Special Education District of Lake County

Diagnostic Program
Connections Academy East


The SEDOL Diagnostic program is housed within Connections Academy East (CAE).  Despite this physical proximity, these program are separate from the therapeutic alternative school program at CAE.  CAE is a private therapeutic day school, providing academic, therapeutic, and family support for special education students within Lake County and surrounding areas.  

The Diagnostic program is a unique combination of academic, therapeutic and behavioral services, provided in a highly individualized manner, so that the needs of each student can be met most effectively.  Students enrolled in this program intermingle in classrooms, with a maximum of 10 students, a special education teacher and at least one instructional aide/program assistant to ensure the maximum amount of one-on-one support.


The SEDOL Diagnostic Program at CAE is an alternative educational setting designed to provide individualized programming within the framework of an academic and therapeutic environment.  When a student’s current placement is seemingly not meeting his or her emotional, behavioral, or psychiatric needs, the school district and parents may be in agreement that an alternative placement is necessary for a temporary time period to further assess the student’s educational needs. The student can be a regular education student needing an alternative placement while undergoing an Initial Case Study Evaluation, or it can be a Special Education Student needing an alternative placement while undergoing a reevaluation.  In either case, the student would receive these evaluations along with all of the academic, therapeutic and behavioral supports traditionally offered at CAE.   

The Diagnostic placement is a 60-school-day program.  At the end of those 60 days, a staffing is held to review all of the diagnostic data and academic and therapeutic observations.  Special education eligibility will be discussed; if a student is found eligible for special education services, an individualized education plan (IEP) will be created, or the existing IEP will be modified as needed.  Placement options will also be discussed.  If the student is not found eligible for special education services, a plan for the student’s transition back into mainstream classes will be formulated.

Referrals are made by a student’s home school district, directly to the CAE Principal, Mrs. Elaina Shannon:   224-544-5920, ext. 102 OR eshannon@connectionsacademyeast.net


At the end of a student’s time within the Diagnostic program, a multidisciplinary staffing is held to discuss the case study evaluation components, academic and therapeutic progress, and any other areas relevant to a student’s needs.  Participants at this meeting typically include the following:

  • Parents/guardians

  • Student

  • Staff representatives from the student’s home district

  • Staff representatives from the diagnostic program

  • SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County)

The meeting is generally divided into three sections: discussion of case study evaluation information; discussion regarding special education eligibility and creation/revision of IEP if necessary and placement options.


The staff within the Diagnostic program believes that all students can learn and be successful.  Through the development of supportive and nurturing relationships, our staff enables students to make academic progress and learn the skills necessary to succeed.  A primary goal is to allow students to understand their own behavior - how it affects their interpersonal relationships, and opportunities for success.

Students are encouraged to learn new, more appropriate ways of interacting in order to get their needs met.  With guidance from faculty, students focus on and evaluate their behaviors as being supportive, or non-supportive, or their desired outcomes.  Problems that may arise during classroom activities are seen as opportunities for growth and learning. Our staff utilizes a cognitive/behavioral and narrative problem solving approach to help students identify the challenge and practice more successful behavioral alternatives.  While students may experience the logical consequences to problematic behavior, the approach is always positive and non-punitive. We do not encourage the use of isolation, physical restraint or other aversive interventions unless needed to ensure the safety of the student and school milieu.  Instead, we utilize effective social skill building and creative behavior modification techniques designed to help each student develop strategies to improve his/her educational performance.

The behavior management policies of the Diagnostic program are highly individualized, using both anticipated and actual behavior problems as positive teaching opportunities.  A consistent cognitive restructuring model is used to help the student learn the skills and behaviors necessary to succeed in the school environment.

When problematic behaviors arise during the school day, our staff will work with the student in identifying alternative ways in which the situation could have been handled.  At times, students may persist in disruptive and/or disturbing behaviors. When this occurs, staff will make every effort to remove the immediate stressor from the situation.  If a student is deemed to be a possible threat to his/her owns safety, or the safety of others, therapeutic holding and restraint may be necessary to ensure the safety of all involved.  Our staff is fully trained in the Crisis Prevention Institute guidelines of such intervention.



Students enrolled in the SEDOL contractual program experience highly individualized instructional support.  Our teaching staff works closely with the home school districts to ensure that students continue earning appropriate academic credit.  Each district is asked to provide a current course listing, which is facilitated within the Diagnostic or IAES program in one of two ways: 1) Home districts may provide their own textbooks and curriculum for students to use; 2) Districts may request that their student follow the curriculum all ready in place within the framework of Connections Academy East.  With either option, the primary objective is to help students earn the maximum amount of credit possible, bringing them closer to the ultimate goal of high school graduation.

Individual Therapy

Therapeutic services are an integral part of your student’s stay in the Diagnostic or IAES program at CAE.  Each student is assigned to an individual therapist, who will meet with him/her at least twice per week. These sessions will focus on a wide variety of issues, including the presenting issue/concern, increasing levels of self-awareness, problem solving, communication, and relationship skills.  The individual therapist will also complete a Social-Developmental History with each student and his/her family, as part of the Case Study Evaluation/Reevaluation.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is provided on a daily basis in the Diagnostic program.  These sessions are designed to address specific topics such as anger management, relationship issues, relaxation skills, interpersonal communication, as well as specialty groups for Art and Music Therapy. In addition, all students undergo an initial substance use screening to determine the degree of their exposure and/or involvement with drugs or alcohol.

Substance abuse education groups are also available to any students identified with this challenge.

Family Therapy

Family work is seen as an essential component in your child’s placement in the Diagnostic/IEAS program.  The individual therapist assigned to your child will expect to meet with you at least once per month. Primary goals include completion of the Social/Developmental History, improving communication and listening skills between family members, identifying mutual goals and accompanying plan for success, and any other specific concerns you feel would be helpful to address in family sessions.  In addition, a monthly Parent Support Group is offered to all families, within the Diagnostic/IAES program and Connections Academy East.  This can serve as a valuable outlet, allowing you to talk with other parents/guardians struggling with similar challenges and receive support and guidance from Connections Academy East therapeutic staff.

Other services available in these program include:

  • Speech/Language Therapist

  • Psychiatric Consultation and Evaluation

  • Occupational/Physical Therapy

  • Certified School Nurse on premises daily


School Days & Hours

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Fridays            8:30am - 2:30pm

Thursdays 8:00am - 1:30pm

Summer Session (June-July)

Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays 8:30am - 2:30pm

CAE Staff arrive at 7:30am and school doors open at 8:15am.  Classes are in session from 8:30am - 2:30pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 8:30am - 1:30pm on Thursdays to accommodate staff in-service training.  Students are expected to remain in their classrooms, monitored by CAE Staff, all day, unless otherwise directed.


All students are provided door-to-door transportation by their home school districts.  School rules and expectations are in effect from the time a student enters his/her transportation in the morning, through the time s/he is dropped off at home.  Our school staff work closely with the transportation companies, and have daily communication with the drivers to ensure that students are behaving appropriately and are adhering to all mandatory safety guidelines.  Students must wear their seat belts at all times while on the bus or cab.


What Is A Case Study Evaluation/Reevaluation?

A case study evaluation encompasses a series of in-depth multidisciplinary diagnostic procedures conducted within an established time frame and designed to provide information about your child and the nature of the problems that may affect his/her educational development.  These components may include the following:

  1. Psychological testing, including analysis of intelligence, achievement, social/emotional status and personality functioning

  2. Classroom observations and teacher’s report on academic progress

  3. Social/Developmental History

  4. Therapeutic Summary

  5. Vision/Hearing screening and other reviews of relevant health history

  6. Psychiatric Evaluation, if needed

  7. Substance use screening and/or evaluation, if needed

  8. Occupational therapy evaluation, if needed

  9. Speech & language evaluation, if needed

  10. Assessment of communication skills and motor abilities, if needed

The nature and intensity of each component to be included will vary depending on the needs of your child and the type of existing information available.  Upon completion of your child’s case study evaluation, a staffing will be scheduled with you, representatives from the school, and any other relevant professionals to discuss the findings and determine eligibility for special education and related services.

How Does A Child Become Eligible For Special Education?

Based on the results of the case study evaluation, there are several official categories under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services support.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Emotional and/or Behavioral Disability (ED)

  • Other Health Impairment (OHI)

  • Specific Learning Disability (SLD)

  • Speech & Language Impairment (SLI)

  • Cognitive Disability (CD)

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

The following are some of the more common eligibility categories and qualifications:

Emotional Disability (ED)
A diagnosis of emotional disability means that the child exhibits one or more of the following characteristics to a marked degree and over an extended period of time: 

  1. Difficulties in learning that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health impairments

  2. Problems relating to children and adults

  3. Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances

  4. A general mood of unhappiness and depression

  5. A tendency to develop physical symptoms, pains, or fears associated with personal or social problems

There should be evidence that the child’s behavior is not the result of a temporary reaction to home, school or community situations.

Other Health Impaired (OHI)
Your child may be found eligible under this category if there is a medically diagnosed physical or physiological condition, including but not limited to, a seizure disorder, asthma, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or diabetes; which may create challenges to educational success.  It must be determined that the disability interferes with your child’s ability to function at school using the traditional instructional materials and techniques.

A child with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is not automatically eligible for special education services.  If your child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD meets the requirement(s) under OHI or one of the other disability categories, he/she may be eligible for special education and related services.  A special conference would be necessary to determine your child’s specific disability.  Students with ADD or ADHD who do not meet the eligibility criteria of any of the specified disabilities may be entitled to the services and legal protections described in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Section 504 was the first federal Civil Rights Law to protect the rights of people with disabilities.  It prohibits discrimination in:

  1. The education of students with disabilities

  2. Vocational education program

  3. College program and other post-secondary education program

  4. Employment 

  5. Health, welfare, and other social service program

  6. Other program and activities that receive federal funds.

Section 504 requires an evaluation to determine whether or not your child meets the eligibility criteria.  If found eligible, the school district is required to provide an appropriate education.  This may mean modifying the regular education program and providing any necessary supportive services (e.g., reducing the amount of required work, completing fewer assignments in a shorter period of time, providing more visual instruction, and/or developing behavioral interventions).

Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
A child with a learning disability may have a disorder in one or more of the processes needed to receive, understand or express information.  As a result, the child may have difficulty in one or more of the following:

  1. Basic reading skills

  2. Reading comprehension

  3. Written expression

  4. Math calculation

  5. Listening comprehension

  6. Oral expression 

Children with  learning disabilities show a significant difference between their measured abilities and achievement.  The learning disability, then, is not primarily due to a physical, mental, or emotional disability, nor to environmental, cultural, or economic factors.  

What Is An Iep?         

The Individualized education program (IEP) is a written document describing how special education and related services will be provided for eligible students.  The IEP describes your child and what the school will do to give your child the extra support and attention needed.  Since parents are part of the team that helps to write IEPs for their children, it is important that you know what they consist of.  

Your child’s IEP must include the following elements: 

  1. Present level of educational performance

  2. Annual Goals

  3. Progress toward annual goals and how parent(s) will be informed of progress

  4. Specific special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, and a statement of program modifications or supports for school personnel

  5. Beginning date, amount, frequency, location and anticipated duration of services and modifications

  6. Extent of participation in regular education program

  7. Language(s) or mode(s) of communication

  8. Participation in assessments

  9. Placement

  10. Extended school year services

How Is An Iep Developed?       

The IEP is created at an IEP meeting, or “staffing”.  Participants at this meeting typically include:

  1. Parents/Guardians

  2. The Student

  3. Regular education teacher or special education teacher, depending on the student’s background

  4. A representative of the local school district

  5. An individual who can interpret the results of any psychological testing/evaluation if needed

  6. A representative of any other agency that may be responsible for providing supportive services

  7. Any other professionals invited at your discretion

  8. Representatives from possible placement options 

During the staffing, the team discusses the student’s current levels of academic and behavioral performance.  Specific strengths and challenge areas are identified.  If your child is over the age of 14, a transition plan is discussed, exploring goals for after high school graduation.  Primary therapeutic and academic goals are written, to serve as a framework for guiding instructional and support services through the next year.  These goals are monitored and evaluated at predetermined intervals to ensure that progress towards these goals is achieved. 

Related service areas that will help support achievement of yearly goals, such as individual, group, and family therapy, psychiatric consultation, and vocational assessments are identified.  Specific accommodations or modifications in presentation of academic tasks are outlined, to ensure that your child receives an equal opportunity to complete all necessary requirements.  Finally, the team discusses what would be the most appropriate, and least restrictive, environment in which these services and goals can be facilitated.

Placement Options

Your child must be provided an education in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  This means that to the greatest degree appropriate, any student with a disability aged 3 through 21, in public or private institutions or other care facilities, is educated with children who are not disabled.  Any separation of a student from the regular education environment (e.g., special classes, separate schooling) should take place only if the student’s IEP team determines that the nature and/or severity of the student’s disability is such that education in a regular classroom setting, even with the use of supplemental aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily.  Federal regulations require that the IEP team’s first placement consideration should be a regular education setting with accommodations or modifications.  However, this may not always be the most appropriate setting for your child.

Educational placement decisions are based on your child’s needs and may include the following locations.  (Please note this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Regular Education – your child receives specially designed instruction with supplementary aids and services in the general education classroom.

  • Regular Education with Social Work Support – your child receives additional support from a social worker/counselor within the school setting for therapy sessions.

  • Resource Room (Special Class) – your child receives specially designed instruction through a special education class, while staying included in regular classes as much as possible.

  • Self-Contained Room (Special Class) – your child receives specially designed instruction in a special education class, while remaining in those parts of regular education classes, with support, where appropriate. 

  • Alternative Educational Setting – your child receives specially designed instruction in a special school.  These can be either public or private therapeutic day schools.

  • Residential program – your child receives specially designed instruction in a special school and lives on the grounds of that same school.