Offering a helping hand to ‘special needs’ families

Special Needs NJ Family Services serves locals in Sussex County

Sussex County NJ Parent Advocate: Linda Leenstra

BY CLAUDIA CARAMIELLO PUBLISHED DEC 10, 2013 AT 6:18 PM (UPDATED Feb. 2017) ShareThis ANDOVER —

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” This famous quote from “The Lorax” appears on the cover of a pamphlet for Special Needs NJ Family Services LLP in Andover. It serves as an important message and theme of the children’s advocacy agency, who believe that all children have the potential to succeed academically regardless of any “special needs.”

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Be the change you want to see…Gandhi

Offering a helping hand For a parent, having a child who has been classified in school is usually an emotional experience fraught with confusion, questions and anxiety. The question, “What do we do next?” is raised, and parents can feel overwhelmed with paperwork, Individual Education Plans (IEP) interpretation, and meetings with Child Study Teams.

Helping a child to stay motivated, reach their potential, and like school can be a daunting task for mothers and fathers. Serving families throughout NJ but anchored in Sussex County, Special Needs NJ provides individual services to families who have a child in the school system with special needs. These services include Advocacy for the child, tutoring, life skills, ABA therapy, and now adding Life Coaching for parents and aging students.

The goal of Special Needs NJ, is to help parents navigate the sometimes confusing world of having a classified child, as well as making children aware that they have someone on their side.

“If you went to work everyday and were compared to the guy in the next cubicle, you would start to hate going to work,” says Special Educator, advocate, therapist, and life coach, Linda Leenstra, known warmly to her students as “Ms. Linda.”

“Everybody needs to understand that we are not all square pegs that fit neatly into the square hole. The American education system is so stuck on this concept that children begin to feel like there is something wrong with them; they don’t fit into the system,” says Leenstra. “Here at Special Needs NJ, we feel that individualism is a great thing!”

Classification:  In New Jersey, there are 14 different types of classifications within the education system. For parents, making sense of the terminology, and navigating a path toward well being for their child can be intimidating. Leenstra provides the important service of going into the schools with the parents and attending IEP meetings with the Child Study Team. She often encourages parents to bring a picture of their child to the meeting which helps keep the focus on why everyone is there. They are there for the child. “It is important for school systems to know that we are not working against them, but with them,” says Leenstra. “The best thing for a child is an educated parent, and our main drive is to educate parents on how to get their child in the right program.”

In an effort to help a child reach their potential, Special Needs NJ also will go into homes and provide, not only tutoring, and help with a specific subject, but life skills for children who have a learning disabilities, and behavioral training for both parent and child. Special Needs NJ can help train parents on how to deal with struggles their child may be going through, and provide encouragement to the child. The agency will also assist parents in organizing and understanding the paperwork and forms that comes with having a child who is classified.

Anniversary: as Special Needs NJ is entering it’s fifth year, they continue to grow and provide help to families in New Jersey. The agency also works on a sliding scale fee, and are individualized to a client’s needs. Leenstra regards her role as advocate and educator as more then a job, and establishes a strong connection to the families she works with.

“If you think about it, kids are always under scrutiny, always judged,” says Leenstra. “They are naturally free spirits who want to learn, explore, touch everything, but then they go to school and have their art work compared to other kids.” “For every negative statement made, we should always make five positive ones,” Leenstra advises. “People want to be complemented, not compared.”

For more information visit http://www.specialneedsnewjersey.com or call 973-5343402

Special Needs NJ provides a free consultation to discuss how their specialized services fit your individual needs.

Pictured: Linda Leenstra, Court Appointed Special Advocate, with Judge of Morris and Sussex County Courts NJcasa

 

 

New Resources

Here are a few more references for families with disabled members

Disability Accommodation Cost Guides

Personal Finance Guide for People with Disabilities

8 Steps for Learning Disabled Students Who Want to Go to College

34 Great Jobs for People with Disabilities

Autism and Addiction: Coping with and Treating Your Dual Diagnosis

Travel Tips for Workers with Disabilities

The Guide to Securing Life-long Accommodations for Adult Children With Special Needs

Types of Service Dogs

NJ Miss Amazing 2016/2017

miss-amazing

CONGRATULATIONS! to our own Linda Leenstra, sworn in as Morris/Sussex County Court Appointed Special Advocate

casaPictured: Linda Leenstra sworn in by Judge Berdote Byrne Superior Court of NJ in the Historic Court Room at Morristown, Monday November 7, 2016

SUMMER TUTORING

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SPECIAL NEEDS NJ

Is booking now for summer tutoring

Academics, Social Skills, Behavior Management, Executive Functioning SkillsABA etc….

Call (973) 534-3402 or email to specialneedsnj@hotmail.com

for intake interview

IEP Tips:

If at all possible; do not go to the IEP alone! You don’t necessarily need to bring a trained advocate, bring someone who cares about your child and your family. They don’t need to speak. Just ask them to be there to support you, and take notes. This will send the district the message that you take your rights seriously.

IEP review time!!

This is such a crucial time of year for all of us “Special Needs” families.

It’s time for the dreaded annual IEP (Independent Educational Plan) review.

Please, Please, Please remember the following very IMPORTANT actions you need to take as you prepare.

  • The IEP and CST (Child Study Team) meeting is yours, NOT theirs!                                              This meeting is taking place because of you, your child, and your family
  • Come prepared                                                                                                                                                Make sure you prepare an agenda of what you want to discuss, see happen, plans and interventions “needed,” etc…                                                                                                            Don’t let them dictate the meetings time frame and events. Yes, you may want to discuss those evaluations and test scores, but it is NOT the only reason you are there. Make sure you have ALL re-eval documents a minimum of 10 days prior to the meeting. Understand what they mean and what are your child’s strength and weakness areas yes, but unless you need clarification…going over stats and percentages should not monopolize the time you have to meet.                                                      If your child is already classified and has been, chances are you are aware and agree that he/she has a disability and is entitled to services. So, get down to business after a short (15 minute) review of the evals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            NEVER, deny or refuse triennial re-evaluations!
  • Parental Concerns is IMPERATIVE!!                                                                                                            Every IEP has a “Parental Concerns” section, it’s usually a tiny box only about 1/4″ wide….. This does NOT mean you have to fit all of your concerns here!                              Come with an already prepared, typed statement of your parental concerns (probably what you intend to discuss anyway) and formally REQUEST it be included in the official (LEGAL) document of your child’s IEP. This way it becomes a full part of that IEP and everyone your child works with will have access to your input.
  • Record, Report, Re-state                                                                                                                                 Most schools will send you a confirmation letter stating the time, place, and whom will attend the IEP meeting. It may ask if you intend to bring someone? If you request any other professionals and staff? and whether or not you plan to record the meeting?                                                                                                                                                        YES! You want to record the meeting!                                                                                              No, not to antagonize or catch them….. but to have a record for your own to review or for the review of others that may have been unable to attend (That parent out there earning the paycheck who can’t afford another day off the job).                                    You are emotionally involved. Therefore you may not remember or even understand what is being stated/proposed and you need to review the meeting later when you are in a calmer state.                                                                                                                                 The recording will also serve as a resource you can refer to in order to clarify the items discussed for your follow up summary.
  • Follow up summary                                                                                                                                           YES! ALWAYS follow up EVERY meeting, phone call, discussion, teacher email, notes and ANY contact you have with the professionals that service your child with a follow up summary….   “My understanding of what was discussed, proposed, implemented etc….”
  • Finally, and probably MOST IMPORTANT!!!                                                                                              Send ALL correspondence to no less than 3 people in your district ie. the case manager, head of special services, and the building principal. This will ensure you are heard! As well as provide a time stamped/documented record (always send via email) of your insights and perceptions. It also helps that others on your child’s case are aware that they are accountable to replying and taking actions by others within the system.                                                                                                                                                     A recent statement from a client…..”thank you- I did the “copy 3 people on email thing” the last 2 times- whew boy does that work! THANK YOU! “
  • Get support!                                                                                                                                                         If you feel you need some support or expert advice, contact us here at Special Needs NJ  (973-534-3402) to talk to an Advocate/Special Education Consultant

SNNJ SUMMER 2015

Summer Programs at Special Needs NJ, LLP

Newton, NJ (Sussex County)

Providing Help to Students with IEP’s

Join “The Crew”    image3941

A Saturday work crew that helps keep things working,   repairs, clean ups, vehicle maintenance, painting, woodworking etc…. This group is for High School students to put their learned skills to real life practices. The aim of this group is to educate towards “un-entitlement!” Many of our youth have a sense of entitlement, they want what they want! In this Saturday work crew young men and women learn how to take care of things they “want” to have. We teach the use of measurement through building projects, how to do upkeep on a vehicles, cleaning of the pool, maintenance of gardens and paths, use of kitchen tools, budgeting, and much, much more.

Details page 2 click here for full newsletter

Parents support group: support for parents with classified children, forum for questions and advice, expert seminars & program presentation, or just a night of relaxing.

Special Back to School info August

More on page 2

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Tutoring clubs: These are tutoring sessions provided in our center for academics, ABA & IM therapy, and life skills practices to keep students with IEP’s from regressing in their skills.

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CLICK HERE FOR FULL NEWSLETTER

Teens & Tweens

SUMMER CAMPs

 2 week sessions starting June 15, 2015, held Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9am to 2pm. This group is for young men and young women grouped as 5-8th grade, and HS age with an IEP who wish to connect with other teens in the area.

Campers will learn many life skills such as making shopping lists, shopping, cooking, kitchen safety, working together with others, following directions, properly channeling anger, coping skills, how to make friends/ conversation skills, craft and woodworking projects, plus fun events; swimming, hiking, horseshoes, and games

Each camp will be limited to 8 students per session; lunch is included each day, and additional tutoring sessions available from 2:00-4:00 pm on Monday and Wednesdays.

Price: $650.00 per session covers supplies, food, transportation for outings, end of session pizza party & Bon fire etc… additional $100. to stay for tutoring M&W Requirements: must have IEP, and pre-camp interview

DATES:

1. June: 15-26 HS

2. July: 6-17 5-8th grade

3. July: 20-31 HS

4. Aug: 3-12 5-8th grade

5. August: 17-28 HS Camps may be cancelled if minimum of 4 students each is not met

CONTACT US NOW: (973) 940-6923

CLICK HERE FOR FULL NEWSLETTER