The Ho-Ho-Kus school will have a 12:45 early dismissal today, Nov. 15.

Ho-Ho-Kus School
ECLC of NJ, Ho-Ho-Kus School

ECLC's Ho-Ho-Kus school enrolls around 90 students with a range of special needs, primarily autism, Down syndrome and multiple disabilities. The goal is to mirror a "typical" school experience as much as possible, with a strong partnership with the nearby public school, plus 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 Paramus.

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Recognition
BE WISE AwardHo-Ho-Kus Principal, Vicki Lindorff, and Alexis Eckert, principal of the Ho-Ho-Kus public school, accept the first annual BE WISE award!
Ho-Ho-Kus Recognized for its Anti-Bias Program

Our Ho-Ho-Kus school and the Ho-Ho-Kus public school were recognized with the first annual BE WISE Award, honoring their joint efforts to honor respect and end bias. The schools' Ripple Effect program brings together students with special needs and their peers in the public school to forge friendships and learn from each other. The award was given by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. Read more.

Bell Choir Rings in Success

The ability to stay together in time is hard enough for "typical" performers but is especially challenging for students with special needs. At our Ho-Ho-Kus campus, however, music/technology teacher Steven Palmieri cleverly combined old-fashioned hand chimes with new computer technology to help the students play together.

After experimenting with different approaches, Palmieri decided to try PowerPoint to cue students to play their chimes. The result was nearly miraculous! Students who typically have difficulty focusing their attention for even short periods of time were able to concentrate with laser-like focus on the task of responding at the appropriate moment. Some of these students are non-verbal and have never experienced the joy of singing in any meaningful way.

In 2015, Palmieri and the bell choir won a prestigious Innovations Award, given annually by the New Jersey School Boards Association and ASAH, the umbrella organization representing schools and agencies offering programs for people with special needs.

Enjoy a student performance.

Ho-Ho-Kus Staffers Win Regional Recognition in 2016

Elaina Cassara and Heidi RitzelHo-Ho-Kus paraprofessional Elaina Cassara and teacher Heidi Ritzel were honored for their exceptional dedication, creativity and kindness.
We are so proud of Elaina Cassera and Heidi Ritzel for winning awards from ASAH, the umbrella organization for special-needs schools and agencies!

Cassera was named the "Paraprofessional of the Year," and Ritzel was recognized as the "Educator of the Year" within ASAH's Region I. They will vie for statewide recognition at ASAH's annual conference next fall.

Going Above and Beyond
Since starting at ECLC, Cassara has worked with some of our most involved students as a paraprofessional, floater aide, substitute teacher and job coach. She has a gift for making students feel good about themselves and excels at motivating them. For example, she devised a picture system to go along with the reading program, so that a student with selective mutism could communicate her answers and demonstrate progress. She also created Touch Math number aids for students to keep at home and use to complete their homework assignments. Outside the classroom, she has served as the co-chair for the Ho-Ho-Kus gala dinner the past four years, participates in Autism Speaks walks, cheers on students at Special Olympics competitions and much more.

Ritzel is a multi-talented teacher. She manages all state-required testing for the entire schools, ensuring everything meets regulations, and teaches language arts enrichment, a program she designed that blends language arts with art. The interweaving of these two disciplines comes naturally to Ritzel, who is a lifelong writer and crafter in her spare time. Another example of her creativity is the yearbook. She created a new design, doubled the size of the book, added beautiful full-color pages and began offering a DVD version. She also creates amazing backdrops for shows and graduations, snaps pictures at nearly every school event, and she coordinated students to create friendship placemats, mobiles and wall hangings for patients at Englewood Hospital on Valentine's Day.

Ho-Ho-Kus School Occupational Therapist is Named 2014 "Related Services Provider of the Year"

Brandy SpringerBrandy Springer seems to do it all. As an occupational therapist at ECLC of New Jersey's school for children with special needs, Springer provides individualized therapy sessions for a large caseload of students every day. She created and teaches an afterschool yoga program and incorporates yoga into the classroom and therapy. She manages special sensory diets for dozens of students. She is a regular speaker at education conferences around the state, and she provides workshops for ECLC parents, covering topics, such as sensory integration, stress reduction and feeding and nutrition.

In addition to her many professional achievements, Springer embodies her sunny name. Like the season following winter, Springer lights up the room with her radiant smile and her warm personality can thaw the frostiest of hearts.

Those professional and personal qualities, coupled with her dedication and hard work, have brought Springer to the top of her profession as a school occupational therapist. She has been named New Jersey's "Related Services Provider of the Year" by ASAH, a nonprofit that represents 135 private, special education schools and agencies serving students with disabilities across the state. Each year, the honor goes to an outstanding occupational therapist, physical therapist, social worker, nurse, speech therapist, counselor or psychologist at one of ASAH's member schools or agencies. Winners were chosen at the regional level, and then an overall state winner was selected during the ASAH conference in Atlantic City on Nov. 15. See the press release on Springer's achievement.

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.

The award-winning Ripple Effect Program is named appropriately. It has built lasting connections, not just superficial relationships, between students at the local Ho-Ho-Kus public school and ECLC students. The public school sits just a mile down the road, and the two school principals ECLC's Vicki Lindorff and Alexis Eckert of Ho-Ho-Kus created the Ripple Effect Program to bring the students together all year long.

The first connection began in the spring of 2015, when staff and students from the public school participated in a walk-a-thon at ECLC to raise money for a new playground. Since then, students have collaborated on classroom and school-wide curriculum experiences, including: a Pep Rally for Respect, a pen-pal exchange, with built-in classroom visits/lessons, a Kiwanian Holiday Luncheon, Read Across America Day, an art show, a field day, a zumbathon and joining in ECLC's bell choir for several performances.

Seeing each other through a fresh lens, these students have gained a deeper and mutual understanding of each other. For the public school students especially, it has shown them that students with disabilities may have differences, but their needs are identical to that of anyone else: to be shown kindness, respect, and absolute acceptance.

  • Students from Northern Highlands Regional High School visit ECLC each month the afterschool Buddy up Club.
  • Ramapo High School's Interact Club helps with afterschool zumba and yoga.
Other News
Autism Awareness Month 2017

ECLC celebrated Autism Awareness Month with the grand opening of a new Sensory Room at our Ho-Ho-Kus school. The room was dedicated in memory of Principal Vicki Lindorff's mother, Louise McDonald, who spent her life in service to children as a public school teacher and, in her spare time, as a volunteer at ECLC.

The Sensory Room is beautifully equipped to help students relax, calm down and regulate their emotions, especially when struggling with dysregulation. It was designed by the school's specialists, who are experts in what techniques and tools work for each student.

The room includes a tactile wall, memory foam bean bags, a Somatron tunnel, large therapy rocking chair, weighted stuffed animals and fidgets, a Helios effects projector, weighted blankets, relaxation music and more.

The new room was added in response to the changing student population at the school. More students are facing the challenges of autism, which can lead to sensory over-load. And, there are students who need a chance for more activity. Sensory rooms have been shown to increase focus and alertness, improve social skills and enhance productivity during the school day.

See photos on Facebook.

Ho-Ho-Kus Staffers Win 2016 Regional Awards

We are so proud of Elaina Cassera and Heidi Ritzel for winning awards from ASAH, the umbrella organization for special-needs schools and agencies!

Cassera was named the "Paraprofessional of the Year," and Ritzel was recognized as the "Educator of the Year" within ASAH's Region I. They will vie for statewide recognition at ASAH's annual conference next fall.

Ho-Ho-Kus School's 25th Anniversary

On May 15, 2015, with the quick snip of a silver ribbon, our Ho-Ho-Kus school commemorated a big milestone: 25 years of educating students with special needs!

During the ceremony, Principal Vicki Lindorff accepted a stack of official government proclamations and embossed certificates and enjoyed words of congratulations from elected officials, business people, ECLC trustees and other guests. Waldwick Mayor Thomas Giordano (representing the borough with Councilwoman Deb Dellavechia) said many kind words.

On behalf of the local elected officials, aides to the Office of Bergen County Executive James Tedesco III and a staff member from state Sen. Kevin O'Toole, and state Assemblymen Scott T. Rumana and David Russo delivered brief speeches as well.

However, the school's true meaning and impact on children was perhaps best expressed by a parent, Christine Coleman, who spoke about the difference of sending her child to a school that is solely dedicated to children with special needs, like her 9-year-old son.

"After my first visit to ECLC, I knew this was the place for my son," said Coleman, whose son has been enrolled for two years. "They give students opportunities that other schools do not. Everyone here, the teachers, the specialists, the therapists, the paraprofessionals, they get it when it comes to working with children with special needs."

View a video of the event!