Edison expands preschool program for children with special needs


EDISON — The township school district recently expanded its learning options for youngsters with special needs.

This year, the township launched two new sections of its half-day self-contained preschool disabilities (PSD) program. The new sections were needed to accommodate an increase of students in need of the program, according to Christopher Conklin, the district’s assistant superintendent for pupil-special services.

The new PSD sections are based at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School on Woodbridge Avenue, and build on the existing PSD sections at both the Edison Early Learning Center (EELC) on Boulevard of the Eagles and FDR Preschool (which also offers full-day versions) on New Dover Road.

“The district was facing a larger than anticipated PSD enrollment and had to open the classes to accommodate the new students,” explained Christopher Conklin, the district’s as- sistant superintendent for pupil-special services.

Because the EELC and FDR sections of PSD were full, the district received approval to expand the program at the October Board of Education meeting.

Placement in the PSD, Conklin said, is determined by factors such as need, location and space availability, as no section of the program can have more than 12 students. Each PSD section, he said, is taught by a certified special education teacher and is supported by a classroom paraprofessional. “If the enrollment of the class exceeds eight,” he said, “an additional paraprofessional is added to the class to support the program.”

By having an Edison-based program like this, Conklin said, students are able to access all of the resources the district offers, such as speech, language, occupational and physical therapies — and in an environment where their peers are also getting an education.

“By establishing the program in-district, students are able to be educated in the presence of typically developing peers while receiving specialized instruction, as well as, where applicable, related services,” Conklin said.

The township has steadily been increasing its resources for those with special needs across all age levels. Conklin said expanding the PSD is in alignment with the philosophy of the school district. “The creation of these new classes within the Edison Township Public School District confirms the district’s commitment to offering a continuum of supports and services within the least restrictive environment to meet each student’s individualized needs,” he said.

To learn more about what services are available to township students with special needs, visit the district’s website at www.edison. k12.nj.us, select Departments, and then Special Services.