Greater MetroWest

Children with Special Needs & Disabilities: Programs in New Jersey

Disabled Girl Playing Basketball

Raising young kids always comes with its fair share of challenges (looking at you, bed time) but when you throw in things like special needs and disabilities, families could use all the support they can get. One of the amazing resources available to New Jersey families in Essex, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Union counties is Greater MetroWest ABLE—a consortium of 13 organizations that provide programming and support for individuals with disabilities and their families.

Greater MetroWest ABLE helps:

Parents in search of inclusive opportunities for their kids and connections with other Jewish  parents
Families looking for synagogues with inclusive programming
Teens looking for opportunities for socialization
Educators in need of professional resources
Caregivers seeking support and guidance

For Parents

Greater MetroWest ABLE has a dedicated Community Inclusion Coordinator who is available for one-on-one meetings with parents and caregivers of children with special needs to help connect them to local Jewish community resources such as preschools, Hebrew schools, synagogues, summer camps, and other recreational programs. To schedule a meeting, email or call (973) 929-3129.

An important focus of Greater MetroWest ABLE is building connections to the local Jewish community through Shabbat & holiday programs for children with special needs and their families, and they also maintain a free downloadable events calendar. Another useful tool is the Synagogue Inclusion Chart, which provides families with information about the programs and accommodations available at area synagogues.

Monthly support groups are available for moms and caregivers of children with special needs to provide support and guidance, as well as the opportunity to connect with others dealing with similar issues. Sibling Support groups help the siblings of children with special needs connect with other kids in similar situations and give them the opportunity to process and understand their feelings.

The Greater MetroWest Mentors program pairs the parents of a child with a disability with more experienced volunteer mentors who provide emotional support and information based upon their own parenting experiences in similar situations.

Want to learn more about a particular topic or methodology, but don’t want to spend a ton on Amazon or at the bookstore? Greater MetroWest ABLE has resource materials available for loan on the subject of inclusion, including books, films, and training materials. A list of available resources is available upon request.

Volunteer Opportunities

Greater MetroWest ABLE’s Babysitter Training Program provides teens in grades 8-12 with up to 15 hours of specialized training, including six hours of pediatric CPR and first aid. At the conclusion of the program, teens have the skills to babysit for children with special needs. Greater MetroWest Able also maintains a list of teens who have completed the program as a resource for area families.

The MetroWest Madrichim Shadow Training Program prepares teens in grades 8-12 to provide one-on-one support to children with special needs in Hebrew school or in other recreational programs in the Jewish community, thus enabling these kids to be full participants in the programs.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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