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Massachusetts General Law recognizes May 23rd as “Special Needs Awareness Day.” The term “special needs” has evolved over the years and now has various definitions. Today, the term is commonly used to refer to children of any age with disabilities and in the context of elementary and secondary education to refer to school-aged children and young adults who have individualized needs resulting from a wide range of disabilities. In Massachusetts there are several types of supports available to individuals with special needs at different stages of life.

Early Intervention

Children with special needs age 0-3 years and their families may be eligible for early intervention services through the MA Department of Public Health under the Massachusetts Early Childhood Intervention Law M.G.L. c. 111G.  Early intervention services focus on the family and include speech, occupational and physical therapy, social work, psychological, and nursing care. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) coordinates all governmental funding for the provision of early intervention services. DPH must provide transportation whenever transportation to early intervention services is required. DPH is also responsible for administration of an advisory committee, which monitors and assesses the effectiveness of the administration of early intervention services. For more information, contact:

Department of Public Health Bureau of Family Health & Nutrition

250 Washington Street

Boston, MA 02108

(617) 624-6060 (Voice) / (617) 624-5992 (TTY)

Website: Division for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs

DPH Community Support Line 800-882-1435 (in MA only), 617-624-6060 or 617-624-5992 (TTY).

DPH also funds Family TIES of Massachusetts (Together In Enhancing Support), a statewide information, referral, and parent support network for families of children with disabilities. Contact  Massachusetts Family TIES at 800-905-TIES (8437) or 617-624-5992 (TTY).

Education

Students with disabilities may be eligible for Special Education and related services under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Massachusetts Public Education Law, Ch. 766, which guarantees a “free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment” to all school-aged children (ages 3 to 21) regardless of disability. According to data from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, during the 2014-2015 School year 165,060 students with disabilities were enrolled in Special Education Programs in Massachusetts.[i]  For more information, contact:

Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Program Quality Assurance Unit

75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

(781) 338-3700 (Voice)

Website: http://www.doe.mass.edu

School-age children deemed legally blind are entitled to receive Braille instruction as part of their school’s special education services. As part of the broader special education evaluation conducted for children with disabilities, the school district must also assess the appropriateness of Braille instruction for the child. For more information, contact:

Mass. Commission for the Blind

600 Washington Street Boston, MA 02111

(800) 392-6450 (Voice) – (800) 392-6556 (TTY)

Website: http://www.mass.gov/mcb

Transition

Transitional Planning Services, Turning 22 (Commonly Known as Chapter 688) M.G.L. c. 71 B, §§ 12A – C provides a transitional planning process for eligible students with disabilities who will lose special education services upon graduation or upon turning 22. An assigned agency develops an Individual Transitional Plan describing the services needed. The Individual Transitional Plan must be agreed upon by the Department of Education, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the person with disabilities or their guardian(s). The Bureau of Transitional Planning within the Department of Education monitors all Chapter 688 cases. For more information, contact:

Bureau of Transitional Planning Executive Office of Health & Human Services

One Ashburton Place, Room 1109

Boston, MA 02108

(617) 727-7600 (Voice)

Website: http://www.doe.mass.edu/

If you have questions about any of the above programs or services, you may also contact MOD at 617-727-7440 or by using our online contact form.

 

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[i] Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Information Services – Statistical Reports,  Enrollment of Students with Disabilities. School Year 2014-2015. Special Education Enrollment by Disability. http://www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/reports/enroll/default.html?yr=sped1415

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