Kessler Foundation Press Releases

Major Grant Funds Educational Outcomes Study of New Jersey Children with Special Needs

Photo of Amanda Botticello against a black background

With a $597,348 federal grant, Drs. Botticello and O’Neill of Kessler Foundation will collaborate with Children’s Specialized Hospital to study how the educational experiences of children with special health care needs are affected by pediatric rehabilitation, and the impact on their community integration

East Hanover, NJ December 6, 2019. A team of New Jersey researchers received a major federal grant to study the educational outcomes of children with special health care needs. The three-year study titled, “Return to School: A Mixed Methods Investigation of Community Integration after Pediatric Rehabilitation,” is funded by a $597,348 grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (90IFRE0030). John O’Neill, PhD, and Amanda L. Botticello, PhD, MPH, of Kessler Foundation are co-principal investigators for this collaborative project with Children’s Specialized Hospital.   

Attending school is vital to community integration for children with special health care needs. This population, however, often faces obstacles to education despite legislation designed to promote access and inclusion. Lengthy illnesses and hospitalizations are common among children with chronic health problems, interrupting their participation in school. The educational outcomes of these children are largely unknown, a knowledge gap that complicates the work of the clinicians, families, and educators who are invested in their educational success.

This NIDILRR-funded study is based on a successful pilot study that linked Children’s Specialized Hospital medical records to New Jersey State Department of Education records of a large cohort of children with special health care needs. The researchers will use a combination of medical and educational records, focus groups, and interviews to understand the experiences of returning to school after pediatric rehabilitation. Their goal is to develop a prospective process to identify the educational needs of these children that can be implemented across a variety of healthcare settings.

“This study will benefit children and adolescents with disabilities by improving the coordination between healthcare systems, schools, and families,” said Dr. O’Neill. “We anticipate that the knowledge gained will document the effectiveness of interventions that support good educational outcomes, such as long-term care management, peer support groups, and medical education for the clinicians who care for these children,” he added. “What we learn in New Jersey about the community integration of children with special health care needs may serve as a model for public policies for special education services in other states.”

Funding: National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (grant 90IFRE0030)

Children's Specialized Hospital

Children's Specialized Hospital is the nation's leading provider of inpatient and outpatient care for children from birth to 21 years of age facing special health challenges--from chronic illnesses and complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. At 13 different New Jersey locations, our pediatric specialists partner with families to make our many innovative therapies and medical treatments more personalized and effective so each child can reach their full potential.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes--including employment--for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Learn more by visiting

For more information on Kessler Foundation's research, visit 

Stay Connected

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | SoundCloud

Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382; 

Rob Gerth, 973.323.3675;