New to Lane County?

Wondering if services here compare to where you used to live, or are moving from?

Here are some answers.

Response to a letter from a Mom moving to Oregon soon.


My name is Sheila Thomas and I am the Secretary on the KindTree Board of Directors.  I want to explain a little about who I am in this regard and invite you to access me in any way you feel would be helpful for you and your son.   I am a licensed Special Education teacher who has taught in Lane County, (the Eugene-Springfield) area for 25 years.  My expertise is in Life Skills, (moderate to severe developmental disabilities), with a background in Positive Behavior Support.  I currently also work as a Personal Support Worker for Developmental Disabilities of Lane County, The Arc of Lane County, and Full Access Brokerage.  I primarily take individuals out with groups of friends on high interest activities in their community.   I am also a Special Olympics Coach for a Track and Field and Basketball team.

I am guessing that your son is just entering high school?  In Oregon, your son would either be served his education by the county’s Education Service District or by the local school district.  In recent years, many of the school districts absorbed their special education students who were being educated by a ‘county service district’.  Doing it this way had allowed school districts to contract with their county’s service district and years ago, it was a more efficient and economical model.  They provided services such as autism consultants, speech and augmentative communication specialists, adapted PE specialists, behavior specialists.   In some counties and rural areas, this still remains.  In larger districts, things changed and there was sometimes a duplication of services in which they have their own specialists, motor team, special education department, and administration.

I’m going in to all of this history because now, in Lane County, and I think in other parts of Oregon as well, there are a variety of types of educational programs provided by Education Service Districts, local school districts, charter schools, and private schools that may be an appropriate placement for your son.   They can get you set up for state funding too, (for respite, supportive equipment, etc.),   He will be entitled to a Free Appropriate Education until he is 21, (FAPE), and after high school, there are ‘transition’ type programs available, (generally for 18 to 21 year olds), or he could stay in a high school program the entire time.  Students also typically take classes at the community college, do vocational training programs, and practice independent living skills during this phase.

How Oregon compares to any other state or even across Oregon, is difficult to say - in general, some of the more urban districts, (Portland), might be doing it better because they have more funding and volunteer sources, but not always. There are excellent and poor programs everywhere.  I think no matter where a person lives in the nation, team work is the key to developing the right program for each individual.

All of this really depends on your son and what is in his best interest.  This is the law nationally and here in Oregon, supporting a student’s needs is accomplished to varying levels of success.  I think it is good to get hooked up with the county Developmental Disabilities office and have a Service Provider assigned to help you navigate resources, schools, and also attend meetings with you as a support and advocate.

This community is fairly rich in agencies, organizations, transportation systems, and activities, for people with special needs.  I feel fortunate to have everything we do in Lane County yet we are always working to improve as well.

I am happy to direct you more specifically to information but feel I need to know a little more about where you might be headed in Oregon and what type of school program you might be after or possibly your vision for your son.  There is an excellent private school that specializes in autism here, (the district will sometimes fund the tuition), but it is not an integrated program…there are also some excellent programs embedded in high school sites too that are very integrated and part of the whole school. And once your son leaves school, there are KindTree's very own STiLE groups (Skill Training for an Independent Living Experince).

I hope this gets you some beginning information and the start of a conversation.  Please feel free to get back to me with any further questions or concerns.  Thanks for contacting us at KindTree and I hope you have a great day!

Sheila Thomas


Check out this video, a story of love on the spectrum.

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