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Significant Support Needs

Students with significant support needs are highly diverse learners with extensive needs in the areas of cognition and/or learning, communication, movement and social/emotional abilities. The individual may also have concurrent health, sensory, physical and/or behavioral disabilities.

Students with significant support needs require:

  • a wide variety of approaches and supports to demonstrate their knowledge and skills
    intensive instruction in literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills in order to acquire and generalize knowledge
  • substantial adaptations (modifications and accommodations) and/or ongoing supports in order to access grade level curriculum
  • access to assistive technology tools to communicate, learn and demonstrate their knowledge
  • progress to be measured by observation, data collection, assessment, and work samples
  • individualized levels of support across major life activities in home, school, and community.


Professional Development

Improving Literacy for ALL: Differentiated Pathways for Including Students with Disabilities in the READ Act

Who:  This training is intended for kindergarten to third grade principals, District Assessment Coordinators, special education teachers and administrators, interventionists, and others involved in the implementation of the READ Act.  The audience should be involved with the education of public school students enrolled in kindergarten to third grade only. The trainings will be offered in Pueblo, Durango, Denver, Grand Junction, Edwards, Denver, Greeley, Lamar and Limon.

What: The Attorney General New differentiated pathways have been developed by the Exceptional Student Services Unit, in collaboration with the Office of Literacy, to include all students in the READ Act.  This training will support school staff in correctly assessing students with disabilities for a significant reading deficiency as mandated by the READ Act legislation.  The training will highlight:

  • Changes in the READ Act Collection for the Spring 2016 involving students with disabilities with a particular focus on learners using braille or sign language, with reduced oral fluency, or with a  significant cognitive disability (expected to qualify for an alternate state assessment by third grade).  This training is not specific to students with Specific Learning or other more mild disabilities as these students can most often fully participate with the State Board of Education approved READ Act interim assessment tools with or without allowable accommodations.
  • Information about a new tool for assessing the literacy skills of Students with Significant Support Needs. Please note this will be the full afternoon session and is most appropriate for personnel working directly with students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Effective use of assessment data to inform appropriate literacy instruction for ALL students.

When and Where:


Extended Evidence Outcomes (EEO)

This Standards and Instructional Support (SIS) subweb is dedicated to the Extended Evidence Outcomes of the Colorado Academic Standards. The EEOs are written for students with significant cognitive support needs.

The following training options are offered as professional development for implementation of the Colorado Academic Standards, including the Extended Evidence Outcomes (alternate academic achievement standards)/ Extended Readiness Competencies (content-based access skills) for students with significant cognitive disabilities:


Significant Support Needs Advisory Council

The SSN Advisory Council is comprised of teachers, administrators, and related service personnel, professors from Institutions of Higher Education and parents from throughout Colorado. This group advises the Colorado Department of Education on the statewide needs of this population and those who serve them. Their expertise is utilized for work groups to develop trainings and products to assist educational teams in meeting the needs of this very diverse population.


Quality Indicators

The Quality Indicators offer guidance to educators and administrators when developing, implementing and evaluating quality programs and services for students with the most significant needs. This guide identifies ten components to consider for effective programs: Inclusive Culture, Progress Monitoring, Instruction, Positive Behavior Support, Communication, Self Determination, Health and Safety, Transition, and Paraeducators. This guideline cannot be interpreted as policy or regulation, but as a tool designed to assist those who are educating students with significant support needs. Each quality indicator has a list of research/evidence based practices for providing a rich school experience with the goal of improving post school outcomes for all students.


CONNECT Listserv

The CONNECT (Connect to Networking, News and Encouragement for Caring Teachers) listserv is a place for teachers and service providers working with students with significant support needs (e.g. physical disabilities, autism, multiple disabilities, etc.) to find information, encouragement and networking opportunities.

We know that many times those working with students with significant needs may be isolated and lack the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues or find the expertise they need in a timely and safe setting. This is a place to ask questions, have discussion and share ideas with those in the field that are having the same experiences. To subscribe, send your contact information to Gina Quintana at


Handouts from Previous Trainings

"Making Inclusion Meaningful for Students with Significant Support Needs - Part 1"

"Making Inclusion Meaningful for Students with Significant Support Needs - Part 2"


Teacher’s Corner

For more information about Significant Support Needs, contact:

Gina Quintana
Phone: (303) 866-6605

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Colorado Dept. of Education
201 East Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
Phone: 303-866-6600
Fax: 303-830-0793
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