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Special Programs Office - Frequently Asked Questions


NJ Department of Education School Reopening FAQ: Special Education 

RPS FAQ :  The goal of the District is to operate at pre-pandemic norms while implementing strategies to reduce risks to students and staff as described inThe Road Forward: Health and Safety Guidance for the 2021-2022 School Year. This is inclusive of students with disabilities who are educated both within the district and in out of district programs.  

The 
2021-2022 FAQ will answer many of your questions about the upcoming school year. The2021-2022 School Year - The Journey Forward page on the website has also been updated and is a valuable resource for parents. The SPO FAQ Supplement 2021-22 has been created to provide additional information to families of students with disabilities.  

RPS SPO FAQ Supplement 2021-22

GENERAL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

WHAT IS THE CHILD STUDY TEAM?

A Child Study Team consists of a school psychologist, a learning disabilities teacher/consultant (LDT-C), school social worker, and when needed, a speech-language specialist, responsible for conducting evaluations to determine students’ eligibility for special education and related services.  All members of the Child Study Team may serve as Case Managers for students’ IEPs.

WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST?

The school psychologist has expertise in determining a child's level of intellectual development through comprehensive cognitive assessment. In addition, the psychologist is concerned with the social and emotional status of school children and how these factors may affect behavior and performance in school. The school psychologist consults with teachers and parents to maximize each child's potential and to create a supportive and enriching instructional environment.  The school psychologist may provide counseling or conduct functional behavioral assessments if educationally relevant to a child’s functioning in school.

WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE LEARNING CONSULTANT?

The learning consultant is trained to determine the learning strengths and weaknesses of children and to recommend specific teaching methods/materials which will best accommodate a child's needs. The learning consultant also determines whether a child who has been referred to the Child Study Team has the academic knowledge and skills necessary for school success. In addition, the learning consultant provides consultative services to the regular and special education teachers and parents to develop strategies and techniques to enhance the students' academic performance.

WHAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER?

The expertise of the school social worker lies in assessing the student in relation to the family, school, and community. In this role, the school social worker gathers information concerning the student's developmental milestones and health status. Family and school histories, as they pertain to the child's current school progress, are also obtained. The school social worker also is the primary specialist who coordinates community resources on behalf of students.  The school social worker may provide school-based counseling is a student’s social and emotional functioning is hindering his or her academic wellbeing. 

WHAT DO I DO IF I WANT MY CHILD EVALUATED BY THE CHILD STUDY TEAM?

If you believe that your child may have a disability, you may refer your child for an evaluation by submitting a written request to the school district, attention to Dr. Michelle Fenwick, Director of Special Programs.  Requests are made in hard copy form, dated, with an original signature.  In the letter please state your child's name, school, grade level, date of birth, and the specific concerns you have.  The letter must contain your original signature.  Upon receipt of your letter, a case manager from the Child Study Team will be assigned to your child's case and an Identification Meeting will be scheduled.  At this meeting please bring all relevant paperwork / documentation / medical reports that are relevant to your concerns.  The CST will review previous general education interventions that have been made and determine whether or not to proceed with testing. 

WHAT IS NJ TIERED SYSTEM OF SUPPORTS (NJTSS), MULTI-TIERED SYSTEM OF SUPPORTS (MTSS) AND RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION (RTI)?

New Jersey's Tiered System of Supports (NJTSS) is a framework of academic and behavioral supports and interventions to improve student achievement, based on the core components of multi-tiered systems of supports( MTSS) and the three-tier prevention logic of Response to Intervention (RTI). With a foundation of strong district and school leadership, a positive school culture and climate, and family and community engagement, NJTSS builds upon intervention and referral services(I&RS) and gives schools a structure to meet the academic, behavioral, health, enrichment, and social-emotional needs of all students.  
https://www.nj.gov/education/njtss/brief.pdf

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN I&RS AND SPECIAL EDUCATION?

Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) is a school-based intervention plan available to general education students experiencing academic difficulty.  The purpose of I&RS to provide teachers with strategies and students with interventions to help them successfully address their academic difficulties.  If difficulties persist despite I&RS interventions, a student may be referred to the CST or 504 committee.  More information and/or formal evaluation may be necessary to determine if the student has a disability.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 504 PLANS AND INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PLANS (IEP)S?

To be eligible under a 504 plan, there are two requirements: a child has to have been diagnosed with a medical condition/disability and that  disability must substantially limit the child’s ability to learn in a general education classroom (which is one of the major life activities). This can include learning, reading, communicating, and thinking.) Evaluative data from observations, record review, teacher input is reviewed in addition to the medical documentation to determine whether and what types of accommodations may be required to provide equal access to learning.
To be eligible under an IEP, A child has one or more of the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA; the disability must impact substantially on the child’s educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum, and the child must need specialized instruction in order to appropriately progress in school.

WHAT ARE RELATED SERVICES?

Related services typically include Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Counseling.  They are provided by a specialist based on the individual educational needs of the student.

What are Speech and Language Services?

Individual or group speech-language therapy is a related service provided by a Speech-Language Specialist to improve upon skills in articulation, language, fluency, or voice disorder in order to achieve academic success.  Students can be referred for speech and language services by their parents or their classroom teachers if they are concerned about a student’s speech and language proficiency as part of a Child Study Team Evaluation or in isolation.  If not eligible for Special Education and Related Services (ESERS), students may qualify for a Speech-only (ESLS) IEP where the Speech-Language Specialist typically serves as the child's Case Manager.  

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is a related service which is designed to help students within a school setting who are showing an educationally-related difficulty, which impairs his/her ability to function in the school environment. Occupational Therapists use purposeful activity to facilitate a student’s active participation in the areas of self-care, academic and/or vocational pursuits, as well as play and leisure activities. Using direct and indirect services, as well as assistive technology and environmental modifications, school occupational therapists collaborate with parents, teachers, and other educational staff to help implement a child’s program. The goal of services is to assist a student to function well within the school setting.

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy is a related service which is designed to help students access their school environment and participate safely and to the best of their ability in their academic curriculum. School physical therapists address functional limitations such as difficulties with mobility, transitions or gross motor skills, as well as interventions that address impairments that contribute to those functional limitations such as posture, balance, strength, and coordination. Difficulties in these areas must impact student participation in their educational program and environment.

What is School-Based Counseling?

  • distinct from therapy
  • designed to address issues pertaining to academic performance or other school functioning

WHAT IS AN INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM (IEP)?

The IEP is a written plan that describes in detail a child’s unique special education program. The IEP will describe how a child currently performs and the child’s specific instructional needs. The IEP will include detailed and measurable annual goals and short-term objectives or benchmarks.

HOW OFTEN WILL I MEET WITH THE IEP TEAM?

The IEP team is a multi¬≠disciplinary team of qualified persons who meet to make eligibility determinations and develop a child’s individualized education program.  It may include teachers (general and special education), parents, specialists, and child study team members.   Following an initial Identification, Evaluation Planning, and Eligibility Determination meetings, you will be invited to a yearly Annual Review meeting to review and update the IEP.  Additionally, every three years a Reevaluation Planning meeting is held to determine what further testing is needed to determine if a child continues to qualify for an IEP.  Parents can always request a meeting outside of the standard timeframe to discuss their child’s program.

IS THERE A SPECIAL EDUCATION PARENT SUPPORT GROUP? WHAT IS LSHSA?

A Special Education Parent Advisory Group/Committee, or SEPAG/C (sea-pag/pak) is a state-mandated, district-level, parent-driven group charged with providing input to the local school district on system-level challenges in special education and related services.  
Learning Services Home and School Association (LSHSA) is formally recognized as the district's SEPAG/C and is dedicated to supporting the students and families in Ridgewood, NJ who receive special education services through IEPs and 504 plans.  Their mission, to support, educate, and enrich is a thread throughout their activities.  They serve as an exceptional volunteer organization of parents who plan social, educational and outreach events and fundraise to support extra-curricular opportunities for children receiving Special Education services through Ridgewood Public Schools.  
For more information on LSHSA meetings and activities, please go to: LSHSA Website

HOW DO GRADUATES OBTAIN A COPY OF THEIR STUDENT RECORDS?

If you graduated and need a copy of your records, please reach out to the Special Programs Office,  Patricia Kowalczyk pkowalczyk@ridgewood.k12.nj.us,or Pam Moyer pmoyer@ridgewood.k12.nj.us.  Please include your name as a student, date of birth, year graduated and your signature so that we may fulfill your request as soon as possible.