Special Education

TCAPS Special Education Programs

Traverse City Area Public Schools provides services in the least restrictive environment (LRE) that will meet the individual's educational needs. The determination of the setting, services, and programs is made in a collaborative effort with the student's Individual Educational Planning Team.

Following an evaluation, a student’s planning team will recommend how and where to best meet the student’s educational needs. The child’s parent is an integral part of the team throughout the evaluation and educational planning process.

External LinkNorthwest Education Services (formerly Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District- TBAISD) provides many of the services that students may be eligible for within our school buildings. Services such as Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Schools Social Work, Teacher Consultants for students with visual impairments, hearing impairments and physical impairments can sometimes be provided in the neighborhood school.

When a child’s team determines there is a need for an increased service model, Northwest Ed. operates many categorical classrooms. These classrooms are currently located in Traverse City. Should a child’s team determine a more restrictive placement is needed for educational success, TCAPS will work with Northwest Ed., along with MDE to assist in meeting the student’s needs.

Special Education Community Resources

The greater Grand Traverse region, as well as the State of Michigan, offers community supports for those with disabilities.  

Disability Network - Serves people with disabilities, their families and the northern Lower Michigan community since 2002. Staff provides information, assistance and support to people of all ages with a wide variety of disabilities. They work on a larger scale, helping governments, businesses and other organizations make changes that improve life for everyone in the community.

Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) - MRS offers pre-employment transition services in Michigan to students with disabilities who are age 14-26 and accepted or enrolled in secondary or postsecondary education.  The pre-employment transition services are an early intervention delivered in a variety of developmentally appropriate experiences with the goal of ultimately leading to competitive, integrated employment outcomes.

  1. Job Exploration - Learn about different jobs, consider which jobs interest you and what skills you need to gain to be successful.  

  2. Work-Based Learning Experience - Participate in activities to learn about the workplace. 

  3. Counseling on Postsecondary Education - Learn about options for continued education and training after high school. 

  4. Workplace Readiness Training - Learn about and gain skills to be ready for employment.  

  5. Self-Advocacy Training, including Peer Mentoring  - Learn about and gain skills to advocate for yourself and request accommodations that you need to be successful.

The Dream Team - A co-ed baseball league formed to include youths, teens and young adults with disabilities.  Individuals are partnered with local baseball and softball players who will assist them throughout the game as needed. 

Norte - Bikes for All Northern Michigan program offers people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the love of riding a bicycle.  

Michigan Career & Technical Institute (MCTI) - Provides vocational and technical training programs and provides supportive services needed to prepare Michigan citizens with disabilities for competitive employment.

Grand Traverse Industries - Provides employment and training to persons with disabilities and other barriers to employment. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Michigan - Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.

Mildly Cognitively Impaired (MICI) Program

Self Contained Classroom

TCAPS currently operates three Mildly Cognitively Impaired (MICI) classrooms. The MICI program is a robust program that offers students the opportunity to develop their adaptive and social skills throughout their day.  Students who qualify for this program have an approximate IQ score of 50-65 and need support with task completion.  Students are usually in the MICI classroom for four to five hours and have additional electives such as art or physical education.  

The classroom is taught by a certified teacher with endorsements in special education and the class also has an assistant.  Students will go to lunch with their general education peers without an adult unless there is a specific health or physical need.  Based on a student’s IEP, supports such as: occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, or social work are available for students. 

Each classroom in our district utilizes the Unique curriculum as well as other supplemental educational resources as needed.  Instruction is adapted to support each student in the classroom with small group instruction.  

The IEP team will determine if the MICI classroom is appropriate.  The MICI classroom is only open to TCAPS resident students.  Transportation is offered to each program either via the TCAPS transportation department or DEAN transportation.  The elementary classroom is located at Central Grade elementary.  The middle school program is located at East Middle School and our high school program is at Central High School.  

If you have any questions about the program, please contact the TCAPS Special Education Director, Tiffany Pomaville, at 231-933-1780.

Resource Programs

TCAPS offers both elementary and secondary resource program as determined by the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  These programs are taught by highly skilled and certified special education teachers.  Resource room support can be provided by the special education teacher in either the general education classroom or in the special education classroom.  When a special education teacher pushes into the classroom it is often referred to as co-teaching.  Students with disabilities are with their general education peers the majority of the time and are receiving individualized help within the general education classroom.  At times, students may be supported in the resource room to get additional instruction by the special education teacher.

Students who are being supported in the resource room will either be working on the Michigan Common Core Standards or the Michigan Alternate Content Standards.  The determination of standards is part of an IEP decision.  Students who are working on Common Core Standards are working toward a traditional diploma at graduation.  Students who are working on the Alternate Content Standards are working toward a Certificate of Completion upon graduation.  

A traditional diploma indicates that the student has met all the Michigan Merit requirements outlined by the State of Michigan.  A traditional diploma is required for many jobs, military, and post-secondary institutes.  When a student earns their traditional diploma, all special education services are completed at that time.  A certificate of completion allows a student to continue receiving special education services until the age of 26.  If the team determines that a student will earn a certificate of completion, they will still walk at graduation during their senior year.  

Secondary Transition Program Overview

Northwest Education Services operates the Life Skills Center. The Life Skills Center helps students age 16-26 with moderate to severe cognitive impairments, severe multiple impairments, emotional impairments or autism.  All students participate in programs focused on teaching transition skills in areas of recreation and leisure, employability, adult living skills, accessing the community, and social skills. Work skills training opportunities are provided to students at levels appropriate to the needs and abilities of the individual.  Students also participate in community-based instruction on a regular basis.


Our mission is to provide each student with positive learning experiences in school and community settings that promote the growth of transition skills and foster self-advocacy so each student can achieve their highest level of independence.

Powerpoint Document Transition Campus PowerPoint

Life Skills Center: Serving students age 16 - 26 with moderate to severe cognitive impairments, severe multiple impairments, emotional impairments or autism. All students participate in programs which provide work-skills training opportunities at levels appropriate to the needs and abilities of the individual.  All students also participate in community-based instruction on a regular basis.

Adult Community Experience (ACE): Designed for students who are able to work on transition skills with greater independence. ACE 1 programs are located within the Transition Campus setting. ACE 2 programs are located in downtown Traverse City to encourage community engagement.

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Programs

The Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) program is a special services preschool for children living in the TCAPS district. Children between the ages of three to five may be eligible for this program, based upon developmental need. The ECSE program services children who have difficulty in the following areas:

  • Understanding and following directions

  • Expressing thoughts and ideas

  • Saying words or sentences

  • Developing gross and fine motor skills

  • Acquiring social skills/Interacting with others

  • Learning new concepts for school readiness

The ECSE classroom provides a language-enriched environment with a play-based curriculum. This allows children to learn the basic skills for school readiness at their own pace through hands-on experiences in a wide variety of activities. 

Our ECSE classrooms are located in Eastern Elementary School and Blair Elementary School. Each classroom is taught by a special education early childhood endorsed teacher.  The ECSE classroom also has an additional adult to help support students.  Students can also be supported with occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, or social work if their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) determines a need. We offer a morning session, which is two and half hours or an afternoon session which is almost four hours.  Busing is provided by DEAN transportation. 

TCAPS also offers a 1755 program, which is a less restrictive support for preschool aged children.  Students who qualify for 1755 services, determined by the IEP team, will receive support within a TCAPS general education preschool setting.  The 1755 service time is determined by the IEP team.  We currently have 1755 services at Traverse Heights, Blair, Long Lake, and Silver Lake.

There is no cost related to this program if your child qualifies.  If your child is between the ages of birth to five years old and you have concerns about their development, please contact the Northwest Education Services preschool assessment team at 231-922-6288.  Preschool assessments are free of charge.  

If you have any questions about the ECSE or 1755 programs, please contact the TCAPS Special Education Director, Tiffany Pomaville, at 231-933-1780. 

Child Find

Child Find is a process for identifying students suspected of having a disability. Child Find states that school districts are required to conduct child find activities as stated by the IDEA regulations in Part B (§ 300.111) and Part C (§§ 303.302 and 303.303). In accordance with the IDEA and state law, districts must identify and evaluate children and youth from birth through age 25 who need early intervention services or special education services.

If you have concerns about your school age child’s development, you can contact your child’s teacher or building principal.  Within 10 school days of receipt of a written request for an initial evaluation of a student suspected of having a disability, and before any formal evaluations take place, TCAPS will provide you with written notice and, when necessary, shall request written consent to evaluate.  TCAPS will provide you with information about your family rights and procedural safeguards. Upon receipt of signed consent, the district may evaluate the student and determine if there is a need for special education and related services. Child Find evaluations are conducted at no cost to the parents. 

For children who are between the ages of birth to five who you suspect might be behind, please contact the preschool assessment team at 231-922-6288.  Here are some typical developmental milestones for young children:

  • By 1 year: Pulls self to standing; may step with support.. Gives toys on request. Picks things up with his/her thumb and one finger. Stacks two blocks. Follows simple directions accompanied by gestures. Gives affection. May say 2 or 3 words.

  • By 2 Years: Kicks large ball. Turns pages (1 at a time). Identifies 6 body parts. Imitates housework. Asks for items by name. Uses 2 or 3 words together, such as more juice.

  • By 3 Years: Walks up stairs. Stands momentarily on one foot. Uses utensils to feed him/herself. Copies a circle. Uses short sentences to relate experiences. Matches colors. Demonstrates interest in toilet training.

  • By 4 Years: Rides a tricycle. Is toilet trained. Copies a cross. Names 6 basic colors. Can wait for turn. Begins to play with other children. Washes hands unassisted. Uses sentences.

If you have any questions about the Child Find process, please contact the TCAPS Special Education Director, Tiffany Pomaville, at 231-933-1780.