NJ bill could give students with special needs a school year do-over due to pandemic regression

Everyone has struggled the last year, especially kids in school, so why not get a do-over?

Should kids be held after the last year and how many parents think they want to do that for their child?

"This year has completely thrown my children through the ringer," stated mom Julie Waicus.

A wasted year, packed with regression.

"They flop on the floor, they throw tantrums," Waicus continued..

Waicus says her children – Jackson and Darcie – who are nonverbal with special needs, need a do-over.

"They require handover hand help and they didn’t have that for over a year," Waicus explained.

Waicus and other parents, like Kara Cornaglia, are awaiting their children’s fate.

Cornaglia, keeping a close eye on a state bill that would give children with special needs and aging out of the New Jersey public school system at age 21, an extra year to recover from pandemic regression.

"The transition year is key," Cornaglia stated.

Olivia Cornaglia turns 21 on June 2nd. She’s missed an entire year of job skills training.

"So, instead of us being in a position where we can go out into the community and really engage potential employers for competitive employment, instead we’re back to fundamentals of activities of daily living," Cornaglia explained.

The pandemic has been emotionally and mentally exhausting on all children. Those with special needs are dealing with unique challenges.

"They don’t wear masks. We’re unable to take them anywhere. Social isolation was big. They just became hermits. Couch potatoes. iPad lovers," Waicus commented.

"A lot of behavior issues cropped up – depression, anxiety," Cornaglia stated.

"They’re out of their routine. They need a routine and a schedule," Waicus added.

New Jersey Assemlywoman Pamela Lampitt is a prime sponsor of Assembly Bill 5366.

"This is the right thing to do," Assemblywoman Lampitt remarked.

The same bill has already passed through the state senate and the assembly education committee. Lampitt says it has widespread support from local school administrators who have watched their students with special needs struggle this year.

"When I asked the superintendent if these students reached full potential, goals on IEP, he said, ephatically, ‘No!’ Should this happen? Emphatically yes," Assembly woman Lampitt explained.

And, if it does happen, the bill gives Jackson and Olivia a fighting chance to not only rebound, but thrive in their adult years.

"Please put yourselves in our families shoes and please understand that our families desperately need this bridge year," Cornaglia emphasized.



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