Featured Video: Autism Awareness and Acceptance


Autism Awareness and Acceptance: The Center For Autism · Peak Center For Autism · Autism Speaks New Jersey · POAC Autism Services · Oasis Theraputic Life Centers · NJ Dept. Health

By Julie Mower, M.A.Ed., Executive Director: The Phoenix Center, Nutley NJ

One in 44 youth nationwide live with autism; in New Jersey, the rate is one in 35. These numbers ask why the Garden State is a desirable place to live for children with autism and their families.

The nonprofit Autism New Jersey assembled a directory of New Jersey schools serving children with autism spectrum disorders. With New Jersey’s 120+ approved private receiving schools alone, plus the many in-district programs for those on the spectrum, the choices for parents are very broad. Because of the prevalence of autism, this has led to more and more of our schools being equipped with the educators and programs designed to serve the specific needs of students with autism or multiple disabilities.

Our educators have set the bar for how to engage students with autism by providing highly customized programs that are not “cookie-cutter” in approach. In addition, many schools are adopting transition programs — bridging opportunities that give students with autism real-life experience outside the classroom. Some of this occurs at school via coursework (such as cooking classes), and some take place off campus (employing students at local businesses to more fluidly integrate them into the workforce).

We are fortunate to have a rich number of local universities (William Patterson, Montclair, Seton Hall, TCNJ, Rowan, and Kean, amongst myriad others) that offer prized programs in special education for up-and-coming teachers.

This ensures that the outward current of educators meets the inward flow of students who need them. And as our state welcomes more students with autism, it invites our schools and government to continually heighten standards, better understanding how to create equitable laws and education systems that can be a beacon for other states.

New Jersey has a long history of offering its youth the best education in the country, and those offered to children with autism is — and should continue to be — just as sterling.

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