Have A Child With A Special Need?

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Public Services And Schooling For NYC Children With Special Needs

“The more information you have to help your child, the better your child can be served,” says Vanessa Markowitz, a lawyer and advocate for families with children with special needs. So for city parents who think that their child may have some kind of problem—be it developmental, physical or emotional—the most important thing is to take your child to a developmental pediatrician or clinical psychologist for an evaluation. Once your child is evaluated, and any delays or issues are identified, you will be much better prepared to determine how best to help.

Markowitz recommends taking advantage of New York’s early intervention programs, which provide a service coordinator to help you through the process of getting state-funded services. A program will be developed for your child that will include home-based therapies until your child turns 2 years old. At 2 years, your child may begin a center-based preschool program.

In the instance that your child’s special needs are not identified until 3 to 5 years of age, Markowitz again recommends getting a proper evaluation from a professional. Once that evaluation has been performed, the next step is to call New York City’s Committee on Preschool Special Education, which can develop and implement an Individualized Education Program based on your child’s needs.

Maybe the most challenging aspect for families with young children with special needs happens when parents have to find a grade school that adequately addresses their child’s strengths and challenges. Markowitz encourages parents to visit schools (public and private) and attend seminars on the topic, including some held at the JCC (jccmanhattan.org) and at YAI (yai.org). Other helpful sources: the NYC Department of Education’s “Students with Disabilities Transitioning from Preschool to School-Age Program,” a free orientation; and the book, A Parents’ Guide to Special Education in New York City and the Metropolitan Area, by Laurie DuBos and Jana Fromer. Additionally, Advocates For Children operates a helpline for parents with questions about special education and other issues.

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Special Needs Resources In NYC

If your pediatrician has determined that your child has a special need, you shouldn’t feel alone. These local organizations can provide you with important resources and parenting support:

Advocates For Children of New York: 151 W. 30th St., 1-866-427-6033 (helpline operates Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), advocatesforchildren.org.

Jewish Community Center: 334 Amsterdam Ave., 646-505-5700, jccmanhattan.org.

Los Ninos Services: 535 8th Ave., 212-787-9700, losninos.com.

Resources for Children With Special Needs: 116 E. 16th St., 212-677-4650, resourcesnyc.org.

Parent-to-Parent of New York State: 75 Morton St., 212-229-3222, parenttoparentnys.org.

Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine: One Gustave L. Levy Pl., 212-241-0961, mountsinai.org.

YAI: 460 W. 34th St., 212-273-6182, yai.org.

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Special Needs: A Glossary Of Terms

For parents considering whether their child has a special need, the terminology can get confusing. Is he struggling with a learning delay? Does she have an emotional disability? Is there a physical impairment that needs to be addressed? Or is it a combination of several different issues?

So how do you sort it all out? Well, first, with the help of qualified medical professionals. But to get the conversation started, here’s a short glossary that might help you better understand the different types of special needs.

Developmental Disability: A long-term conditiown attributable to a mental impairment or a physical impairment (or a combination of both types of impairments) that manifests before 22 years of age. Developmental disabilities can affect many aspects of a child’s life, including mobility, learning and independence. Examples include Autism Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome.

Emotional/Behavioral Disability: Interferes with a child’s ability to learn, interact socially, build relationships and conduct himself in an age appropriate way. Emotional/behavioral issues can often stem from developmental or learning ones. Examples include anxiety disorders, depression and eating disorders.

Physical Disability: Any neuromuscular, orthopedic, cardiovascular or pulmonary impairment. Physical disabilities can either be congenital or caused by injury. Examples include Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis and vision and hear-
ing impairments.

Learning Disability: Author Robbie Woliver defines a learning disability, or LD, as “a neurological disorder that affects processes in the brain that are involved with understanding spoken or written language, coordinating movements, directing attention, and the ability to learn, concentrate, listen, think, read, spell, write, or do math calculations.” Examples include attention deficits like ADHD, dyslexia and language disorders like aphasia and dysphasia.

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