Pet projects

Several students from Christina Carey’s class at the Matheny School visited the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in North Branch, NJ, recently to see first-hand how this non-profit organization helps alleviate the suffering and neglect of companion animals and provides services that support the human-animal bond.

The students were able to ask questions of the St. Hubert’s staff members and visit with several dogs and cats hoping to be adopted. To thank St. Hubert’s for its hospitality, the class held an animal food drive among Matheny staff members and students and dropped off the goodies at St. Hubert’s during the visit.

Above, from left, teacher Christina Carey, recreation therapist Rachel Pyke, 16-year-old student Katie Van Orden and St. Hubert’s staff member Janis Dare.

Below, 19-year-old student Mark O’Connell visits with Chriss, a pointer.

Improving healthcare for people with disabilities

Do people with disabilities receive the same quality of healthcare as people without disabilities? The answer is “no,” says Kenneth Robey, Ph.D., director of the Matheny Institute for Research.

The reason, says Dr. Robey, at left, is simply lack of training. “Programs at medical schools, nursing schools, dental schools and pharmacy schools have done very little to prepare primary care professionals to serve people with disabilities,” he explains.

Third-year medical students at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School currently rotate through Matheny in an attempt to educate future doctors about how to provide this care. But Matheny realizes this isn’t enough. In 2007, Dr. Robey and Gary E. Eddey, M.D., Matheny’s chief medical officer, began exploring what else was being done around the country. That eventually resulted in the formation of the Alliance for Disability in Health Care Education, which has already raised visibility about this issue.

A major goal of the organization, according to Dr. Robey, who served as president in 2010 and 2011, is to develop “a list of things that healthcare professionals need to know or be able to do that works across all disciplines and disabilities.” A long-term goal, which Dr. Robey admits is a stretch, “is to ensure that every medical school, nursing school and medical training program in the United States has some component to address disability-specific issues.”

For more information on this subject, log onto, click on “All News” and look for “Preparing Healthcare Professionals to Better Serve People with Disabilities.”

A big welcome to our new pediatric neurologist

Jan B. Wollack, M.D., a pediatric neurologist, has joined Matheny’s medical consultant staff. Dr. Wollack is the division director of child neurology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. He graduated from the Columbia University School of Medicine in New York City and completed both his internship and residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, also in New York. Beginning January 17, 2012, Dr. Wollack will be at Matheny every Tuesday.

Our medical specialists at the Matheny Center of Medicine and Dentistry not only work with our inpatients, they are also available to provide care for children and adults with disabilities in the community. In addition to neurology, we offer care and treatment in dentistry, adaptive seating and mobility evaluations, primary care, therapies, women’s health, optometry, physiatry and urology.

For more information, call (908) 234-0011, ext. 771.

Rainforest mural teaches and inspires

Anthony Galati is a Morristown-based artist who discovered Matheny through a friend who works as a facilitator in the Arts Access Program. He decided to paint a mural in one of the elementary classrooms of the Matheny School and started the project in June 2010. “I came in to paint it on weekends, when the kids weren’t in the classroom,” he says. “It took 116 hours.”

The painting, which has a rainforest theme, was completed in September 2011. The rainforest idea, he says, “seemed like a universal thing that most of the kids would get excited about. I thought it could also be used as a teaching tool. I researched the rainforest and made sure that all of the animals that I chose for the mural are found in the rainforest. Also, each of the plants is a rainforest climbing plant that actually grows on trees the way I painted it. As I was aware of the visual challenges faced by some of the children, I used a lot of contrast to make the image as clear as possible for them.”

Although Galati describes himself as “predominantly a realist,” he admits to being “increasingly attracted to the mysterious. I don’t believe there is a need to see one kind of expression as any more valid that another. They are all different languages that the artist is using to convey something; whether realism or abstract, it’s all art.”

Drawn to the idea of utilizing art as a method of healing, Galati also believes that “few things are as good at relieving stress and putting you back in touch with yourself as making some form of art. You never know how something you create may positively impact the lives of others.”

Anthony Galati’s website:

Holiday hoop dreams

Members of the Delbarton School varsity basketball team from Morristown, NJ, made their annual visit to Matheny in December to display some of their on-court moves and compete with Matheny students and patients in adapted versions of the sport.

The adapted basketball contests, developed by Matheny School phys ed instructor Jim Hintenach and Matheny recreation therapy director Sean Bielefeldt, are designed to level the playing field so the two groups can compete meaningfully.

The annual assembly, with audience members wearing jerseys from their favorite teams, has become a much-anticipated event.

Above, Sean Bielefeldt and adult patient Amanda Kochell with, from left, Brian Hardin, Billy Carroll, Steve DeLosa and Adam Schreck.

Below, Ryan Curran shoots from a sitting position on the Matheny Arts Center stage.

Good knights

The Knights of Columbus Council 12700 from Our Lady of Mt. Virgin Church in Middlesex has been a long-time supporter of Matheny.

During the holiday season, one of the Council’s members, Kevin Mazza, left, visited Matheny to present Steve Proctor, president, with a check for $1,537.

Crowd pleasers

Members of the Matheny Choir received three standing ovations when they performed at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark as part of the Holiday Express Christmas Spectacular benefit concert. Singing “Last Christmas” and “Little Drummer Boy,” the Choir members then joined in with the Holiday Express singers for a rousing version of “Lean on Me.”

Holiday Express is a Monmouth County-based volunteer band whose mission is to deliver music, food, gifts, financial support and friendship to those in need during the holiday season. The band visited Matheny on December 11 and invited the Choir members to join them at NJPAC on December 21. The Choir is part of Matheny’s music therapy program. Its members perform throughout the year at a variety of venues, including the Peapack-Gladstone tree lighting ceremony.

Above: Matheny adult patient Taty Manousakis sings along with Holiday Express’ Byron Smith and music therapist Alissa West.

Below: Matheny student Yasin Reddick and music therapist Megan Chappius, left, harmonize with Holiday Express singer Mary D’Arcy. D’Arcy played Christine in the Broadway production of Phantom of the Opera.

A teacher who rocks!

Matheny teacher Karen Deland, seen here with 16-year-old student Daniel Gaudreau, has been chosen as one of WDHA-FM and WMTR-AM’s Teachers Who Rock Class of 2012. She is one of 24 outstanding teachers who will be recognized by the Greater Media radio stations, located in Cedar Knolls, NJ.

The awards are presented because the stations feel excellent teachers are not receiving adequate recognition for their important contribution to society. Deland and the other teachers will receive their award at a special banquet on March 13 at Ravello Elegant Weddings & Banquets in East Hanover, NJ.

Deland, a resident of Berkeley Heights, first taught at the Matheny School in Peapack in 1979. She left in 1980 to accept a teaching position in the Franklin Township Public School District in Quakertown, NJ. After earning a law degree and raising a family, she returned to Matheny in 2009 and, in 2010, was named Matheny’s Educator of the Year.

In her classes, Deland uses a Smart Board, which helps some of her students with poor vision follow along, “because it’s so large and bright, and you can change the background and meet their needs. Without the technology,” she says, “we would be doing textbook learning, which isn’t really appropriate for our population.”

After spending time as a teacher in both public and private schools and practicing law, Deland came back to Matheny because she missed the “special students.” Today’s Matheny students are much more medically complex than the students she taught 30 years ago, but the keys to success, she says, are flexibility and patience. “You just have to roll with it,” she says. “You may be working on phonetics today, but were working on compound words the day before, and one of the students will blurt out, ‘bedroom.’ Wow! She remembered it.”

Of course, not all education takes place in the classroom. “If we cannot provide our population with the ability to be out in public, we have a done a disservice to them,” she says. Her class recently played miniature golf at Hyatt Hills, a handicapped-accessible course in Clark. “I can put a student on a bus and take her to Shop Rite or take her to a golf course. I can’t think of any day that goes by that somebody doesn’t warm my heart.”

A little help from our friends

A group of employees from the Hartford Insurance Company, located in Florham Park, NJ, recently spent an afternoon crafting holiday decorations with adult patients at Matheny. One of the patients, Kevin White, received a big assist while decorating the tree from Hartford employee Amanda Rafferty.

Here comes Skanska Claus!

Joining Matheny student Daeon Troutman are, from left: Stacey Sturrock, Young Moon, Cheryl Marraffino, Santa, Lisa Dattolo, Kelly Figeroa, Monica Griffith, Cynthia Eng and Lisa Alongi.

For the second consecutive year, employees from Skanska USA brought an early Christmas to Matheny, dropping off boxes of toys for the students and patients. This year, though, they were accompanied by Santa Claus, aka David Formichella, technical administrator in the New York City office.

Students from two classrooms gathered in the children’s dining room to visit with Santa and to receive their gifts. Sweden-based Skanska, with offices in Parsippany, N.J., and NYC, is one of the world’s leading construction groups.

WANTED: volunteers

Since most Matheny students and patients are full-time residents, we need volunteers to serve as recreation assistants, classroom aides, tutors and friendly visitors. Our volunteer office tries to place people in positions that meet both their interests and availability. In addition, we invite volunteer groups to host parties for residents or participate in other special projects, including fundraising activities.

Matheny students and patients have medically complex developmental disabilities. Practically everyone is in a wheelchair and many are non-verbal. Yet, underneath their physical difficulties, they like the same music, games, sports and movies as everyone else. For those willing to discover each person’s personality, the rewards are great.

If you’re interested in more information, contact the volunteer services office at (908) 234-0011, ext. 282, or email

Above: Centenary College students share a laugh with a Matheny student.

Below: Junior Friends of Matheny help Matheny patients enjoy Valentines Day.  The JFOM volunteers are students at Bernards High School in Bernardsville and Ridge High School in Basking Ridge.


Good sports

Two Girl Scout troops from Bedminster, N.J., visited Matheny recently and competed with Matheny students in adapted basketball contests and wheelchair races. These activities are part of Matheny’s special education and recreation therapy programs and also include such other adapted sports such as bowling and bocce.

The goal of the program is to encourage interaction between able-bodied students and students with disabilities, making it possible for them to compete as peers.

The Girl Scouts, all students at the Bedminster Township School, were from Troops 60077 and 60083 of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey.

Above, from left, Rachel Csermak, Bianca Pineda, Chloe Warlick and Matheny student Bianca Mathis relax after a game of basketball.

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