS Program includes lead teachers who coordinate multi-disciplinary services and maintain ongoing involvement and participation of parents in the delivery of services.  The goal of the team approach is to increase student participation in general education classes with continued support from elementary through high school. 

Transition Resources for Adult Community Education (TRACE)

TRACE is a community-based program for students transitioning from public school to adult life. The program helps ensure students are connected to lifelong opportunities and supports within the community.

Visual Impairments (VI)

The program for students with Visual Impairments (VI) is designed to:
  • Foster maximum independence.
  • Provide integration with sighted peers.
  • Provide development of communication and literacy skills.
  • Provide career training.
Curriculum is the same as for non-visually impaired peers throughout the district. Additional instruction is provided for the development of skills specifically necessary for persons with visual impairments, such as keyboarding (typing), Braille, the use of specialized equipment/materials, and travel skills.