How do I know if my child has special needs?
"Special Needs" is an umbrella term referring to a wide array of issues/reasons affecting how a child grows and develops. For example, children with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; food allergies or terminal illness; developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched; occasional panic attacks or serious psychiatric problems, blindness or low vision. The designation is useful for getting needed services, setting appropriate goals, and gaining understanding for a child and stressed family.
Understanding typical developmental milestones may assist parents in determining if their child has special needs. Additional information on typical developmental milestones can be found at The Family Matters website.
What are multiple disabilities, such as cognitive, physical or medical disabilities?
This refers to individuals with more than one disability. The range and possible combinations and degree of severity are infinite and make each person’s situation unique. Examples range from neurological disabilities such as brain damage, to physical limitations, learning and developmental challenges. The key to treatment is to undertake comprehensive professional assessments and to implement, monitor, and evaluate an integrated multi-disciplinary education plan relevant to each person’s unique needs and situation.
The Family Connect website provides definitions of common types of multiple disabilities.
What is visual impairment and blindness?
Visual impairment, including blindness, is defined as an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance and activities of daily living. The term includes both partial sight and blindness. Partial sight or “low vision” usually means that a person has different degrees of useful remaining vision. Many people, although referred to as “legally blind”, are actually partially sighted with some useful residual vision.
For additional information on visual impairments and eye conditions:
What is Special Education?
Special education is instruction specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a student, ages 3-21, with a disability. Special education provides additional services, support, programs, specialized placements or environments to ensure that all students' educational needs are provided for. Special education is provided to qualifying students at no cost to the parents.
Special Education processes and services can be confusing to a parent trying to what is best for their child. Obtaining special education services begins with a parent/guardian contacting their local school and notifying them of their questions and concerns regarding their child’s educational needs.
Helpful information addressing the questions above can be found at the following websites:
NJ Department of Education Parental Rights
ASAH – Association of Approved Private School for Students with Disabilities
How do children with special needs learn?
Different children have different personalities, strengths and needs and therefore have different learning styles. Some children are visual-spatial learners, some auditory learners, some kinesthetic learners, and some a combination. Successful educational plans incorporate an understanding of a child's learning style into and learning environment that has been tailored to engage that style.
For additional information addressing various learning styles and answers to the following questions,
What does multi-sensory mean?
What is a functional curriculum?
What is Assistive Technology?
Please see the following websites:
Family Connect (addresses topics related to visual impairments and multiple disabilities)
Supporting Learning and Development
What if I need help obtaining the right special services?
ASAH video series on parent advocacy
What happens when my child graduates or turns 21?
School based programs for students with special needs are available until a student turns 21