Autism New Jersey Testifies on School Reopening Plan
August 11, 2020
On Monday, August 10th, the Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Pamela Lampitt (D-6) invited guests to provide testimony on the New Jersey Department of Education’s plan for the reopening of public schools, The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education. The hearing brought together experts in four specific areas: health, special education, food access, and childcare. Those testifying on special education included Dr. Teresa Herrero Taylor, Director of Special Services for Jackson Township, Barbara Gantwerk from the NJ Principals and Supervisors Association, and Autism New Jersey Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Buchanan.
Dr. Taylor, Ms. Gantwerk, and Dr. Buchanan’s testimony shared many themes such as prioritizing the needs of students who participate in special education and an individualized approach to resuming educational services.
In her testimony, Dr. Buchanan described the impact that school closures have had on children with autism and their families and how many children have experienced significant regression in skills and increases in severe challenging behavior. She then provided the committee with recommendations on how schools could safely and effectively provide educational services during the pandemic and continue with these services if a second stay-at-home order is issued. Recommendations included avoiding blanket school closures, delivering IEP-mandated services where needed, and providing support staff in homes.
At the close of the testimony, Chairwoman Lampitt praised Dr. Buchanan’s forward-thinking approach regarding not only re-opening but what should happen if schools need to close again as well as the long-term impact on private schools for students with disabilities.
We thank Chairwoman Lampitt, Vice Chairwoman Jasey, and all Assembly Education Committee members for the opportunity to represent the needs of students with autism and look forward to our continued partnership with the Legislature and Administration during this unprecedented time.
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Autism New Jersey will continue to follow recommendations from the CDC and state Department of Health as the state begins to move through the stages of reopening.
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We remain focused on our mission to be a resource for the autism community. We recognize that there are many questions and complex considerations, and we are working hard to address these substantial issues and provide our expertise and stakeholder perspectives as plans are developed. We encourage you to regularly visit our central hub of coronavirus resources for the autism community.