The Shore Center for Students with Autism is expanding a special program that will create the environment of a small town to teach children at the school the basic skills they need to function in everyday life. The expanded program, aided by an $8,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation, will be a model for other counties to emulate.
The curriculum of the magnet school, located on Tornillo Way in Tinton Falls, follows the approach of a prominent behavioral analyst, Dr. Vincent Carbone, who emphasizes encouraging verbal interaction with children with autism.
At the school's cafeteria, to be named the Shore Diner, students will learn about the etiquette for dining in public and, eventually, how to order meals as well as prepare some basic foods.
The classrooms will be designed to look like houses, and each will have an address instead of a room number. Street signs will be installed in the halls, and the halls will be painted with trees and skies to enhance the idea that the inside of the building is a downtown. At a school "movie theater," students will learn the proper behavior for going to the movies and how to respect other patrons.
Tim Nogueira, superintendent of the Monmouth Ocean Educational Services Commission and the Bayshore Jointure Commission, the two agencies that oversee the school's operation, said of the expanded program, "It's going to have the feel of being in a regular town, and students will be able to travel around in it."
John Szeliga, regional director of external Affairs for Verizon New Jersey, said: "This program can easily be replicated at an incredible cost savings for local school districts. One out of approximately every 66 children has been diagnosed with autism in New Jersey. This is a vulnerable constituency that can truly benefit from this type of program."
The Shore Center, which opened six years ago, offers instruction for children from kindergarten through the 12th grade, and officials eventually plan to add an adult day care program. Fifty of the school's students have made enough progress to allow them to transition back to their home public school district.
The school is funded entirely through tuition, grants and donations, without any direct taxpayer money.
The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, uses its technology, financial resources and partnerships to address critical social issues, with a focus on education and domestic violence prevention. In 2010, the foundation awarded nearly $67 million to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation's largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered nearly 6 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org. For more information on The Shore Center for Students with Autism, visit www.theshorecenter.org.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to consumer, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, with more than 107 million total connections nationwide. Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries, including all of the Fortune 500. A Dow 30 company with $106.6 billion in 2010 revenues, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 195,000. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.