"Our students are as bright as regular students they perform at the same level," she said. "We just have to supply them with the services and accommodations. They just have issues that get in the way; that doesn't mean they are not intelligent."
Cook said her students use special materials such as books and education material printed with enlarged lettering, Braille or recorded on audio tapes. She cautioned that the 979 special-needs students attending the college don't get any academic breaks.
"They are going to be able to complete the requirements of the course in the traditional way without altering the rigor of the course," Cook said. "Here, they have to meet the same requirements as everyone else. In high school they might only take half the requirements [of a class]. So that's probably their biggest culture shock -- the amount of work they need to do."
The Foothill Special Education Local Plan Area serves as the special education liaison between the Burbank, Glendale and La Cañada unified school districts and the state, said Suzan Dunbar, the plan's assistant to the director.
"The whole point of their education is to get them into a successful adulthood," Dunbar said.
Foothill transition coordinators Linda Lindley and Ken Chamberdiscussed career- and education-goal planning for special education students.
Every high school special-needs student is required by the state to have an individual transition plan that matches their aptitudes with their interests and abilities to map out a course for success, Lindley said.
"In high school they are getting these services," Lindley said. "So unless they identify those services on their own as adults, they won't get them."
Mary Boger, president of the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education, attended the conference so she could hear the keynote address by 1986 national Teacher of the Year Guy Doud.
"He reaffirmed the importance of our teachers and that they hold incredible power in each of our students' lives," Boger said. "We say it every day, we try to live it every day and remind people every day but the words that come out of a teacher's mouth can set a child back or move them forward."