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Benson, Sumter & Caride Bill to Integrate Special Education Coursework into Standard Teacher Preparation Clears Committee

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson, Shavonda Sumter and Marlene Caride sponsored to ensure that all teachers in New Jersey are familiar with the needs of students with disabilities was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
“Students learn best in inclusive environments in which they feel respected and encouraged to reach their full potential,” said Benson (D-Middlesex/Morris). “Teachers who understand and are sensitive to the challenges students with disabilities face can provide the proper accommodations, combat stigma and provide resources to ensure a welcoming atmosphere.”
The bill (A-2786) would require the curriculum for prospective teachers to include the equivalent of six credits of instruction or clinical experience in special education. The measure also would require teachers who wish to instruct students with disabilities to complete coursework that covers autism spectrum disorder.
“New Jersey has the highest prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in the nation, and it’s important that schools are equipped to meet the needs of children with autism and related disorders,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Unfortunately, many teachers who want to help their students with autism thrive have not received training on the intellectual, social and behavioral difficulties that come with this disorder. Requiring this training will prepare teachers to work more efficiently with parents and other school faculty and staff in order to support their students.”
“Children with special needs may require special attention and accommodations, but their disabilities never should preclude them from receiving a high-quality education,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Teachers who are trained in the proper way to work with students who have disabilities will be better able to foster the kind of positive learning environment every child in New Jersey deserves.”
The measure was advanced by the Assembly Education Committee, of which Caride is chair.