ECLC’s Chatham school enrolls around 160 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 PRIDE Adult Program, if appropriate, with a center in nearby Florham Park.
ECLC of New Jersey Chatham School Speech Therapist Wins Award!
The progress may seem small to an outside observer. A student enunciates words a little clearer. Another student broadens their vocabulary. A third speaks, without being asked a question. But, for speech therapist Laura Koch and for her students, it’s something to celebrate!
Koch works with about 20 students each year at ECLC of New Jersey’s school in Chatham for students with disabilities. All have significant, lifelong challenges, including Down syndrome, autism and other special needs. She is part of the ECLC team that provides specialized services and supports as part of the students’ Individualized Education Plan, or IEP.
She has been with the Chatham school for six years and has relished the reward of helping dozens of children make progress in speech therapy. “From September to June, I see significant progress in social and communication abilities, which definitely brings me a great feeling of satisfaction,” said Koch. “What is even better, though, is witnessing students’ pride in their own abilities, as they begin to independently use the skills we once worked on together.”
For her success and caring, Koch has been selected as the “Related Services Provider of the Year” in Region II by ASAH, the umbrella organization for special-needs schools and agencies serving children with special needs. The award is part of an annual competition among dozens of schools. It culminates in statewide winners being named and recognized at ASAH’s annual conference in November. Read more.
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.
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!
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.