This month’s update focuses on “Rise Above” – an original theater program where kids with special needs can enjoy and show off what they do! Where there is no judgment! Where they are free to be themselves!!
Just last week, we had so much fun performing and dancing to our favorite songs! Students first met as a group and decided that they wanted to dance! Each child picked a favorite song and had to think about how they wanted to add to the message of the song. Rebecca decided she wanted to dance to Bruno Mars’ “Count On Me” to help her explain how she felt when she was with her friends. Students added dance moves that would help “tell” the song and finished it up by creating a dance routine to go along with it. The students acted out the song and added their own creative touches making each performance their own.
The idea, production and direction of the class come from two teenage theater mavens who work with our special education teacher along with our Director of Programs for Enhancing Potential to create stimulating and appropriate curriculum for our students with special needs. The students and the staff are all having such a great time watching the kids learn to act and sing! Of course, it is especially rewarding to see the kids socialize with each other and smile when they "take a bow."
Summer is in full swing at Camp Discovery in Croton! Our Trailblazer campers are successfully mainstreamed into our groups at camp with the support of their very competent Shadows. We have anywhere between 1-4 Trailblazers in each of our groups and they either have their own Shadow or share a Shadow depending on the need of support of the camper. Our Shadows support our Trailblazers in all activities throughout the day making sure they are participating to their ability at sports, dance, theater, art, technology, archery, science, swimming and of course socializing and having fun! The patience and enthusiasm that our Shadows show for their campers is contagious throughout camp. Our Trailblazers range from Pre K - 9th grade and have challenges such as Muscular Dystrophy, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Expressive and Receptive Language Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder, ADHD and Tourette's Syndrome yet whenever we have visitors at camp, they cannot tell that we even have a special needs component to our camp!
The Trailblazer program at Camp Discovery provides a typcial full day camp experience for kids while allowing their parents to relax knowing that their child's individual needs are being met while they are learning to swim, socialize, make friends and have fun! The Trailblazer program provides a respite for parents who want the child to experience camp but need more support than the average camper. This one-of-kind program enables many of our campers to experience day trips to Eden Village for a first hand farming experience and a NY Mets Game and then overnight trips to Hershey Park and Club Getaway for older campers.
The Trailblazer program also enhances our camp as a kinder, more compassionate and accepting community. One parent of a neuro-typical camper said: “Being at Camp Discovery has made my child a nicer person.” A Trailblazer parent wrote to us exclaiming: “ I am just so thrilled for him, that he can take these kind of emotional leaps is a big deal for him. Yea!!!! He is just thriving!!!!”
One of our very special programs is called Saturday Night Chillin'. This exceptional program offers tweens and teens with special needs a Saturday night out in the community with their peers once a month. We meet here at the RJCC for pizza, pasta and fruit while we socialize and catch up about each other's lives. Then we head out on the JCC bus to a community outing for fun activities such as bowling, slot car racing and miniature golfing. Sometimes we stay at the JCC for games and movie night with make-your-own ice cream sundaes. Saturday Night Chillin' offers these tweens and teens an opportunity for socialization with peers that would not otherwise be available to them. Our participants look forward to coming back each month and their parents love a night out!
Our Trailblazers After School program is going strong and our parent support groups have increased enrollment as well. Our Rise Above theater class for kids with special needs ended for the school year with a fabulous show. It was such a treat to watch them sing "My Favorite Things" and "Getting to know You" among other songs. They had a terrific time on stage and all our particpants rose above their challenges and were shining stars!
We are planning for our programs for the Fall which will include new programs such as several social skills groups for preschool - 5th graders and a Movin' and Groovin' dance class for young adults with special needs. So much to be excited about for special needs programs here at the J!
This month's update will focus on how "homework help" is providing invaluable support to the Trailblazers at the Rosenthal JCC and their families. We will also share some highlights of the Rise Above theater program for children with special needs.
Homework is a challenge for all families at the end of a long day. It is especially challenging for parents who have children with special needs. At our Trailblazers program, the RJCC's certified special educator and specially trained staff work with the children on a one-to-one basis to complete their homework. The staff has an understanding of each child's individual learning style and provides differentiated instruction to help each child understand and complete their assignments. The student's complete their homework in a stress-free environment that is free of distractions. The parents have reported that they are thrilled the homework is not only completed when they pick up their child but that the child is happy and calm as well.
Our Rise Above theater program has expanded enrollment this semester due to its energetic and creative teenage facilitators. These unique volunteers work with our special education teacher and Director of Programs for Enhancing Potential to create stimulating and appropriate curriculum for our students with special needs. The kids make up fun stories and act them out. They also learn songs and perform them for small groups. The students and the staff are all having such a great time watching the kids learn to act and sing! Of course, it is especially rewarding to see the kids socialize with each other and smile when they "take a bow."
Our Trailblazers at the JCC have had a busy Fall. We have all “gotten into the swing” of the program and enjoy the opportunity to come together after school in a small, warm, nurturing and individually focused environment. Parents have been thrilled to have homework completed and to have their children be able to socialize and take part in the many offerings of the busy after school program at the JCC. Several of the children have taken advantage of classes available through Programs for Enhancing Potential. These include Club 345, a weekly social skills program, as well as Rise Above, our theater class.
Trailblazers has really met two important needs for our children. For those with working parents, the ability to place them in a supported after school environment where complex individual needs are met is invaluable. Many have siblings who attend our “typical” after school program. Having all their children in one spot after school for busy working parents lessens stressors in their already complex lives. The fact that the children see one another and can interact is an added bonus! For those who utilize the program to meet social needs, finding the “right fit” has also been so important. All children deserve the right to interact with others in a stress free, appropriately supported environment. At Trailblazers at the RJCC that happens everyday!!!
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