Ensuring Special Needs Children Get Proper Education
Debra Clifford, Esq. and Mary Frances Palisano, Esq., Child Advocacy Team Co-Chairs for Gibbons P.C., sit down with Steve Adubato to discuss what children with disabilities are entitled to when it comes to education, what types of services are available, and how parents can ensure their child is receiving the correct educational and related services.
"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. There are two guests that are here in the studio to talk about special education needs of children, and more importantly, what parents can do. Let me introduce two of them, Debra Clifford and Mary Frances Palisano, Child Advocacy Team co-chairs at Gibbons PC, which is a law firm in Newark I know very well I've done some leadership coaching there. And they are one of the underwriters of what we do on this series. But the whole question of special education... first of all, define it. What is it? Special education is a series of accommodations - services - that are provided to children with disabilities who are identified as needing services to help them obtain an appropriate education. Okay, but what's interesting is when I was doing some teaching around leadership, and you were one of the students in the class. One of the things I learned is that you have a very personal connection to this subject. Share that with folks. I do. I have twins who were born at 25 weeks. So they had a lot of cards stacked against them from the very beginning. So when they were discharged from the hospital, they immediately started receiving services from the state. And when they were three years old, those services transitioned from the state to the school districts that we lived in at the time. So they were immediately identified. They were given individual education plans, which we refer to as IEPs. Right. And they started to receive services. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, some sort of cognitive therapy, to help them get to, you know, to catch up. Is that accessible to all children - all parents - in the state of New Jersey? Well the child has to be identified. And whether the child is either identified by a parent who goes to the school and says, "I think my child has a problem." Or the school has an obligation to affirmatively identify those children that they think might have a disability. But there has to be an evaluation, correct? That's right. So the process is when a parent thinks that their child needs services, they can write a letter to the school, and it has to be in writing, to advise the school that... You can't just call the school? No, it has to be in writing. You have to put that in writing? It has to be a written letter. And what has to be in there? Do you have to describe what it is you're seeing? What are you looking for? Well..."