Sunday, April 9, 2017

Another Loss for Paterson Students reports that online speech therapy is up next for students with disabilities in the Paterson School District. This, after the Education Law Center filed a complaint against the district for not delivering services to students with Individual Education Plans. 

Imagine having online services in place of having a therapist in the room with the students in Ridgewood or Princeton or Saddle River. You can't? I can't either. This is the latest hit to some of New Jersey's most vulnerable students. 

53 students in School 18, an elementary school, will be the test subjects for this program. I cannot support using a service that separates the student from a therapist. Students need to have the therapist in the room with them, directly interacting with them, and providing feedback that includes body language. 

How does this work for the student who needs feeding therapy? What about students with intellectual disabilities? What about those who need to be in a group setting for social skills support? I could keep going on, but you get the idea. There are so many basic limitations to having a therapist deliver services through a computer. 

Why is Paterson not hiring speech therapists? It's not like there's a shortage in New Jersey. Is the practice by many districts of only hiring though agencies (to save money) getting in the way? Does the cancellation of Paterson's contract with Kid Clan prevent them somehow from entering into a contract with a new agency? Why the drop in appropriated funds for special ed in the 2017-18 school year? 

Paterson Public Schools is a state controlled district, which makes it particularly galling that the state continues to underfund this district. All students suffer when there aren't sufficient funds to properly manage students' needs. In Paterson, the special ed kids must endure another failure to meet those needs.

Our kids deserve so much better than this. 

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