Union County Unites for Those with Special Needs

Activities aimed towards those with special needs abound.

On Wednesday night, members of communities ranging from Cranford to Newark assembled at the in Westfield to discuss cooperative programs aimed towards children with special needs.

The meeting, formed by members of the Westfield Special Education Committee, was called in order to inform individuals about the extensive amount of programs present for those with special needs. Several staff members of organizations were even assembled to discuss their roles in providing activities for the local youth.

The evening was introduced by two committee members who organized the evening’s event, Amy Kolchinsky and Stephen Gold. Both wished to advocate to not only inform the group of current programs but to also encourage everyone in proposing changes or additions to programs so children of all ages and backgrounds can be truly reached. Kolchinsky and Gold also introduced the team of providers who would be explaining their various programs to interested parents.

“We reached out to a larger group of individuals to assemble capable providers for tonight’s event,” said Gold on the varied team of organizers present.

As the night progressed, it became apparent that special needs children were in capable and professional hands. For instance, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has produced Sensory Friendly Theater, a series of live performances specially designed and adapted for children with autism and related disabilities. Margaret Heisey, a special education coordinator, advocated for this event along with several other programs such as golf, karate, and yoga lessons. Culinary classes are also offered and the programs are publicly funded meaning the prices are relatively low.

Some of the other youth organizers advocated for more skill-based programs. Scott Matthews, of Intensive Therapeutics, for example, has been offering bike lessons and handwriting workshops with phenomenal results.

“We want your child’s goals to be met in a group context. It’s what we do,” said Matthews on the purpose of his organization.

Matthews later discussed the wide range of programs offered by Intensive Therapeutics. This includes music programs, summer camps, and even Little League teams.

Representatives from the Children’s Specialized Hospital and the YMCA were also present, both bolstering a vast amount of programs that will ensure parents the ability to supply their child with special needs a fun and learning experience. Children’s Specialized supporteda hands on approach to learning with an emphasis on travel while the YMCA group offered swimming lessons and programs for teenagers such as rock climbing, youth conditioning, and dances.

After a discussion with the co-chairman of the Westfield Special Education Committee, Lisa Kops-Wendel, it came to light that few people have been informed about the availability of various programs here in Union County. It is important to spread the world of all the opportunities out there for those with special needs so that everyone can experience the same opportunities.

Below is a list of several organizations that offer programs for individuals with special needs. Suggestions for new and creative activities are highly encouraged.

Westfield Special Education Committee- http://www.westfieldnjk12.org/education/dept/dept.php?sectiondetailid=16615&

Intensive Therapeutics- www.intensivetherapeutics.org

Westfield Area YMCA-  www.westfieldynj.org

Connection Fit 4 U- http://connectionsfit4u.com

The Westfield Recreation Department-  www.Westfieldnj.gov/recreation

Autism Family Tours- www.autismfamilytours.org


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