Many children experience difficulties at school. Issues can arise from a variety of causes, including physical disorders and developmental disabilities, psychiatric disorders, emotional and behavioral disabilities, learning disabilities and/or other differences. Regardless of disability, children with special needs are required by law to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment possible.
Special education services and accommodations are available in order to “level the playing field” between students with special needs and their “typical” peers. If you are a parent of a student with special needs in New Jersey or believe your child may qualify for special education services, it is critical to understand how the system works so that your child receives every possible service to set him or her up for success at school.
Who Qualifies for Special Education in New Jersey?
Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), a student may be eligible for special education services in the public schools if his or her needs fit in one or more of the following categories:
- Serious emotional disturbance
- Learning differences
- Intellectual disabilities
- Traumatic brain injury
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Vision impairments
- Hearing impairments
- Physical disabilities
- Developmental delays (such as language or speech difficulties)
- Other physical health impairments or issues
A student who suffers from difficulties in school not falling under one of the above categories may also be entitled to less formal accommodations under different federal laws.
Types of Special Education Services in NJ
Section 504 is a federal civil rights statute that prohibits schools from discriminating against children with disabilities or other difficulties in school and requires schools to provide those students with reasonable accommodations. Typically, Section 504 covers those students with less severe difficulties than those students who qualify for special educations services under IDEA.
Any student who has an impairment that limits a major life activity can qualify for a Section 504 plan. A Section 504 plan will set forth the reasonable accommodations that a student is entitled to based on his or her specific difficulties, such as untimed tests, seating placements at the front of the class, modified homework, liberal breaks from the classroom, or other necessary services.
If a student qualifies under IDEA, the school will prepare an IEP. Similar to a 504 plan, an IEP will list the services a student requires, the goals for the student’s education, the accommodations available, and when the IEP will be revised.
The IEP will set forth recommendations for the student’s classroom setting (such as a general education classroom, integrated co-teaching, or a special education classroom), service providers (such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, or tutors), and accommodations (like access to audiobooks or dictation software, preferential seating in classrooms and reduction of distractions, having extended timing on tests or larger font on printed materials, or a larger workspace, and other exemptions).
Do All Schools in New Jersey Provide Special Education Services?
All public schools in New Jersey are required to provide every student in their district a free appropriate public education. If a particular school does not have the services or resources to help a student with a particular difficulty or issue, the law requires the school to provide access to suitable alternatives, including providing access to local service providers, transportation to schools slightly further away that provide the necessary services, or vouchers to pay for the student’s attendance in special education private schools.
How Can a Special Education Lawyer at Susan Clark Law Group Help Me?
If you are the parent of a child with special needs in New Jersey, contact the Freehold, N.J. special education law firm of Susan Clark Law Group LLC. Our dedicated NJ special needs attorneys can help your family work with your child’s school to make sure they receive the special education services they deserve and enforce your rights if they are being violated.
Schedule a free consultation with our firm to learn more about how we can help. Call or contact us today.