Merced County Office of Education



Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

Tiered Academic and Behavioral Support (TABS) Classes

Sierra Program​

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program (DHOH) and Itinerant Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program (IDHOH)


Adapted Physical Education (APE)

Itinerant Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program (IDHOH)

Occupational Therapy

Orthopedic Impairment (OI)

Psychological Services

Health and Nursing

Speech and Language Services

Transition Services

Specialized Vision Services


Adapted Physical Education (APE)

Adapted Physical Education is provided to students ages preschool to age 22 years old who have needs that cannot be adequately addressed in the regular physical education program. In addition to APE, other service delivery options include APE collaboration and consultation, specially designed physical education, modified physical education, and general physical education. Provision of APE is based on the same process of referral, assessment, and individual program planning that other special education services follow. An assessment and evaluation of motor skills performance is considered by the IEP team in determining how specialized physical education is to be delivered. Federal law guarantees the opportunity for students to participate in physical education regardless of physical, cognitive, or emotional abilities. Finding the least restrictive environment (LRE) for each learner is both a federal mandate and a best practice. The environment is considered to be least restrictive when it matches individual abilities and appropriate services and provides students with as much independence as possible. Generally, students receive services at their own schools during regular school hours. The adaptive physical education specialist coordinates services with the classroom or physical education teacher.

Manuel Cavazos, Program Coordinator​


Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program (DHOH) and Itinerant Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program (IDHOH)

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Program provides services to students from birth through age 22 years old who have hearing losses ranging from mild to profound. Both the instructional classroom and itinerant services are offered to students who reside within Merced County school districts.

 The DHH classroom is located at Peterson (Allan) Elementary. The classroom is staffed by a highly qualified teacher, signer aide, and certified interpreters prepared to meet the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students grades kindergarten to sixth grade. A total communication approach that emphasizes all avenues of communication (speech, speech reading, aural, sign language, fingerspelling, etc.) is used throughout the instructional day. Students have access to the adopted general education curriculum and support services. Interdisciplinary collaboration among all educational team members is crucial in providing the students with an integrated program. As appropriate, DHOH students are mainstreamed into the regular education classroom with a certified interpreter in a designated subject academic area. The DHH program is designed to develop strong, independent, and individual learners.

 The Itinerant IDHOH Program serves students ages birth to 22 years old who receive services based on their ability to access the general education curriculum through either direct support or consult model. The itinerant teachers of the deaf and hearing-impaired have the primary responsibility for the specialized instruction and services required to meet the unique needs of students in general education classes with hearing loss. Eligible students are those whose hearing loss affects their developmental growth or educational performance to such an extent that special education and related services are required. Itinerant Services are provided at each student’s school.

Annette Palmer, Program Director ​ ​​

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

The following ECSE programs serve infants and young children with disabilities:

Infant Care Program (GROW)

The Infant Care Program, part of the California Early Start Program, provides services to children from birth to three years of age and to their families. Services are based on an Individualized Family Service Plan that allows for 1-2 days per week of center-based activities, home visits, family training, parent-to-parent support, respite care, nursing, occupational therapy, and transportation. Each family is provided with a service coordinator who coordinates Early Start services. ICP staff works closely with other agencies to facilitate service coordination. Parental involvement is an essential component of the ECSE program. 

Jennifer Slatten, Program Coordinator​

Preschool Specialist Program (PSP)

The Preschool Specialist Program is an early education program for eligible preschoolers between the ages of three and five. Services are provided to eligible children who need assistance in one or more of the following areas: communication, communication, cognitive/adaptive, academic readiness, gross/fine motor, or social/behavioral. Services include developmental assessment, special instruction, family support, service coordination, and consultation. 

Kara Solorio, Program Coordinator

Other ECSE Programs

Other ECSE programs serve children, ages three to six, having disabilities that range from moderate to severe. Services include instruction and therapy in small classes that meet three to four times per week. Home visits are provided for some children as determined by the Individualized Educational Program (IEP) team.


Orthopedic Handicap Program (OH)

Students with orthopedic impairments have a wide range of needs based on the nature and severity of their physical impairments. Orthopedic impairment is defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as a severe orthopedic impairment that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. Primarily, orthopedic impairments involve physical disabilities which could affect the academic process. An evaluation is required for a disability to be classified as an orthopedic impairment. Considering the diversity in conditions embodied by the orthopedic impairments category, educational challenges will differ case by case, and the strategies used in each case should focus on a student’s unique needs.

Many of these students attend regular classes in their local school districts. The OH teacher travels to the local school to facilitate the student’s program through consultation and direct services.


Manuel Cavazos, Program Coordinator

Psychological Services

School psychologist services are available to Merced County’s school districts that wish to contract for these services. These services, particularly assessment and counseling, are critical for the placement of students in Special Education classes, programs, and services. School psychologists also provide important information and support to both teachers and parents/family members regarding the students’ education, living skills and behavior management.


Siobhan Hanna, Program Coordinator


School Health Services

Merced County Office of Education provides nursing services for all special day classes. Nurses have two primary roles, first as health providers and second as health educators. They are registered nurses with further specialization in school health care. The school nurse, as the health expert, has an important role to play as a member of the special education team in evaluating whether a student has health concerns that are impacting learning and how health barriers to learning might be reduced. As part of the full and individual evaluation, the school nurse composes a written report and makes recommendations to the team regarding necessary health services and other modifications the student may need. The goal is to ensure students’ health and safety is addressed for students to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).


Maria Duran-Barajas, Program Director


Sierra School

The Sierra Special Education Program serves students, kindergarten through high school, who meet the state’s seriously emotionally disturbed criteria. MCOE provides services to students who have severe emotional problems that interfere with their educational performance. Physical and mental limitations must be ruled out as the primary reason that a student is not learning in a normal manner. The program emphasizes social skills training and interagency collaboration, including the Merced County Mental Health Department.


Siobhan Hanna, Program Coordinator


Special Classes for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities designated as Tiered Academic and Behavioral Support (TABS) Classes

The Merced County Office of Education operates TABS classes at various locations throughout the county. The classes are designed to meet the relatively low incidence of special education needs of students ages birth to 22 years old whose disabilities are severe, including those with multiple handicapping conditions and intellectual disabilities. Placement decisions are based on such factors as the student’s age, educational needs, parental perspectives regarding the instructional setting, and whether there are medical conditions or needs for specialized equipment and services which might preclude appropriate placement on a particular school site. The primary goal is the development of independent living skills to the fullest degree possible.


Annette Palmer, Program Director 


Speech and Language Services are provided to children between the ages of birth through twenty-one years who have qualifying speech and/or language problems. Services include: Evaluation by a qualified Language, Speech and Hearing Specialist Individual or small group instruction as necessary to provide language, speech and/or hearing therapy Consultation


Maria Duran-Barajas, Program Director


All special education students served in MCOE-operated classes are eligible for transition services from age fourteen through graduation or age twenty-two, whichever comes first. These services include career exploration activities, job search skills, job keeping skills, job shadowing activities, and on-site job training through the Regional Occupational Program (ROP). For those students who successfully complete all these activities, a Work-Ability program providing paid work experience is available. Starting at age fourteen, every student receives a brochure titled making plans for Life After High School, and a transition services Plan for the Future is included in their Individual Education Plan. This plan details what instructional services, community involvement activities, development of employment and other post-school living objectives and daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation are necessary for the student to achieve their dreams.


The teachers of the visually impaired assist students who have a visual impairment that interferes with their normal educational progress. The program serves students from birth through age 22 years old who are functionally blind or have low vision. A functionally blind student is a student who relies basically on senses other than vision as major channels of learning. A low vision student is a student who uses vision as a major channel of learning. Visual impairment does not include visual perceptual or visual-motor dysfunction resulting from a learning disability. Medical verification of visual impairment is required. As prescribed by the Individual Educational Program (IEP), individual or small group instruction or consultation is provided. The instruction may include Braille, academic support, listening, visual efficiency, living skills, use of technology, and other adaptive skills. The VI services are provided at the school’s educational placement.


Maria Duran- Barajas, Program Coordinator


Occupational therapy is provided to students from birth through the age of 22 years old as a direct or consultative service based on the student’s Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.). Occupational therapy is a related service in which the therapist functions as a member of an interdisciplinary team whose purpose is to provide an appropriate educational program for students with disabilities. School-based occupational therapy practitioners are occupational therapists (OTs) and certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) who use meaningful activities to help students participate in what they need and/or want to do in order to promote physical and mental health and well-being. For students in schools, occupational therapy works to ensure that a student can participate in the full breadth of school activities—from paying attention in class; concentrating on the task at hand; holding a pencil, musical instrument, or book in the easiest way; or just behaving appropriately in class. The whole purpose of school-based occupational therapy is to help enhance the students’ potential for learning. 

Manuel Cavazos, Program Coordinator​



All special education students have the opportunity to interact with non-disabled children of their own age. Access to regular school classes and activities is determined at the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) development meeting. As appropriate, students participate with non-disabled peers in activities such as art, music, physical education, recess, lunch, assemblies, and field trips.