Central Park School

Central Park School is a public school that serves as an out of district placement. Our school provides a highly effective, individualized program for students with disabilities ages 3-21 who are classified as eligible for special education and related services under a variety of categories that include autistic, multiply disabled, cognitively impaired and other health impaired. Serving students from public school districts throughout northern New Jersey, Central Park School provides a comprehensive special education program serving the individual academic, social, emotional, and career education needs of each of its students.

All of our programs align with the NJ Student Learning Standards along with functional goals. Our program offers a well-rounded education and access to individualized instruction, Adaptive Physical Education, Therapeutic Swimming, Activities of Daily Living, Vocational Education, Structured Learning Experiences, Community Based Instruction, Karate, Music and monthly visits from a pet therapy dog. Our curriculum provides a structured and pragmatic view of learning. We connect academic subject matter to meaningful experiences across a variety of settings, promoting intellectual development, personal growth and active citizenship.

A full school day and a low staff to student ratio ensures an intensive and individualized educational experience. We employ an interdisciplinary team approach comprising teachers, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. The environment is heavily enriched with interactive educational activities and experiences. Structured routines add predictability and understanding for students and afford independence through the use of visual schedules.

Our program is designed to increase student independence, continue development of academic skills and begin preparation for adolescent and adult life. As our students move through the elementary grades, increasingly greater levels of independent skills are emphasized. Students learn to self-monitor and follow activity schedules with less reliance on adult assistance. Efforts to reduce and replace problematic behaviors continue from earlier grade levels. Students benefit from continued emphasis on communication skills, with incorporation of technology-assisted communication when appropriate. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst assists in overseeing program implementation using evidence-based educational practices and data-based decision

Central Park School boasts a dedicated and experienced faculty. Our mission, curriculum, facilities and supporters are focused on meeting the academic, career and life needs of our students and supporting their families as their children grow. We are proud of the positive outcomes achieved by our students. Admission to Central Park School can be initiated at any time of the year when parents and the sending district determine that the student can benefit from the program. Central Park School implements individualized educational programs (IEP) that ensure each of our students reaches his or her highest level of achievement and independence to help them to become contributing members of their community. Functional and life skills education are provided along with an extensive career education and transition program that prepares students for adult life. Social Skills are emphasized to maximize each student’s ability to participate in various social settings in the greater community.

Central Park School’s academic programs are developed for the individual student. While each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the foundation of his or her academic program, it’s the use of integrated and multi-sensory teaching methods that make the curriculum work so well. Instruction is implemented in one-to-one and small group settings. Classrooms and programs are dynamic—changing as necessary to meet each student’s needs and consider their learning styles and developmental levels. Teachers and supervisory personnel, in consultation with the local district child study team and parents, select the best techniques to use with each student.

Collaboration with family and professionals is key to developing an appropriate program for each student. We teach students how to generalize skills across settings and we develop home-specific components when needed.

Socialization opportunities are embedded within classroom activities as well as school-wide functions such as dances, assemblies and celebrations. Communication skills are emphasized heavily through collaborative efforts among staff members and speech pathologists. All data collection, evaluation, review and modification are overseen by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Daily communication between school and home ensures family involvement. Teachers and therapists offer assistance to address home-based needs. We believe that every student has skills that can be
utilized and further expanded to lead a more fulfilling and productive life. Each student is recognized as a unique individual with their own gifts and abilities. Learning experiences and activities are designed to help our students grow as an individual and contribute to their own well-being. We have partnered with many different businesses and organizations to give our students the chance to experience settings outside our school. We encourage our students to maximize their independence, explore a variety of work areas, and learn new skills from the most basic task to a complex multi-step project. We take pride in our students and their progress. Care and respect for each individual is always our number one priority. Students practicing interpersonal skills,
problem solving skills, social skills, following schedules, taking direction from, and communicating with unfamiliar employers, mentors and coworkers helps prepare them for adult life. Students participate in social activities such as inter and intra classroom activities, school-wide functions and community experiences such as class trips.

Collaborating with Central Park School teachers and related services providers, parents, districts and adult service agencies ensures that an individualized plan is created; implementing coordinated activities and strategies to reach postsecondary goals.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

The role of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in a special education program provides many different services not only for the students, but also for school staff and parents. These services include administering assessments that help identify important skills that need to be worked on by the student. Another important role for the BCBA is identifying function of behavior and providing Behavior Intervention Plans to help the students with challenging behaviors. The importance of function of behavior is to help the student replace these inappropriate behaviors with appropriate behaviors, while meeting the same function that the student is seeking out. The BCBA also works on teaching social skills and improving independent living skills. They also train the school staff on the best approach to work with students. The BCBA writes a plan based on the student’s individual needs and provides guidance to the staff that directly interacts with the student. Students will learn independence, social skills and how to deal with frustration appropriately while allowing them to form bonds with peers.

Occupational Therapy

The focus of Occupational Therapy is to develop and /or improve sensory processing, gross motor foundation, fine motor skills, perceptual skills, written communication skills, work related skills and independent living skills. Therapy services may be implemented in individual sessions, group lessons or integrated into the classroom. For many students, not having developed fine motor skills can affect everything from writing ability to working with classroom tools. Working with an occupational therapist helps students to gain these skills in order to be able to successfully complete assignments and meet objectives. Here at Central Park School, Occupational Therapy is designed to enhance the student’s ability to fully access and be successful in the learning environment. This is accomplished by addressing all areas of development including sensory processing, postural control, gross and fine motor skills, as well as self-help abilities. Our occupational therapists strive to give specialized assistance to our students and teach them how to become as productive and functionally independent as possible.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy interventions are designed to enable the student to travel throughout the school environment; participate in classroom activities; maintain and change positions in the classroom; as well as manage stairs and rooms throughout the building. Implementing physical therapy interventions—including teaching and training of family and education personnel and measurement and documentation of progress—helps the student achieve his or her IEP goals. Physical therapists assist students in accessing school environments and benefiting from their educational program. Physical Therapy increases the student’s gross motor skills and helps them gain strength, balance and independence.

Therapeutic Swimming

Many of our students participate in weekly hydrotherapy sessions as part of their physical therapy and occupational therapy programs. The warm water helps the muscles to relax which can ease pain and make exercise easier. The buoyancy of the water helps to support body weight, which can relieve pressure on joints, reduce pain and increase body movement. As part of their individual programs, these students require regular hydrotherapy to maintain mobility and strengthen their muscles. For many, hydrotherapy is their only access to independent movement which is so important for their emotional well-being and self-esteem as well as their physical health.

Speech and Language Therapy

Speech and Language Therapy is provided individually, in small groups and within classroom settings. Speech and Language Pathologists are trained to work on many types of learning issues. These include auditory processing disorder, language disorders and social communication disorder. They also work with students who have nonverbal learning disabilities. Therapists address students’ speech and language needs as identified in their IEP. Therapy sessions focus on language content, form, and use as well as articulation/intelligibility, auditory attention and processing, oral-motor practice, augmentative communication, and compensatory strategies for speech and language deficits.

Speech therapy is provided on an individual basis as well as daily programming with the classroom. The Speech/Language Therapy department provides comprehensive communication training to students using a variety of modalities; including but not limited to verbal language, ASL (American Sign Language), PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and various AAC (Augmentative Alternative Communication).

Pragmatic language is developed through peer and group interactions. Language therapy is utilized to increase student’s syntax in academic and social situations. Therapists provide training to classroom staff and families to increase generalization of communication skill development.

Health Services

Nurses administer medications, care for students who are ill or injured, provide health counseling, and perform health screenings. They also work with staff and parents to share medical information. There is always a nurse present for our students’ health needs.

Adaptive Physical Education

The adaptive physical education program is designed to meet the individual needs of every student. The program focuses on the development of strength, endurance, fundamental motor skills and patterns such as throwing, catching and running. The students also participate in group games, team sports, swimming, and lifetime recreational activities. Students also have weekly Karate instruction through a local dojo. The instructor modifies all activities to the abilities of our students.

Activities of Daily Living

Our school has a classroom dedicated to life skills and family and consumer sciences. An apartment with a kitchen, living room, laundry area and a bedroom with its own bathroom and closet is available for Activities of Daily Living instruction. Objectives encompass a variety of areas, such as cooking, cleaning, personal care, and laundry skills. Activities include identifying and using appliances, using hand tools, measuring ingredients and following recipes to make simple meals. In the bedroom area, students make the bed, sweep, clean, sort and fold laundry and put away clothes in the dresser.

Community Based Instruction

Community Based Instruction (CBI) prepares students for life after graduation, focusing in several areas including community participation, vocational skills, community recreation, and life skills towards postsecondary goals. CBI is designed for students that need intensive instruction in functional and daily living skills. CBI is educational instruction in naturally occurring community environments providing students real life experiences. Our students ages 14-21 attend weekly CBI trips such as the grocery store, laundromat and restaurants to practice skills learned in school in community settings.

Vocational Education

Vocational training provides students with a curriculum that prepares them for a job. Specific skills are necessary for survival in the workplace and in the community and need to be explicitly taught. Students practice office skills and various jobs throughout the school environment. Work experience helps students with problem solving and decision making and development of positive work ethics and motivation. When students turn sixteen, they begin to attend Structured Learning Experiences.

Structured Learning Experiences

Structured Learning Experiences (SLE) provides volunteer and unpaid internship opportunities for students sixteen and older in the community setting. SLE means experiential, supervised, in-depth learning experiences that are designed to offer students the opportunity to more fully explore career interests. SLE provides job coaching to support students in meeting their goals and is tied to the NJ Student Learning Standards. Tracking visits, assessing strengths, interests and preferences and documenting progress at work settings helps create a student profile along the way,
leading towards success after graduation. Student preferences are assessed continuously to match strengths to job placement opportunities. Community outreach and partnerships with local businesses also help educate the community in regard to students with special needs. Working at offsite locations, students participate in on-the-job training and skill development in interpersonal communication, task prioritization, teamwork, customer service, organization, listening skills and ability to take direction.

Denise Moore, Principal
Central Park School
(973) 539-9630