Chatham School
ECLC of NJ, Chatham School

ECLC's Chatham school enrolls around 150 students with a range of special needs, primarily autism, Down syndrome and multiple disabilities. The goal is to mirror a "typical" school experience with clubs, activities, trips, proms and a beautiful graduation ceremony! At the same time, students are prepared for life after graduation with a renowned Transition Program, beginning at age 14. The program begins with in-house work experiences and eventually places students into actual work places. Students learn basic jobs skills and get a taste for the type of job they might pursue as an adult. After graduation, students have two potential paths. They can find a job with support from the Employment Specialists in ECLC's Community Personnel Services (CPS), or they can enroll in ECLC's P.R.I.D.E. Adult Program, if appropriate, with a center in nearby Florham Park.

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Gym teacher Jan Arthur makes sports and fitness available to all students! Gym teacher Jan Arthur makes sports and fitness available to all students!
Chatham School Physical Education Teacher Recognized as Teacher of the Year!

Jan Arthur has been a force for fitness at the Chatham school for nearly 30 years! Through her no-nonsense attitude, combined with affection, Arthur has helped students far surpass expectations whether in gym class or on the playing field. For her incredible track record of success in working with students who have special needs, Arthur was named the Teacher of the Year by the Arc/Morris.

Arthur originally started as a coach and physical education teacher in the public schools. Over the years, she had opportunities to return to a public school teaching position, but turned them all down. Instead, she chose to "stay with her heart" at ECLC. Read more.

Occupational therapist Mary Rooney works with students in the Sensory Room. Occupational therapist Mary Rooney works with students in the Sensory Room.
Chatham School Opens New Sensory Room

Our Chatham school celebrated Autism Awareness Month in 2018 with the grand opening of a new Sensory Room to provide therapy for the growing number of students with autism.

The school has found tremendous success with providing sensory breaks, "sensory diets" and sensory input to help students regulate. The Sensory room creates a new, permanent space for this purpose. It creates an atmosphere of calm and includes equipment that students can utilize with staff to smooth out their emotional states. The room is a "Snoezelen Room" and delivers stimuli to various senses, using dim, lighting effects, color, gentle pressure, sounds, music, scents and vibration. Elected officials from Chatham borough and nearby communities helped with the ribbon cutting! Read more

Eagle Scout candidate Stuart Clark is at the Chatham school with ECLC students, Troop 17 Scoutmaster Daniel Cannon, and his proud mother, Vera Clark. Eagle Scout candidate Stuart Clark is at the Chatham school with ECLC students, Troop 17 Scoutmaster Daniel Cannon, and his proud mother, Vera Clark.
Big Eagle Scout Project Benefits Chatham School

Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is the highest achievement in Boy Scouts. It involves years of working on and earning merit badges, assuming leadership positions, many nights of overnight camping and steadily moving up the ranks. In fact, only about 6 percent of boys who stay in Scouts reach this pinnacle. The accomplishment is widely recognized in the United States and around the world.

Recently, a Boy Scout from Troop 17 in Millburn decided to work on his Eagle Scout project to benefit the ECLC school in Chatham. The Scout, Stuart Clark, and his friends bought or built over-sized versions of chess, checkers, Jenga, tic-tac-toe, Yahtzee and more for ECLC. Then, they didn't just donate the games. Clark came to ECLC and played with students during gym class! His project brought big smiles to our students!

ECLC Featured on National PBS TV Special

ECLC was thrilled to be featured on American Graduate Day, a live national, public television broadcast and outreach event dedicated to engaging the country around the high school dropout crisis, which aired on Oct. 14, 2017.

ECLC was chosen for its excellence in fully preparing students with special needs for life after school-whether a job, day program or continued education. "At ECLC, all students graduate with a roadmap to their future," said ECLC Executive Director, Bruce Litinger. "Our students sample jobs prior to graduation with the goal of identifying the best match. For students who may not be ready for employment, we have the P.R.I.D.E. Adult Program as an option. Our affiliate, Community Personnel Services (CPS), also helps students and their families navigate through the maze of state and federal agencies to access aid and services." Read more.

Take a virtual tour of the Chatham school and see the difference ECLC is making in students' lives!
Peer Connections

The community is an integral part of ECLC students' experiences throughout their years at our schools! From the beginning, ECLC has reached out to nearby schools to nurture opportunities for inclusion, such as:

  • Participating in friendly field days, sports clinics, evening and after-school programs
  • Playing on teams through the Special Olympics Unified Team
  • Performing together in an award-winning bell choir

These longtime programs, teams and special events benefit both the ECLC students and those from other schools, creating greater understanding and awareness about children with special needs.

  • For the past 12 years, students from Millburn High have been coming to shoot hoops in the gym, create arts and crafts projects, play board games and bingo and socialize through the P.A.I.R.S. program. P.A.I.R.S. stands for "Partners in Afterschool Inclusive Recreation for Special Needs." The initiative won a state Innovations Award in 2008 from ASAH and the New Jersey School Boards Association.
  • In 2012, Chatham High School launched the "Teens Connecting with Teens" club to forge new friendships with ECLC students. This club organizes activity nights and special events throughout the year. See a video of the program.
  • Every winter, the Chatham High School Football team challenges the ECLC Tigers in a friendly basketball scrimmage. In the Spring, the Chatham Cougar Lacrosse Club spends an afternoon teaching ECLC's students new tricks with sticks.
  • In the Special Olympics "Play Unified" program, ECLC students have competed in basketball, soccer and bowling tournaments on teams with students from Chatham High School. View photos on Facebook.
  • For many years, students from the Pingry School have volunteered in ECLC's after-care program, and in 2017, a group of drama students spent a day with the upper school getting to know each other and performing skits.
  • The New Providence High School chorus has performed, visited with students and taken part in an all-school joint performance. And other students have participated in a field day with the Upper School.
  • In an annual tradition, each year, Madison Junior High School students socialize at an ECLC lower school dance.
  • Students from the Washington School in Chatham visit Lower School students once a month for art and crafts activities.
Other News
Google Expedition was added to the Chatham school's technology lab in 2016.Google Expedition was added to the Chatham school's technology lab in 2016.
Chatham Teacher Named 'Educator of the Year'

In 2017, Dan Erhardt, the Chatham school's technology teacher, was named the "Educator of the Year" for Region II by ASAH, the umbrella organization for special-needs schools and agencies in New Jersey.

Learn more about how ECLC uses technology at both our schools.

Chatham Teacher Recognized as the National "Teacher of the Year!

In 2016, one of our veteran Chatham school teachers, Judy McGrath, was named the nation's "Teacher of the Year" by the National Association of Special Education Centers (NAPSEC)! This recognition follows her award at the end of 2013 as New Jersey's "Educator of the Year," by ASAH, a New Jersey nonprofit that represents 135 private, special education schools and agencies serving students with disabilities across the state.

To those who know of McGrath's amazing track record of success, the accolades are no surprise. McGrath, joined ECLC's Chatham school in 1989, and in the subsequent 24 years has made an enormous difference in the lives of so many. She teaches a class of graduating students and focuses on ensuring they will be ready for the adult world by incorporating the latest technology tools; popular novels; current events, and business skills into her daily lessons. She empowers students to raise money by organizing fundraisers, which over the years, have raised an estimated $200,000 for the school and various other worthy charities.

Beyond those practical lessons, McGrath instills old-fashioned values of generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness to her charges. And, she has created programs to benefit the entire school, including the yearbook, prom and weekend respite program that allows students to stay overnight at the school and enjoy a social activity-movies, bowling, shopping, dinner and/or breakfast out-with their friends.

Pairing Up for Success

In 2008, a program at the Chatham campus won innovation honors. In that program, students from Millburn High School come to ECLC's campus each week in the evening to conduct enrichment workshops for ECLC's special-needs students. The workshops range from basketball, arts and crafts and games to just plain "hanging out."

The PAIRS (Partners in Afterschool Inclusive Recreation for Special Needs) program began in 2005 and benefits both the Milburn high school and ECLC youngsters, expanding the social opportunities for the special needs students, while raising awareness for their peers about people with disabilities.