Going ‘above and beyond’

It’s not a big deal, right—opening a hand? For a boy named Sean it is. Diagnosed with athetoid cerebral palsy at 18 months, he’s “tactile defensive”—super-sensitive to touch. But now, at Matheny, he’s been able to open his hands for the first time—a major goal of his physical therapy.

Sean’s mom, Kelly, thinks the staff deserves a hand—for going “above and beyond. Sean is safe here,” she says, “because he’s surrounded by people who love him.”

Sean, shown here working with physical therapist Erin Guidera, is just one of nine “Special Stories” we highlight in a new publication: www.matheny.org/Matheny-Brochure.pdf.

Returning to a “special” place

Karen Deland started her teaching career at The Matheny School in 1979. She left a year later to teach in the Quakertown, N.J., public school system, then went to law school and then raised a family. But two years ago, feeling that she missed working with “special students,” she came back to Matheny. And she’s the first to say, she’s a better teacher for it all.

Deland, who was named the 2010 Educator of the Year at Matheny, says “flexibility and patience” are the keys to working with special needs children. Though her students’ medical conditions are more complex now than when she first taught here, she attributes Matheny’s technological innovations as critical for succeeding with these complicated teaching requirements.

Matheny is “top-of-the line technology-wise for the students,” she says. “Everybody’s treatment is different and individualized. Without the technology, we would be doing textbook learning, which isn’t really appropriate for our population.”

Deland, show above with student Daniel Gaudreau, was recently featured in her hometown newspaper, the Berkeley Heights Patch. You can read her story here.

Therapy Solutions

Two years ago, William Miller of Succasunna had trunk control so weak he was “falling all over the place,” says his physical therapist, Diane Tavares, MS, PT.  Now the five-year-old can play catch, throw at a target and walk the balance beam all by himself. What helped make the difference was the physical-therapy support he received, not only from Tavares, but also from his teacher, Patti Klein, and the teacher’s aides in William’s public school, Jefferson Elementary.

Twice-weekly 30-minute sessions “weren’t going to fix someone like William,” says Tavares. “It had to be continuous all day.” So, under Matheny’s Therapy Solutions program, she taught Klein and the aides some of the physical therapy techniques she was using in her sessions with William. And as a result of this “teaching the teacher” approach, today the boy’s mom reports he’s doing “wonderfully.”

Above, Tavares works with William on a balance beam. To learn more, visit www.Matheny.org/Solutions, e-mail Solutions@Matheny.org or call 908.234.0011, ext. 751.A


Easing hospital transitions

Going to the hospital is tough for all of us. It’s extra tough for Matheny students and patients because of their special needs.

Now, thanks to funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a dedicated “transitional” nurse will help make sure special-needs patients get exactly the care and attention they need when moving to an acute care facility.

The new transitional nurse, Jeanne Lavelle, RN, says she is, “looking forward to being an advocate for our patients.  The whole plan is cutting edge and exciting. It’s an opportunity to provide better care and support for the families of our patients. I will help them ask the right questions, and I’ll be there to provide emotional support as well.”

Above, new transitional nurse Jeanne Lavelle, RN, center, confers with Lisa McKenna, RN, right, and staff physician Dr. Surbparkash Singh.

Read more at www.matheny.org/news/rwj-grant.htm.

Artistically able

Want to see paintings and digital art that “challenge the senses and push the boundaries of what you think of as art?” Check out the painting on this page by Arts Access artist Shaleena Tomassini at Matheny.  Madison-based artist Dan Fenelon describes the Arts Access artists’ work as “exciting” and Matheny President Steve Proctor says these artists “refuse to be defined by their disabilities.”

The artwork was created as part of the Arts Access Program, which provides professional “artist-facilitators” to help the disabled artists translate their visions into reality. The art will be on view at “Full Circle 2011: Dimensions,” an annual celebration of the program set for November 5 at the Robert Schonhorn Arts Center on the Matheny campus. The show will be curated by Fenelon, a painter, sculptor and muralist whose work includes a mural on the side of the Luna Stage Building in West Orange.  There will also be a stage presentation highlighting other art disciplines such as dance, drama, prose and poetry. For more information about Full Circle, call 908-234-0011, ext. 260, or download this flyer.


She can work anywhere, but chooses Matheny

Physical therapy is different at Matheny than in a sports medicine clinic or a nursing home. And Erin Leach should know—she’s worked in all three settings.

“In a nursing home, you can improve someone’s function pretty significantly, but at Matheny, with the kids, there is just so much more energy,” Leach says. “I started to realize that what I do can really help them forever.”

Leach, who was voted the 2011 Related Service Provider of the Year by her peers at The Matheny School, also knows it can require creativity to incorporate PT into classroom settings. One example involved a lesson about where different articles of clothing belong on the human body. “The teacher had a big cutout of a person, and the students were working on where the shirt goes, where the shoes go, things like that,” she says. “They had Velcro clothing and shoes. So, when it was my student’s turn, I helped her walk up to the big cutout and put the shoes on. It was the perfect activity.”

Leach, shown here helping 8-year-old student Niara Holmes, understands that “I’m helping them do something they might not otherwise get the opportunity to do—like sitting up or standing up by themselves. I can look back and say, ‘Wow, they’re doing this much better’—even if it may seem to be a very small thing.”

We invite you to share your experience with our physical therapy services on this page.


Math adds up for Matheny

Bernards High School in Bernardsville sponsors a Math League made up of students who share a passion for numbers. Last spring, the team’s members decided they wanted to spread that love by raising money to benefit other students in the area, and they chose The Matheny School as one of their beneficiaries.

They held a “Math-A-Thon,” raised $700 and donated the money to the school to support its mathematics program. When the students and their teacher visited Matheny to deliver the gift, we had to snap a photo.

Pictured above, standing, from left:  Kathryn Levin of Bedminster; Nery Aragon of Bernardsville; Matheny principal Sheryl Gavaras; Bernards High math teacher and Math League advisor LuAnn Faletta of Mendham; Isha and Shuchi Zinzuwadia of Bedminster; and David Howes of Bernardsville. Matheny students in front, from left: Yasin Reddick, Zachary Ludlow and Natalie Tomastyk.


Life skills grow from a garden


Francis Mancho, 18, of Budd Lake wanted to help Matheny students learn entrepreneurship, so he applied his own ingenuity to the task. The volunteer got permission from his church to start a community garden, where he now grows vegetables the students sell at a café they operate twice a week. Because some of the students couldn’t ring up cash-register sales, Mancho applied for—and won—a $3,000 grant from the Jenny Jones Foundation, an organization started by the national TV talk-show host. He used the money to buy two special touch-screen computers, which help the students sell—and improve their cognitive abilities and quality of life.

Read about Mancho’s idea on the foundation’s “Jenny’s Heroes” website, and in an article from the Mount Olive Chronicle newspaper.


Above, from left: Steve Proctor, Matheny president; Francis Mancho’s father, Joseph, and mother, Maureen; Francis Mancho; Gail Cunningham, Matheny coordinator of volunteer activities; and Sean Murphy, vice principal of The Matheny School.


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