I have worked with a lot of volunteers in my careers as a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, business executive and as a volunteer. As a retiree for a little over a year, I continue to volunteer for Salem County’s Disability Advisory Board, the Resources for Independent Living Board and the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park, NJ. I learned about the value of being a volunteer from members of my family. Service to others was part of living a full life and was expected. As I watch my son Jonathan volunteer, I see the possibility that my grandson Jackson will do the same.

Unfortunately, with everyone’s busy and complicated lives, volunteerism is down and this affects the lives and opportunities of people (children through the aged) in our communities. I am encouraged by the news reports of volunteers that participated in Monday’s Martin Luther King’ s day of service programs, but I want to encourage volunteerism throughout the year. Sometimes people think that they don’t have the ability to volunteer. Everyone has the ability to volunteer if they look for opportunities. Contact a local food bank, a social services agency, a recreation program, a school and the list goes on. Help change someone’s life, and your own, be a volunteer.

Autism Spectrum: Through A Parent's Eyes

I am sharing this post from a Facebook post that I saw. As a former special education teacher and a guidance counselor that has attended over one thousand IEP meetings, this is a great list of reasons why special needs parents rock:

1. Because they never thought that “doing it all” would mean doing this much. But they do it all, and then some.

2. Because they’ve discovered patience they never knew they had.

3. Because they are willing to do something 10 times, 1,000 times if that’s what it takes for their kids to learn something new.

4. Because they have heard doctors tell them the worst, and they’ve refused to believe them.

5. Because they have bad days and breakdowns and bawl fests, then they pick ourselves up and keep right on going.

6. Because they manage to get themselves together and out the door looking pretty damn good. Heck, they even make sweatpants look attractive.

7. Because they are strong. Who knew they could be this strong?

8. Because they aren’t just parents, wives, husbands, cleaners, chauffeurs, cooks or men and women who work. They are also physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, teachers, nurses, researchers, coaches and cheerleaders.

9. Because they understand their kids better than anyone else does – even if they can’t talk or gesture or look them in the eye. They know. They just know.

10. Because just when it seems like things are going OK, they’re suddenly not, but they deal. They deal even when it seems like their heads or hearts might explode.

11. Because when they look at their kids they just see great kids. Not kids with cerebral palsy/autism/Down syndrome/ADHD/developmental delay/whatever label.

Happy New Year

Start your year out by taking advantage of programs available to seniors and the disabled in Salem County:

Thursday, January 16, 2020: “Behind the Smoke Screen” What all parents and care givers Need to know about vapes, E-Cigs, Cloud Pens and Juuls at the Salem County Vo-Tech Gymnasium(88 Frankie Callaghan at 856 935 7510 X 105

Scoot Trips: 1/14 &21/20 Acme & Save A Lot; 1/28/2020: Shop Rite; 1/31/2020: New Castle Farmers Market. Call 856 339 8644 to register.

Tai Chi: Classes will be scheduled every Thursday (March 12th – May 28th) at two locations. 11 – noon @ Friends Village and 1 – 2:00 pm @ Mid Atlantic States Career & Education Center.

Exercise for seniors are scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30 – 11:30 am at Mid Atlantic States Career & Education Center.

Contact 856 339 8622 if you have any additional questions.

School Goals for 2020

Now that the Christmas / Winter break is coming to an end, it is a good time to talk to teachers and possibly the case manager who is in charge of your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Most public schools should be near the end of the second marking period and IEP meetings for the next school year should be in the planning stage for the spring. The problem is that everyone is still in holiday mentality and there hasn’t been a conversation about school for an extended time.

It is important for parents and students to review their goals and plans and remind themselves of their current levels of success / need for improvement. Even if your child doesn’t have an IEP, it is a good time to review where you are and update your goals. Most schools have an on-line gradebook so that you can access grades and assignments, but if you have trouble accessing that information, contact your school’s guidance counselor or main office.

If things are going really well, the conversation may be about adding a class next year that is at a higher level than the current class. If there are current problems, the conversation will be about identifying specific performance issues and developing a plan for improvement. Sometimes the problem isn’t the level of the work, but rather the fact that work is not being completed. A review of assignments will determine if work is completed or not completed and the grade for assignments, quizzes and tests. Tests are worth more than quizzes and homework and participation is worth less than quizzes.

If work is not completed, you need to look at attendance and punctuality. If you aren’t in school, it is difficult to get everything completed and you don’t have a chance to get help in class or at another time during the school day. If attendance isn’t an issue, and the work isn’t completed because of a lack of understanding, then a plan for improvement needs to be completed. If there is an IEP in place, that plan can be reviewed and appropriate changes can be made. Making improvements requires a hands on approach that is consistent and timely.

Good luck and leave me a comment if you need additional help.

Salem County NJ Events

I have listed information that is posted on the Salem County Office on Aging and Disabilities and hope people will take advantage of these programs. Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center (MASCEC) offers on-going programs that provide exercise for the body (such as Tai Chi and Stretch on Thursday, December 12 and Strength Development on Tuesday 12/17); talk topics to improve your health ( such as Why You Need a Flu Shot on Thursday, December 12 and Be Ready for Winter Weather on Tuesday 12/17); and nourishment assistance on Tuesday 12/17 as their food bank program provides food for our residents. My friend Ray Leight, and fellow Salem County Office on Disabilities Advisory board member, volunteers his time to serve at (MASCEC) on Tuesdays. It’s a great program and can help extent your food budget.

Ray helping to serve food offered free to Salem County residents at the Mid-Atlantic Career and Education Center in Pennsville

December MOVE
December Senior Scoop

Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center (MASCEC)

Ray Leight and I had a great meeting at Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center (MASCEC) with their President & CEO, H Glen Donelson, Jeff Truax (VP of Projects and Media), Walter Donelson (Training Specialist and Supported Employment) and Tracy Wiggins (Communications Manager). As members of Salem County’s Disability Awareness Board, Ray and I have been looking at ways to improve awareness of career services for individuals with special needs and we fully recommend this program.

The mission of MASCEC focuses on building effective community partnerships, improving the health and well being of the individuals and families that they serve, provide career and job skill development for the disadvantaged and disabled workers and create a sustainable stable community. Some specifics are as follows:

  • Provide basic job skill training to youth and adults seeking to enter or re-enter the workforce in a variety of industry sectors
  • Provide career development and exploration activities to youth K-12
  • Offer schools and other education institutions cutting edge programs, curricula, and teacher training
  • Support youth struggling in school with mentoring, tutoring, and job skill development
  • Offer job certification programs for individuals in the food and energy sectors
  • Provide job training and placement to adults and youth who have dropped out of school and the workforce, been incarcerated or have had other difficulties which prevent them from obtaining and retaining employment

Their main office is located at 111 S. Broadway, Pennsville, NJ 08070. You can call their office at 856 514 2200, go on their website www.wegrowpeople.org or contact Glenn by e-mail gdonelson@mascec.org.

I have known Glenn for a long time as a member of the Salem County ARC board, and as a guidance counselor who received the assistance I needed to create a solid Job Shadow program at Monongahela Middle School. He and his organization have a passion for helping people grow and develop.    

Career Programs In Salem County, NJ

Our country is operating at an unemployment rate of less than 4%, but that does not mean that everyone will get a job. As “baby boomers” continue to retire, many of our leaders are citing the need to rely on immigration to fill the eventual open positions. Our educational system continues to promote a system that wants to prepare almost everyone for a college education. The construction trades need additional trained candidates. With all of the above, where are we in preparing students with an IEP and lower performing students without and IEP for our workforce?

I have been trying to find employment / unemployment statistics for students that had an IEP in high school, but this isn’t an easy process. What I have found seems to indicate that the unemployment rate for this group could be over 50%. With overall unemployment under 4%, it would seem that we have an underutilized group of potential employees. The questions I am asking myself will need additional research which I will be starting next week.

Specifically, I will be asking for appointments with our county vocational technical high school, Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center, Resources for Independent Living, The Office on Aging and Disabilities and the County Superintendent of Schools. More to report after my meetings.