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Lawmakers, educators discuss strengthening special education system in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Lawmakers and educators gathered for a hearing on Tuesday to discuss what can be done to strengthen the special education system in Oklahoma.

Special education is a topic near and dear to the heart of state representative Bobby Cleveland.

"We just need to help people that can't help themselves. I'm like a lobbyist for these people,” Cleveland told NewsChannel 4.

Cleveland organized a special hearing, gathering educators from all over the state to share how they think the special education system in Oklahoma can grow.

"Well, from talking to the experts about what they feel is going on and different teachers, it's not like we're not doing everything we can do but it can always be better,” Cleveland said.

They discussed not only academics but behavior, comparing models from both general and special education.

"I think that we really need to think about preventing difficulties in the first place. So, I want to present a prevention model in addition to a remediation model,” said Dr. Nancy Martella, a special education professor from the University of Oklahoma, at the hearing.

The models showed ways to improve general education, possibly preventing some students from having to transition into special ed.

"The data suggests that, if we don't get behaviors under control by the end of 3rd grade, our success decreases substantially with students in special needs,” said Dr. Ron Martella, who’s also a professor at OU.

If something is affecting a child’s ability to learn, experts said early intervention is key.

That’s something Cleveland believes is important to strengthening the system.

"If we can help just a few kids, then we've accomplished our goal,” Cleveland said.