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State Special Schools and Services Division - CalEdFacts

This content is part of California Department of Education's information and media guide about education in the State of California. For similar information on other topics, visit the full CalEdFacts.

The State Special Schools and Services Division (SSSSD) provides a variety of direct services to individuals with special needs, their parents, and local educational agencies (LEAs) through programs it operates at the California Schools for the Deaf in Fremont and Riverside; the California School for the Blind in Fremont; and Diagnostic Centers located in Fremont, Fresno, and Los Angeles. The SSSSD employs 1,000 people. Its schools and centers occupy nearly 150 acres of land and 1,000,000 square feet of buildings.

For more information, contact the SSSSD at 916-327-3850.

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Unit

Numerous reports, studies, and commissions conducted over the past 40 years have demonstrated that the present status of education for deaf people in the United States is unsatisfactory. As a result, the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Unit was established within the California Department of Education (CDE). The unit is responsible for implementing many of the recommendations of the California Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education Advisory Task Force convened by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. This unit also responds to inquiries regarding the Newborn Hearing Screening Program established in California.

For more information regarding the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Unit, please contact Julie Rems-Smario, Education Programs Assistant, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Unit, at 916-262-7823 or by e-mail at Additional information is available on the CDE Deaf and Hard of Hearing Web page [].

Schools for the Deaf

The two State Special Schools for the Deaf provide instructional programs to approximately 900 deaf students in California. In addition, both schools serve as resources to educational and community service agencies. The School for the Deaf in Fremont was established in San Francisco in 1860, and the School for the Deaf in Riverside opened its doors in 1953.

Students are enrolled in either a day school or a residential program, depending upon their individual needs and their residences. Both Schools for the Deaf have earned national and international acclaim for the quality of services provided. They are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Conference of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf. The schools use the state curriculum frameworks and adopted or standards-aligned instructional materials as the basis of instruction. Students are referred through the LEA. Beyond the academic and vocational/career education programs, both schools offer comprehensive support services and extracurricular activities. Outreach and technical assistance are provided to parents, LEAs, consumers, and the business and professional communities.

The Schools for the Deaf operate a resource center that can be contacted by parents and community members who wish to learn more about deafness, infant/preschool programs, comprehensive school activities, and enrollment procedures.

For more information regarding the Schools for the Deaf, Fremont, please contact Nancy Hlibok Amann, Interim Superintendent by email at; or April McArthur, Superintendent, California School for the Deaf, Riverside, by e-mail at

School for the Blind

The California School for the Blind provides educational programs for approximately 100 blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind students in residential as well as day school programs. The school was founded in San Francisco in 1860. Students range from five through twenty-two years of age. Preparation for adult life in the home community is the long-term goal for each student. The School for the Blind also provides local educational agencies (LEAs) with a variety of staff development programs to assist with local efforts in the areas of assistive technology and instruction for blind students.

For more information regarding the California School for the Blind, please contact Gina Ouellette, Superintendent at 510-794-3800 or by e-mail at

Diagnostic Centers

First established in 1947, the Diagnostic Centers have evolved into regionalized programs for all LEAs by providing various assessment services for individuals from three through twenty-two years. Referrals are made by the LEA after local resources are exhausted. All assessments are individualized to match students’ needs and LEA/parent questions and concerns. Nearly 66 percent of assessments occur at the students’ local school; all others occur at the Diagnostic Center. Teams of specialists in the fields of special education, school psychology, clinical psychology, speech/language pathology, motor development, and developmental pediatrics conduct the assessment programs. Parental involvement is emphasized throughout the student’s assessment.

Each Diagnostic Center also offers a variety of staff development and training as well as consultation services to LEAs, parents, and other service agencies. Training topics are developed according to the LEA’s changing needs.

For more information regarding the Diagnostic Centers, please contact Laura Anderson, Director, Diagnostic Center, Southern California (Los Angeles), at 323-222-8090 or by e-mail at; Melanie Johnson, Director, Diagnostic Center, Central California (Fresno), at 559-243-4047 or by e-mail at; or Gloria Mau, Director, Diagnostic Center, Northern California (Fremont), at 510-794-2500 or by e-mail at

Questions:   State Special Schools and Services | 916-327-3850
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, August 16, 2023