Improving K-12 education for students on the autism spectrum in Montgomery County, MD

Diploma-Bound Secondary Services (Grades 6-12)

For a directory of locations for each program, download MCPS Programs and Services Locations for Special Education Students 2018-2019

Autism Resource Services (ARS)

Middle School Locations: Gaithersburg M.S., Silver Spring International M.S., Westland M.S.
High School Locations: Winston Churchill H.S., John F. Kennedy H.S., Watkins Mill H.S.

Students receiving Autism Resource Services are diploma-bound and participate in the PARCC Assessment, but have difficulty mastering grade-level curriculum and may require a modified pace of instruction and accommodations for reduced work load. Students attend general education classes for core academic areas and electives with support from a special educator and/or paraeducator. Self-contained homeroom and resource periods are taught by special educators, who provide individual or small group instruction in a core content area. The resource period also provides instruction in social skills and assistance in organizing schoolwork. Special education teachers use best practices for students with autism spectrum disorders, such as visual supports, schedules, task analysis (breaking tasks into smaller parts), and individualized motivation systems, and are available to consult with general education teachers. If needed, paraeducators accompany students to specials classes and during transitions, including lunch. Staff from the MCPS Autism Unit consult with staff at the middle and high schools to support the students. The typical ratio of staff-to-student support is 1 teacher : 1 paraeducator : 6 students.

Bridge Services

Middle School Locations: Briggs Chaney M.S., Gaithersburg M.S., Herbert Hoover M.S.,
High School Locations: Gaithersburg H.S., Paint Branch H.S., Winston Churchill H.S.

Students receiving Bridge Services are diploma-bound and access the general education curriculum but have significant social, emotional, behavioral and/or learning challenges that make it difficult to succeed in a large school environment. Students receive instruction from special educators with the support of paraeducators in a suite of self-contained classrooms within comprehensive middle and high schools. Although staff reportedly collaborate with staff from the Autism Unit to serve students with autism, Bridge Services are not exclusively for students on the autism spectrum.

Bridge Services include comprehensive behavior management with structured and consistent reinforcement systems to assist students with motivation challenges. Social skills are taught and practiced during the school day, and focus on forming friendships, reading social cues, self knowledge (recognizing and coping with emotions and understanding their triggers), and self-advocacy. Students who can self-monitor and control their behavior may have the opportunity to attend classes in general education and/or Advanced Placement courses.

Social workers and/or psychologists provide mental health services including counseling and crisis intervention. Approximately 15 group counseling sessions are provided during the school year, which focus on topics such as self-esteem, team building, anger management, stress reduction, bullying prevention, making friends, and conversation skills. Related services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and individual counseling are available, based on a student’s needs as related to IEP goals.

Gifted and Talented/Learning Disabled Classes (GT/LD)

Middle School Locations: Col. E. Brook Lee M.S., North Bethesda M.S., Roberto Clemente M.S.
High School Locations: Northwood H.S., Walter Johnson H.S., Watkins Mill H.S.

Students receiving GT/LD services demonstrate superior cognitive ability in at least one area and typically have production problems, particularly in the area of written expression. GT/LD services provide students with specialized instruction, adaptations, and accommodations that facilitate appropriate access to rigorous instruction in the least restrictive environment, and access to the acceleration and enrichment components in the MCPS instructional guidelines. Some students may receive services in specialized classrooms.

Learning and Academic Disabilities (LAD)

Learning and Academic Disabilities Services are available in ALL secondary schools (middle and high) in MCPS. These services are provided to students as a result of a disability that impacts academic achievement. Students served by this model have previously received a considerable amount of special education support, but need additional services to enable progress toward the IEP goals and objectives. These services are provided in a continuum of settings that may include components of self-contained classes, co-taught general education classes, and other opportunities for participation with non-disabled peers.


Resource services are available in all MCPS schools and provide students with disabilities with the support they need to be academically successful in the general education environment. Resource teachers provide an array of services to students with disabilities including strategy-based instruction; direct instruction aligned with the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards in reading/language arts, writing, mathematics, and organizational skills in preparation for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Elementary and middle schools staffed with an hours-based staffing model include the resource teacher in the special education staffing allocation.

Secondary Asperger’s Services

Middle School Locations: Ridgeview M.S., Tilden M.S.
High School Locations: Quince Orchard H.S., Walter Johnson H.S.

The Secondary Asperger’s Services are provided to diploma-bound students diagnosed with autism who have average to high-average intellectual ability. They access the general education curriculum on or above grade level and participate in the PARCC Assessment, but have documented social and behavioral needs that have significantly interfered with their ability to participate in less restrictive settings. Students are included in general education classes for all academics with supports and accommodations in the areas of written language, comprehension of abstract and inferential information, and daily social skills instruction. Staff use consistent routines, visual supports, and motivation systems, and provide direct support for organizing work and managing assignments, navigating the school building, understanding social interactions, and managing behaviors resulting from stress and/or anxiety. High school students are also supported to build skills in self-advocacy. The typical ratio of staff-to-student support is 1 teacher : 2 paraeducators : 8 students.

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