Maryam Ahmed ’19 & Kylie Tedeschi ’19
In recent years, Passaic Valley High School has been in a partnership with the Bergen Educational Services to teach students with special needs to be more independent through a scientific approach called the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) methodology. However, this is only the centerpiece of a greater initiative to provide services and raise awareness for autism.
Students in the ABA Program are able to connect with their peers in general education through the Peer Participation Program, in which the general education students volunteer to help these students work on different types of social skills. Some of the social skills include communication, language, and engaging in leisure activities. This program is beneficial to ABA and general education students alike. The program opens up valuable, but often rare, interaction between the two groups of students.
The Autism Walk, hosted annually in April, raises awareness for PV/Bergen’s programs designed to aid students with special needs. Funds go towards providing the PV/Bergen ABA Program with valuable materials and experiences. On a monthly basis, with the donations held from the Autism Walk, staff organize fun activities such as Monster Golf, field days, Sky Zone, etc. Furthermore, proceeds have been used to purchase 360 Gym memberships, copy machines, walkie talkies, art supplies, iPads, and Unity Garden projects.
A new activity this year was the “Spring Fling”, a two hour dance involving other schools like Banyan, Pequannock, and Felician High School. The Special Education and PV/Bergen staff organized the beautiful event, which was catered through donations from Pomptonian. Several volunteers assisted staff and students, including DJ Rich Hubbard and Photographer Steven Capone.
This year, elective selection was expanded for ABA students, introducing Photography, Music, and Media. These electives have aided students through learning new skills and bonding with their classmates. “One of our most shining features in this program, would be our electives,” Supervisor Jackie Dubil remarked. “Allowing the students into the general education teachers’ classrooms, utilizing peer support and just interacting with them, I think is great.”
Once students in this program turn 16, the staff provides them certain internships, where they venture out into the community and partake in real-world occupational experiences. Immediately after they reach 21, they will be employable to these types of jobs. Several local businesses have graciously accepted our ABA students as employees. These partners include Taco Affair, Marshalls, The Bethwood, Mr. Cupcakes, 2 Sweet, Retro Fitness, Aquila, Arts & Creation, Pizza City, Microcenter, Alfred Baumann Library, 360 Gym, and Barnes and Noble. In fact, the Pomptonian recently added their name to the internship list by allowing ABA students to work along chefs in the school cafeteria.
In the future, there are still some ideas that the staff would like to incorporate to further help and assess ABA students. “I would like to see more mainstreaming opportunities to really help the students become more involved,” Abby Rodgers, Behaviorist, said. Involving more internal internships such as setting up and assisting teachers in different classrooms, learning how to manage money more often, and learning real world skills, are some goals the PV/Bergen ABA Program has set for future initiatives.