Learning from a ‘Retail University’

Book signing at It’s All Good. From left, Matheny teacher Darlene Tammara, Raven Bennett, Matheny speech-language pathologist Brynna Cunningham and It’s All Good store manager Diane Gerber.

Matheny School student Raven Bennett has written a book called “Heart Attack” that tells the story of a relationship through poetry. Bennett’s poems reflect different stages of a typical relationship and the journey a person takes through a relationship.

Bennett’s accomplishment, in and of itself, is quite impressive, but now that the book has been written, she wanted to market it more aggressively. Enter It’s All Good, a store in Somerville, NJ, operated by Bridges to Employment, the supported employment division of Alternatives, Inc., a nonprofit social service organization that has been providing a variety of services to those with special needs in the community since 1979. Through a grant from the Kessler Foundation, Alternatives was able to create a “Retail University” to provide job training and readiness assessments to individuals with brain injuries, neurological impairments and other disabilities.

Through the Retail University program, Bennett learned about event planning and was able to hold a book signing at It’s All Good on October 24. She also learned how to create an email campaign using a professional email server in order to market the event and create a list of followers. At the signing, Bennett sold 16 books, and she donated the proceeds to her church in Bound Brook, NJ

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School supplies for new arrivals

Standing, from left, Sara Baig, social worker; Irma Sandoval, social worker; Maritza Acevedo, family liaison; and Nanci David, mental health clinician. Seated are Felicia Querrey, Matheny School teacher and Richard Kozlik, Matheny School student.

“We are very thankful to receive the generous donation of school supplies that we have distributed to our newcomer classes for students who have recently arrived in the U.S.” With those words Nanci David, mental health clinician at the Roosevelt Elementary School in New Brunswick, NJ, expressed her appreciation for the school supplies collected by Matheny School students for her school. Located in a low-income area with many students living below the poverty line, Roosevelt is a port-of-entry school for new immigrants, and its Youth Services System provides after-school recreation, tutoring and homework assistance.

The Matheny students collected the school supplies from Matheny employees, and the final tally included 52 packs of pencils, 75 glue sticks, 176 markers and 65 notebooks.

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Quite a fright

Matheny student Shane Szott as the cowardly lion.

The weather was a little chilly, but that didn’t diminish the spirits of those participating in the Halloween parade at Matheny. Halloween is a day highly anticipated by Matheny students and patients. And it’s also a day when many family members visit and dress up themselves or just push their sons, daughters or siblings in the parade.

In the morning, everyone was invited to visit the Haunted House, designed and built by therapists and members of the Matheny School faculty. The day’s activities were all coordinated by our recreation therapy department, which did a scarily super job.

Throughout the year, this department provides a variety of recreation opportunities and resources to improve students’ and patients’ physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being.

Chuck Matheny, half devil, half angel, with personal care assistant Elfinesh Wondafrosh.

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Overcoming communication obstacles

Chet Cheesman programs some riddles for Seton Hall nursing students, from left, Yasamin Brown, Tara Gillespie and Jenna Mason.

“What happens when a mailman gets old? He loses his zip.” That’s one of several riddles programmed onto Chet Cheesman’s communications device, which he demonstrated to three nursing students from Seton Hall University, who were visiting Matheny’s Adult Learning Center in Hillsborough, NJ. It’s part of the community nursing program at SHU that requires Bachelor of Science in Nursing candidates to spend time in a variety of community nursing settings.

Chet uses a communication device called the ECO2, produced by the Prentke Romich Company, a member of a consortium of companies that provide language and assistive technology products and services to people with disabilities. Chet accesses his device by using a single switch placed on his laptray. The device auto scans through the icons, and, when a light gets to the icon he wants, he hits his switch to activate the area.

“You never know what you’re going to have to be able to do,” explained SHU student Jenna Mason. “We want to cover all bases.”  In addition to visiting with Cheesman, the students learned how other nonverbal Matheny adults communicate. In some cases, that meant trying to understand an eye-gazing system in which the eyes alone are used to trigger verbal messages. “It helps us to see what some of the obstacles are,” said Tara Gillespie, “and how to overcome them.”

In addition to the community nursing requirement, Seton Hall’s B.S.N. program takes in all areas of nursing practice, including nursing of adults, childbearing families and childrearing families and psychiatric/mental health nursing.  At Matheny, nurses focus on maintaining wellness, so that our patients can benefit fully from participation in our therapy, education, recreation and community programs.

Chet’s communications device.

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New Matheny CEO

Kendell R. Sprott, MD, JD.

Kendell R. Sprott, MD, JD, has been named chief executive officer of Matheny, effective December 1. Dr. Sprott, both a physician and an attorney, has been a member of the faculty at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School since 1984, most recently as senior associate dean for clinical affairs. He has also served as acting chair of the Department of Pediatrics and vice chair and director of community pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Dr. Sprott will succeed Steven Proctor, who is retiring after 16 years as CEO. Edana Desatnick and Bruce Fisher, co-chairs of Matheny’s Board of Trustees, expressed confidence that Dr. Sprott will “build on the solid foundation put in place by Steve Proctor. At Rutgers,” they added, “Dr. Sprott was instrumental in successfully integrating the clinical services of UMDNJ and Rutgers University. He demonstrated an outstanding ability to work effectively with a wide array of organizations and instituted a number of innovative solutions. As the new CEO at Matheny, Dr. Sprott and his leadership team will be responsible for expanding Matheny’s capabilities and services against the backdrop of a changing healthcare environment. We are confident that Dr. Sprott has the expertise to guide Matheny in a winning direction that will ensure future growth and prosperity.”

After 30 very successful and productive years at the New Jersey Medical School, Dr. Sprott is looking forward to a new challenge at Matheny. “I am honored,” he said, “to join the Matheny family, a group of individuals committed to the service and compassionate care of patients with complex needs.”

Dr. Sprott received a BS degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, his MD from UMDNJ New Jersey Medical School (now Rutgers) and his JD degree from the Rutgers School of Law in Newark. He has also served in the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston; Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield; and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey, which became part of Newark Beth Israel when United Hospitals closed in 1997. He was chair of the Governor’s Council of Children’s Service Planning from July 1989 to May 1994 and was a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award for Excellence (2005), City News 100 Most Influential in New Jersey (1997), the Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence (1995) and the Child Advocacy Award from the National Black Child Development Institute (1990). He is currently a member of the board of directors and/or trustees of the Rutgers Community Health Foundation, Children’s Future, Advocates for Children of New Jersey and the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition.

Dr. Sprott and his wife, Donna, also a physician, reside in Plainfield, NJ.

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How private and public schools work together

“We are not the enemy. We are an ally. We’re here to see what we can do to help you help your kids.” That comment was made by Chris Sarandoulias, director of the Y.A.L.E. School, a special education school serving students with social, emotional, learning and behavioral disabilities in 10 New Jersey counties. He was speaking at the recent annual conference of the New Jersey School Boards Association in Atlantic City as one of five panelists discussing the topic “How Private Special Ed Schools Can Help Your District Reduce Costs, Improve Outcomes and Build Local Capacity.”

Both Sarandoulias and Katherine Solana, director of the SEARCH Day Program, a school for children with autism in Ocean, NJ, explained how they run satellite classrooms inside public schools. Y.A.L.E. has nine approved private schools within public schools. Sarandoulias described some of the advantages they provide. “The districts,” he said, “receive revenue from the lease of the property, which can be used to offset the costs of their special education programs; there are inclusion opportunities with typical peers; and the public school staff receives additional training from our experts.”

SEARCH operates one satellite school, in the Marlboro Township district. “We have eight students,” said Solana, “and we also do about 900 hours of consulting each year for the district.  Some of the students are from Marlboro, and some are from surrounding communities. It reduces transportation costs, and it increases the capability of Marlboro to meet the needs of students in-district.”

Additional panelists were Chris Lynch, principal of the Horizon School in Livingston, NJ, which serves children with a wide range of complex disabilities; Michael Carpini, principal at SEARCH; and Glenn Martins, assistant director at the Y.A.L.E. School and previously special education administrator at the Hamilton Township Schools. The panelists were introduced by Gerard Thiers, executive director of ASAH (formerly the Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped), a not-for-profit association of more than 145 private special education schools in New Jersey representing roughly 11,000 students with disabilities.

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New wheels

Doug Kimmelman, left, with Matheny student Raven Bennett and Matheny transportation manager Brad King, in front of the Toyota Sienna.

Besides providing outstanding medical care and education for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities, Matheny does everything possible to improve their quality of life. A key factor in that effort is the ability to transport our students and patients to activities in the community.

Matheny has several multi-person vans, but until very recently, we had no small-sized, wheelchair-accessible vehicle appropriate for transporting just a single individual. That has changed, thanks to the kindness of Bernardsville, NJ, resident Doug Kimmelman, who  donated a handicapped-equipped 2008 Toyota Sienna XLE  van to Matheny. It will be used to transport students or patients to family functions or on shopping trips when our bigger vans would be impractical.

Thank you, Doug! We really appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity.

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Two leading researchers visit Matheny

From left, Alexander von Gontard, MD; Gary E. Eddey, MD, vice president and chief medical officer at Matheny; Leopold M.G. Curfs, PhD; Kenneth Robey, PhD, director of the Matheny Institute for Research in Developmental Disabilities.

The Matheny Institute for Research in Developmental Disabilities has as its singular mission research that might enhance the lives of those with severe disabilities, their families and the professionals who work with them. One of its important functions is disseminating research findings by sharing information with other professionals in the field.

Recently Matheny was honored to have two of the most distinguished researchers in the field of developmental and intellectual disabilities visit us: Leopold M. G. Curfs, PhD, professor of intellectual disabilities and director of the Governor Kremers Centre at the Maastricht University Medical Centre in Maastricht, the Netherlands; and Alexander von Gontard, MD, professor, board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, pediatrician, psychotherapist and chair and head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Saarland University Hospital, Saarbrücken, Germany. Professors Curfs and von Gontard spent a full day at Matheny, meeting with staff, touring the facilities and observing our various programs and activities.

Dr. Curfs has published and presented extensively on medical, behavioral and psychiatric aspects of genetically determined neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. von Gontard is an internationally acclaimed expert on behavioral disorders in childhood incontinence.

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Community get-together

Far Hills Country Day School students learned about adapted bowling during a recent visit by Matheny students and staff.

Have you ever raced in a power wheelchair? Communicated without talking? Painted without using your hands? Played basketball sitting down?

Matheny is inviting members of the Peapack-Gladstone community to find out how physical, occupational, speech, music, recreation therapy and art help improve the quality of life for its students and patients. The informal introduction to Matheny’s Therapy and Arts Access programs will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. this Sunday, November 2, in the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center at Matheny, 65 Highland Ave. in Peapack. This event will include fun-filled, hands-on activities that are very kid-friendly, so community members are encouraged to bring the entire family.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by calling (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or emailing volunteers@matheny.org.

A Matheny student demonstrates adapted hockey to a student at the Old Farmers Road School in Long Valley, NJ. At left is Cindy LaBar, Matheny director of physical therapy.

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Arts Access ‘Inside the Beltway’

“TV” by James Lane.

Two artists in Matheny’s Arts Access Program have had visual art accepted for a juried exhibit currently on display at Art Enables’ annual “Outsider Art Inside the Beltway” event in Washington, DC. The pieces, selected from more than 250 submissions, are “TV” by James Lane and “Tide Crayon Blast” by Yasin Reddick. The exhibit opened October 11 and runs through November 11. This is the second year work by an Arts Access artist has been accepted.

Art Enables operates a studio and gallery in the nation’s capital for emerging artists with developmental disabilities, providing them the resources and support they need to become visual artists. Their artwork is exhibited and sold at the studio, at host venues and on the organization’s website, www.art-enables.org.

Arts Access provides individuals with disabilities the freedom to create in the visual, literary and performing arts.

“Tide Crayon Blast” by Yasin Reddick.

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