New NJ Special Education Ruling: Providing Appropriate Services to Kids with Autism

Laura Waters:

A special education case came through the transom last week, courtesy of a group of parents in Millburn, New Jersey. The case pinpoints a few percolating problems in NJ’s special education arena, particularly school districts’ struggles to provide adequate services to kids with a diagnosis of autism. This case, J.S. and K.S. v. Millburn Township Board of Education (not yet online, but I’ve posted it here for reference) touches on some districts’ reluctance to classify kids as autistic, the politics of district/parent negotiations, and the role of our consortium of private education schools.
This December 7th ruling involves a young girl, referred to in court documents as A.C., and the services offered to her by Millburn Public Schools, an Essex County district that is rated as a “J” District Factor Group, the wealthiest possible designation. In October 2008, the child’s parents approached the district because of concerns with her speech and social development. A.C. had just turned three years old and, under federal and state law, was eligible for special education services through her local school district.
To any informed lay reader, A.C. displayed clear signs of autistic-like symptoms. Most of her speech was unintelligible. She made little or no eye contact, rocked back and forth, exhibited repetitive behavior, showed no evidence of imaginary play, had no interest in peers, and recited scripts from “Dora the Explorer” episodes.