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 or contact Glenn by e-mail

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.

Office of Aging & Disabilities News

The Salem County Disabilities Advisory Board met last night for our final meeting of the year. We discussed our recent Disability Awareness Day and believe that it was an excellent event and have already started plans for next year’s event which also will be in October. Our vendor displays were actively visited, and if possible, we would like to add to this so that we can provide even better ideas of resources and services. The “Scoot” program helped provide transportation to our event and is planning a number of scheduled trips throughout November. The focus of our advisory board between now and next year’s event will be on identifying individuals that have a positive impact on the lives of persons with special needs within Salem County. Specifically, we are looking for candidates in the following areas:

Citizenship: individuals whose leadership and dedication have greatly improved the services available to Salem County residents with special needs. This award can also high-light the success of individuals with special needs that have overcome obstacles to achieve their individual goals in terms of their education, career and support of others with special needs.

Agency Excellence: is an award to an agency or facility whose primary function is serving persons with special needs and has shown extreme leadership in the development of programs and services.

Community Service: is an award given to a business or corporation located in Salem County whose initiative and enterprise have contributed significantly to a better life for citizens with special needs. We really want to high-light the employment efforts that these businesses or corporations have made.

A topic of discussion at our meeting was the limited success of special needs citizens in securing gainful employment. Our economy is experiencing the lowest unemployment in the last 50 years, and reports from organizations like Bloomberg and the Federal Government indicate that we are basically at maximum employment, but we need to get creative to train and develop individuals to fill trade positions. The focus is not currently focused on the special needs population.

The Office of Aging and Disabilities can provide individual assistance to provide advice and counseling, but this issue is really a policy issue at a much higher level. The Department of Education has pushed STEM programs and preparation for college and university programs. Vocations programs (formerly referred to as shops and home economics) have been basically eliminated from our public schools and county vocational technical schools have started to push high level STEM programs that have actually reduced the number of vocational programs that special needs students used to be accepted into.

Students with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) should be included in their IEP meetings by the age of 14 and specific transition to careers discussions should produce a realistic career plan. However, most of these plans are based on a plan to prepare students to attend colleges and universities. The Division Of Vocational Rehabilitation is not actively recruited to attend these meetings and provide expert input to improve the development of reasonable career plans. Our discussion came to the conclusion that parents may not be aware that Vocational Rehabilitation can be included and we should try to focus on getting this message out.

As a group, we have seen and heard of the students that didn’t have a reasonable career plan created while they were in our schools with an IEP and have “aged out” in services from our public schools. They have completed their education and have not developed a reasonable career plan and there isn’t a productive process to improve their ability to find gainful employment. We are trying to have a conversation to add value to this issue, but we could clearly benefit from input from as many sources as possible.

Disability Awareness Day: Create a “Go Bag”

Emergency “Go Bags” were discussed and demonstrated by Frank Callahan of the Salem County Department of Health and Human Services Public Preparedness Division.  Recent natural catastrophes are a reminder that a disaster can strike at any time. Although the type or locations of disasters are different, there’s one tip that every person should take from Frank Callahan’s presentation: pack a “go bag.”

Once you create your go bag, store it in a location at eye level that you can grab it on your way out the door. Make sure that every member of your household has a go bag and keep them stored in the same location. Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Specifics for your bag are as follows:


  • A three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoil.
  • One change of clothing and footwear per person, and one blanket or sleeping bag per person.
  • A first aid kit that includes your family’s prescription medications.
  • Emergency tools including a battery powered radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
  • An extra set of car keys and a credit card, cash or traveler’s checks.
  • Sanitation supplies.
  • Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
  • An extra pair of glasses.
  • Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller kit in the trunk of your car.
  • Remember that if you anticipate staying in an evacuation shelter that there may not be a cot for you. Bring bedding material and something to sleep on.

Disability Awareness Day: October 10, 2019

I have been appointed to the Salem County Freeholders Advisory Board for almost 20 years and my involvement with the Office on Aging and Disabilities is best characterized by my participation in our annual Disability Awareness Day. This was our 15th Disability Awareness Day and they seem to get better and better each year. The hard work by staff of the Office on Aging and Disabilities and its Advisory Board really has nurtured a great event.

About five years ago I suggested that we model an award that Wilmington Delaware’s Access Wilmington has to celebrate the contributions that citizens, agencies and businesses have made to improve the lives of our disabled population. As a long term member of that board, these awards highlighted great works that benefited the disabled population, but had the effect of improving the lives of all citizens in general. Patty Bomba typifies the values of this award as this year’s award recipient and will continue to add value to our county. If you know of individuals that should be considered for this award, contact me or call the office at 856-339-8622. Also, the office staff wants our residents to contact the office to answer your specific questions based on individual needs.

As I was walking around the vendor tables, I had a chance to talk Teri Figarola and Mary Fowle (in the picture above) and they made sure that I was aware of how they were able to attend: they called the Office on Aging and Disabilities at at 856-339-8622 and were able to obtain transportation.

There a lot of informational tables to get hand-outs about different organizations and services. This was also a great opportunity to ask specific questions and get answers that meet your individual needs. I have posted pictures of a sample of these vendors below.

More pictures are available on my Facebook page (Frank Hentz). My next post will be about Emergency “Go Bags” that was discussed and demonstrated by Frank Callahan of the Salem County Department of Health and Human Services Public Preparedness Division. The final post will focus on the keynote speaker James Beardsley, blogger, advocate for persons with different abilities and hand cycle racer.

Salem County’s 15th Annual Disability Awareness Day.

What a wonderful day to celebrate the selection of Patty Bomba as the Crusader Award winner for 2019. Patty Bomba, of Carneys Point, has touched many lives through her advocacy for individuals with disabilities. She spearheaded the creation of A Place for Sami (an accessible playground built by the community that benefits anyone with mobility issues) including her granddaughter, Sami. Patty currently serves on the board of Resources for Independent Living, is a past chairperson of the Salem County Disabilities Advisory Board and she is active in fundraising for the ARC Walk, Special Olympics, Resources for Independent Living and Darryl’s Wheels.

Patty Bomba with her Crusader Award and her State of New Jersey Resolution

Patty with Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro

Patty receiving her Crusader Award from Salem County Freeholders Ben Laury, Lee Ware and Charles Hassler.

If you want to see more pictures of Patty’s day look at my Facebook post. Tomorrow: pictures of participants, vendors and our citizens