OUSD Special Education

"Each student deserves recognition, attention, and respect, and all students must be offered rigorous academic programs and classrooms that support high achievement. In the Oakland Unified School District, Special Education is charged with educating students who have learning disabilities or exceptional cognitive or physical needs. We are working to establish a shared mindset throughout OUSD where all school communities and departments embrace students with disabilities and provide support and resources to ensure every student thrives."

OUSD's Programs for Exceptional Children supports District students, families and departments to ensure that each student with unique learning needs is provided a rigorous academic program, achieves at the highest level, and is recognized and respected. We believe that every student can graduate prepared for college, career and community.

RHS Special Education Programs

At RHS, we offer a range of programs to support students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP):

  • T.A.C.L.E.

  • Speech Therapy

  • Resource Specialist Program (RSP)


T.A.C.L.E. (Technology & Augmentative Communication for Learning Enhancement) is a special day class program of the Oakland Unified School District. 

The T.A.C.L.E. program at Redwood Heights School serves students with complex communication needs that generally result from severe speech and/or physical impairments. Students attend a 180-day regular school year program as per the Oakland Unified School District calendar. Program hours are 8:40 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The length of a student's school day is dependent upon IEP team decision. 

Using the State standards-based, District-adopted Common Core curricula and the Unique Learning Systems special education curriculum, T.A.C.L.E. students are taught an appropriate curriculum adapted to their unique needs, with an emphasis on communication using customized augmentative communication systems and other technologies. 
Our curriculum includes: language arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar), mathematics, science concepts, social studies concepts, art, music, gardening and physical education. 

The T.A.C.L.E program consists of two classes serving approximately 14 students each year:

  • T.A.C.L.E 1 (grades K-2) is taught by Mrs. Michele Boruta and Mrs. Maureen Gilhooly.

  • T.A.C.L.E 2 (grades 3-5) is taught by Mrs. Stephanie Taymuree.  

  • Additional paraprofessional staff are also assigned to the program.

The Mission of the T.A.C.L.E. program is four-fold:

  • To teach each student the power of communication;

  • To develop for each student a multimodal, customized, Augmentative/Alternate
    Communication system(s) enabling interaction at school, home and community;

  • To identify for each student the necessary Assistive Technologies for optimal access to the State curriculum;

  • To maintain an academic focus utilizing Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) and Assistive Technology (AT).

Characteristics of a TACLE-RHS student

T.A.C.L.E. students at Redwood Heights (RHS) display the following characteristics of Complex Communication Needs (CNN):

  • A discrepancy between the understanding of language (receptive language) and an ability to express themselves (expressive language - through verbal or non-verbal means), and ...

  • A demonstrated desire to communicate with people (communicative intent), and ...

  • The ability to demonstrate an understanding of AAC/AT as a tool to augment and enhance communication and learning ("It's not a toy!"), and ...

  • Demonstrates readiness for an academically-focused curriculum, and ...

  • Demonstrates communicative growth and benefit from the specialized AAC/AT development and support provided by the T.A.C.L.E program.

Are students included in general education classrooms?

Redwood Heights Elementary School is an "inclusion site." T.A.C.L.E. students are included in grade-appropriate general education classrooms for academic and/or non-academic subjects as determined by the I.E.P. team. Appropriate accommodations and modifications to the general education environment and curriculum are accomplished through collaboration with the general education teachers. Students are assisted in the general education classrooms by a paraprofessional.

What support services are available to T.A.C.L.E. students? 

O.U.S.D. offers several Designated Instruction and Services (D.I.S.) to eligible students. 
Many T.A.C.L.E. students receive D.I.S Services such as: occupational therapy, physical therapy, oral-motor therapy, language and speech therapy, vision services, hearing services, orientation and  mobility services, and/or adaptive physical education. 
Programs for Exceptional Children (PEC) (http://www.ousd.org/cms/lib07/CA01001176/Centricity/Shared/PECRoadmap1516.pdf) also makes available a special education nurse who provides the necessary training(s) and protocols to the T.A.C.L.E. staff.

What is the intake process for placement into T.A.C.L.E?

For questions regarding assessment and placement into the T.A.C.L.E program, please contact your child's Program Specialist or email one of our AAC/AT specialists:

     ~  sasha.wertheim@ousd.org

     ~  patty.mctigue@ousd.org 

What is Augmentative Alternative Communication?


According to the American Speech & Hearing Association, AAC is any system or strategy that augments or compensates for an individual's inability to communicate effectively. An AAC system might include picture/alphabet boards, electronic devices capable of voice output, environmental control, sign language or gesture systems. 

Each T.A.C.L.E. student is assessed for the appropriate AAC system and/or device(s). 
The T.A.C.L.E. teacher customizes and maintains the device and develops a communication engineered school and home environment.


Explore the following websites for examples of augmentative communication systems:

www.rjcooper.com (Special hardware and software products for persons with special needs)

What is Assistive Technology?


According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), assistive technology means any item, piece of equipment. or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities (not just communication) of children with disabilities. 
These aids include, but are not limited to, adapted pencils, computers, alternate keyboards, computer mouse emulation, enlarged books, switches, slant boards, touchscreens, mounted scissors, etc.

Additional Parent Resources


Resource Specialist Program (RSP)

The Resource Specialist Program (RSP) supports children with learning disabilities and gives them strategies to be successful in their education. The RSP program offers small group instruction to meet the needs of each child's individual education plan (IEP). Children are given instruction in the least restrictive environment.

The RSP teacher meets and plans with classroom teachers to ensure that the children in RSP are being taught the skills required at their grade level. There is constant communication between the classroom teacher, RSP teacher, and the parents to ensure learning. If a child is having problems at school, whether in the general education classroom, on the playground, or in the RSP class, teachers and parents work together so that the problem is quickly identified and resolved in order for the child to achieve maximum social, emotional, and academic success.

The goal of RSP is to provide learning support needed so that children can achieve grade level standards.

Speech Therapy

The RHS Speech Therapist, Melissa Marriott, M.S., CCC-SLP, provides customized speech interventions for students who have speech therapy indicated in their Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Differentiation: I believe every child deserves a "special education." To reach each individual student, differentiation of instruction is crucial. This can be accomplished through a tiered model, such as Response to Intervention. Students' needs are carefully assessed, which indicates the level of support they need to be successful.  Students are then placed in a group where they can receive the support and intervention they need.

Language: Although a speech language therapist has many areas of expertise (articulation, fluency, swallowing), I believe language to be the essential underpinning of all subjects. Students require skills both in expressive language areas (such as vocabulary) and receptive language (understand what they hear and read) to be successful in subjects such as math, science and social studies. In addition, students need skills in social language to communicate with peers and to obtain employment.

Activity Based Instruction: I believe students learn best when they are actively engaged. I use a variety of materials and lessons to assess students' interests and involve them, even doing whole-classroom lessons to reach students in their environment.

Technology: Our world is changing and I believe we need to equip our students with these skills in order to be successful. During therapy, I incorporate the use of computers, tablets and other devices to ensure students receive exposure to technology.

Diversity: As a professional in a major urban multicultural era, I bring with me my experience growing up and attending schools where I was part of a diverse student population, consisting of families from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, I have many years of travel and study contributing to an understanding of and sensitivity to the needs and priorities of various cultures. In my time as a clinician, I have had the privilege of serving a wide range of clients, which has helped me to maintain a well-rounded perspective providing services on an individual basis.

For more information, please contact the RHS Speech Therapist, Melissa Marriott, M.S., CCC-SLP