The Arc of Essex County’s Stepping Stones School is a Department of Education approved private school for students with disabilities serving children ages 3-10, located in Fairfield, NJ.  A National School of Excellence, the school focuses on providing students with the most up-to-date therapeutic and educational supports. Designed to meet the developmental and educational needs of children with cognitive impairments such as Down syndrome, students with similar educational and therapeutic needs would also benefit from this customized learning environment.

Students are able to achieve their highest potential with the support of a strong and experienced educational team consisting of special education teachers, aides, and speech, physical and occupational therapists.  Here, individualized instruction and tailored therapies based on the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) assist in the development of cognitive, social, physical and communication skills.  The Stepping Stones School also provides education and support to families ensuring they can become the most effective advocates for their child.

The Stepping Stones School operates a full-time program for 210 days a year, including a six-week extended school year (ESY) summer program.  More than 20 municipalities and school districts throughout NJ send students to The Stepping Stones School. Tuition is provided by the sending school district through an approved, out-of-district placement and affords students the most appropriate and beneficial educational opportunity.







In the early 1950’s, The Arc of Essex County began offering specialized classes for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When New Jersey passed the Public School Education Act in 1975, The Arc of Essex County was empowered to hire speech and physical therapists, as well as an educational consultant to continue offering educational services further tailored to students’ needs.  In 1986, The Stepping Stones School was formally accredited by the State of New Jersey. The program expanded in 1998 and 1999 to include full day programming, an extended school year program and two additional classrooms; now serving children ages 3 to 10. Since 2010, The Stepping Stones School has been recognized annually as a National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET) School of Excellence.

From its inception, The Stepping Stones School has been committed to providing each child with Down syndrome or other cognitive impairments with an essential foundation on which skills are developed, supported, and enhanced.  The success of the Stepping Stones School is alive in the achievements of its students provided in a nurturing, educational environment which recognizes and celebrates the potential in each child and family.   

"What I love about Stepping Stones is that the staff expects so much from the kids and they don’t put any limitations on them. They push the students to go beyond themselves. That’s what I want my son to carry on. He shouldn’t just settle for the mundane; he should continue to excel and go beyond what anyone expects of him."
Parent of a Stepping Stones Student