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QUICK ACTION BY ELC WINS SERVICES FOR AUTISTIC CHILD

Quick action by ELC Senior Attorney Ruth Lowenkron has secured improved education services for an eight-year old child with autism.

The case began in February 2004 when New Beginnings, a private school serving children with autism, terminated, without notice, the child's placement. After ELC threatened legal action, New Beginnings and the East Orange school district which had placed the child in New Beginnings, returned the child to New Beginnings after an 11-day interruption of services.

Upon his return, New Beginnings suspended the child indefinitely for biting, and requested a due process hearing from the NJ Department of Education to terminate him as being "dangerous." ELC moved to dismiss the action, challenging New Beginning's authority to terminate the child when the school district wanted the placement to continue. ELC also sought the child's immediate return to New Beginnings.

In settling the case, the child was reassessed, and a new Individualized Education Plan was developed. He was placed at New Jersey Regional Day School in Jersey City, a more appropriate placement. To compensate for the time he was denied education services, the child received additional help, as well as a computer with software to help him build social skills. In addition, he will receive 19 hours a week of life skills training, before and after school, and on weekends.

This case is typical of the free legal services in education disputes provided by ELC to income-eligible children and parents. ELC is recognized as a legal services organization under NJ Court rules, and receives support for its education rights program from the NJ Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA) program and NJ Protection Advocacy, Inc.