Category Archives: Autism

Ready or Not, the Holidays are Coming !

You may read this with excitement, pleasure, or a need to look at your datebook and gift list! So much to do! So much fun and activity – sometimes too much fun and activity for everyone to comfortably manage. Changes in routine,  food, and family can be overstimulating for any of us, including a child with special needs or sensory issues. And, then there is that wish to have everything come out “just right” – just once! Lets take a breather …

Success is 90% Preparation: What are some ways we can prepare children with special needs for the upcoming holiday season?

Create a Holiday Season Calendar : Talking  about what the holiday plans are, where you will go, who you will see and what the experience will “look like” is important. Having a pictorial reference, such as a weekly calendar with pictures of the activities you will be doing will be a good reference and a way to review schedules and plans. Have some photos of holiday activities that you will be doing, or review photos from last year. You may already have an actual or digital scrapbook from prior holidays and these are a great reference for getting ready for this year.

Talk to Family: Communicate with your family members ahead of time, if they do not know your usual routines or needs. Explain any special needs or supports your child will need (Examples: We always sing a song before dinner. My daughter doesn’t like to be hugged or is afraid of loud movies). If visitors may bring gifts, let them know if there are food allergies or sensitivities, such as a sensitivity to perfume. If you are visiting family or friends, have your child bring a bag of items they find soothing or familiar (stuffed animal, games, toys or books), and help them find a quiet spot, if things get too noisy or busy. Have some familiar music to listen to and some favorite, comfortable clothes to change into.

Maintain Some Routine: it’s important to keep to at least part of your usual routine, as this is soothing and predictable. With all the new activities, schedule some of the usual activities you and your child enjoy together, such as 30 minutes of alone time with you or  watching their special show.

Let Your Child Participate: Have your child help decorate, so they can be part of the changes in their environment. Limit twinkling lights, loud music and decorations that make noise. It’s also helpful to assign a job, such as handing out napkins or taking coats to feel part of party festivities.

Relax!: And, for ALL of us – Let’s remember to take a breath, literally – get some fresh air. Take a walk. Work out by practicing yoga, stretching or meditation. Remember to make time for your own partner and friends. Attend a faith program (if that is an important to you). Read some of your new book or even just take a nap. Let’s be prepared, be flexible, keep our sense of humor, and reach out for a hand to help with holiday events or a hand to hold, if things get stressful.

Have a healthy and fun holiday season this year!

by Dr. Allison Weideman, school psychologist



Children with Special Needs at Risk for Flu Complications

It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means we’re deep into flu season!  The flu can be a big deal.  Mild influenza illness causes fever, headache, body aches, sore throat and cough, and the flu may keep you out of school or work for 1-2 weeks.

Children with neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, such as epilepsy, intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, and cerebral palsy, may be more likely to develop pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome when they are sick with the flu.  They may even need to be hospitalized.

That’s really scary.  Even scarier when the CDC reports that children with neurodevelopment conditions historically have low flu vaccination rates.

The best way to protect your family from influenza is to be immunized — all of you!  Mom, dad, kids, and even Aunt Gladys who babysits on Fridays.  Talk to your child’s pediatrician about the safety of the flu vaccine, and schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.

Easing Anxiety About Flu Shots

So, now what?  You’ve scheduled the appointment for the vaccine but your child HATES shots, or going to the doctor, or anyone in a white coat.  The American Academy of Pediatrics and Family Voices share some tips on reducing anxiety related to medical visits and procedures:

  • Be honest- explain that a medical appointment has been scheduled, but don’t give your child too much of a heads-up if they will worry.
  • If your child has had anxiety over medical treatments in the past, call the office before leaving home to see if the appointment schedule is running on time.
  • Bring a favorite toy, book, or iPad to keep your child distracted in the waiting area or examining room. Plan a small reward to be given when the appointment is over.
  • Anxiety related to medical procedures is often caused by feelings of vulnerability. Give your child some choices to help them feel like they have some control during the exam. If they need to undress and wear a gown, ask if they’d like to keep their socks on.  Let them choose the arm for blood pressure or a shot, or ask if they’d like to have their eyes or their ears checked first.
  • If your child is very worried about receiving a vaccine, ask the doctor or nurse if the shot can be given at the beginning of the exam.
  • Reassure your child that medical caregivers and vaccinations help to keep them safe and healthy!

Additional Resources:

Family Voices

Healthy Children

American Academy of Pediatrics

Written by Anne Fields, RN, CSN, Chatham school nurse

Back-to-School Tips for Special Needs Parents

The beginning of the school year is fraught with challenges for any parent but in particular for those who have a child with special needs. Here are a few tips to help your child start the school year off right:

  • Discuss important information – Help prepare your child in the coming days by discussing key information for the upcoming school year. This should  include his or her bus driver’s name or bus number, the teacher’s name and classroom number, etc. These and other pertinent facts can be reinforced through the use of visual supports such as simple pictures and words.
  • Practice routines – Begin practicing morning and afternoon routines prior to the start of the school year to help ease the transition. A slower, more gradual return to school routines allows more time for your child to adjust and feel comfortable in the changes that come with a new school year.
  • Highlight child’s interests  – Discuss and review your child’s preferred school-related activities to help emphasize the fun aspects of school! Examples can include: coloring pictures in art class, singing their favorite songs in music lessons, and hearing their favorite stories during reading time. Of course, seeing their friends again is probably the biggest motivator!
  • Communicate with teachers – The beginning of the school year is an opportune time to update your child’s teacher on topics such as: how his or her summer went, preferred activities or trips, as well any changes in your child’s preferences (foods, play, or topics). This information is especially helpful if your child is new to the school or starting in a new classroom. (Attending Back to School Night is another great opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher and see the classroom!)IMG_9304

Walkathon Miraculous Success

As a nonprofit, you’re a little bit like the Wizard of Oz. In front of the curtain, you see the wonderful services being delivered to constituents. In back, there’s a swirl of activity and sweat to sustain the mission — something called fundraising.

We felt like the wizard waved a magic wand for us last weekend.We decided to launch a brand new fundraising activity and carefully laid all the groundwork for success. But, at some point, you look up and just hope it all comes together! When it does it feels like a miracle. That’s what happened at our first Walkathon “Stepping Up for Special Needs,” last Sunday. We extended the invitation, hoping for at least 100 people, and maybe netting a few thousand dollars. We realized we had to think small the first year, and grow it over time. Boy, were we wrong!

More than 500 people came out, and we cleared more than $30,000 in donations and sponsorships! It seemed miraculous but it was truly a testament to the strength of our ECLC “family” and the excellent work of our schools and adult services. Check out the video highlights!

Making the Most of a New School Year

A new school year always brings a certain element of change to you and your child’s life. For your child, it may entail adjusting to a new school, working with a new teacher, or at the very least having some new classmates.


ECLC’s school in Ho-Ho-Kus helped new students feel at home with a Spirit Day celebration, featuring music, dancing, chalk drawing and bubble-making!

Here are a few tips to help ease the transition for you and your child:

  • Keep routines consistent – to the extent possible, have your child follow the same morning and afternoon routines. With a lot of new places and faces occurring during the school day, the more routine and structure the child maintains in other parts of their day the better.
  • Make your child feel comfortable – work to familiarize your child with the name of the new school, the classroom teacher’s name, and the room number. Frequently discuss and reinforce these topics with your child.
  • Utilize visual schedules – picture schedules (written or on an electronic device) can help prepare the child for the day’s activities. They can be individualized and tailored to your child’s skill level. ECLC’s SCERTS Model makes use of visual supports throughout the school building and in the classrooms.
  • Limit homework and instructional demands – the primary focus should be on your child adjusting to a new physical environment and new people. The initial goal is to help establish the school building and classroom as a comfortable, friendly, and fun place to be!

Matthew Kuzdral M.S., BCBA

Teacher Relates to Students Because of Her ‘Disability’

When Victoria Johnson, who teaches at the ECLC school in Ho-Ho-Kus, walks into her classroom, she understands and feels the depth of the students’ frustrations on a personal level. The reason for this strong connection is that Victoria has struggled with her own learning disability, since she was a child. Her personal experience of struggling to overcome a disability provides her with a unique understanding and insight into her students. After years of under-performing in school, Victoria was classified with a learning disability (a processing disorder) in the sixth grade.

“At the time, my self-esteem was extremely low, and I had just about given up on learning. You can try so hard, and if you have difficulty processing information receptively and expressively, it becomes very challenging to learn. People don’t want to take the time to listen to you if you are not fast enough to get your point across,” she remembers.

Victoria Johnson inspires students every day!

Victoria Johnson inspires students every day!

But, Victoria persevered and eventually began to think of becoming a teacher of children with special needs. She wanted to pass along the strategies that had helped her succeed and help students with special needs gain the confidence to learn in different ways and build up their self-esteem to accomplish their goals.

Today, no matter what challenges a student is facing, Victoria can see through to the root of the problem and find a solution. Her mantra?: “I love these students!” She uses her strong organizational skills to reach goals and deadlines. And, she teaches her students that a sense of humor helps, to laugh at your struggles and mistakes rather than shutting down and giving up. She loves to teach students how to advocate for themselves and not to be afraid to try new things.

During her time at ECLC, Victoria has taken on a leadership role beyond the classroom. She has helped coordinate the annual prom, chaperoned weekend sleepovers at the school, taken students for holiday shopping trips, and mentored new staff members and graduate students. She also has successfully created partnerships in the community, involving students with packaging items for a local food bank. Her generous heart knows no bounds. She has walked in Autism Speaks walk in our area and organizes penny collections for the Kiwanis Club and soda can pop tops for Ronald McDonald House. We are so lucky to have Victoria as part our ECLC family!

Giving Tuesday!

Like nonprofits all across the country, today we are promoting the idea of Giving Tuesday! During this busy holiday season, we are hoping that our supporters will take a break from cyber-shopping, the malls and Main Streets to consider making a donation to our organization.
The generosity of private donations allows us to continue in our mission of serving more than 700 children and adults with special needs across our different entities.
Federal and state moneys can’t do it all. We created the ECLC Foundation to fill the gaps in our budget and bolster our schools and adult programs, so we can keep growing and innovating with the latest tools and technologies. Giving Tuesday is a chance for us to make a case for our terrific cause.