MariannCrincoliAs a child approaches his or her 18th birthday, most parents feel a loss of control as he or she officially enters adulthood. Parents of children with special needs have even more reason to be concerned, because they have the heavy responsibility of determining whether or not their child is ready to graduate high school and transition to the next phase of life.

When evaluating this, it is helpful to know that there are special education laws that will assist you in making informed decisions — one that is best for your child.

Firstly, all children with disabilities in the State of New Jersey have the right to earn a high school diploma, just like their nondisabled peers. The Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) sets two paths for children to go about earning their high school diploma. High Schoolers with a disability can take the traditional route by completing the course requirements set forth by their public high school, or by completing the special education program and modified requirements contained in their IEP.

Under federal and state law, children with disabilities have the right to special education and related services through the school year in which they turn 21 or until they graduate, whichever comes first. However, if a child’s 21st birthday falls on July 1st, services will continue through the end of the following school year. This caveat may prove advantageous to a high schooler with a July 1st birthday not quite ready to graduate.

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