Enhancing emerging skills

Preschool teacher Dawn Williams with one of her students.

“Thank you, Matheny, for making our dreams come true.” Those words from the parents of a Matheny School preschool student reflect the peace of mind families of children with disabilities feel when their son or daughter is enrolled in our preschool program.

The caring and professional learning environment in the Matheny preschool program enables children to grow towards independence, while offering support for families. The program integrates nursing and intensive individualized physical, occupational and speech therapies into the classroom. The goal is to enhance the emerging skills of each child while fostering a fun, exciting learning and social environment.

Preschool at Matheny is offered as a full school day or in variations based on the specific student’s individualized education plan.  For more information, call (908) 237-0011, ext. 237.

‘Peace of mind’ for parents

Joseph Larena, RN, with preschool student Joshua Rincon. Joshua is using the KidWalk, a mobility system that allows children to independently explore their environment. It was a gift from Matheny’s auxiliary group, The Friends of Matheny.

When parents send their special-needs son or daughter to preschool, it is often their first time away from that child. That’s why a registered nurse is considered an essential part of the Matheny preschool class. “We decided that parents and families need that extra peace of mind,” says The Matheny School principal Sean Murphy.

The preschool nurse, Joseph Larena, RN, says that being an in-class nurse who continuously interacts with the children and participates in daily classwork “provides me with an opportunity to truly know each child. This allows me to instantly identify and respond to issues that may arise and prevent certain complications from occurring.”

Before coming to Matheny, Larena, a resident of Blairstown, NJ, worked in home care. There, he says, “there was no contact between the home and the school.”

Larena has been working at Matheny for about six months. The culture, he says, “is unlike anything I have experienced at other schools. The staff is truly passionate about making a difference in the children’s lives.”

Preschool ‘peace of mind’

Preschool teacher Dawn Williams with student Joshua Rincon.

Matheny has re-launched its preschool disabilities program this fall. Based on the “Creative Curriculum” concept, teachers and therapists will utilize an enriched learning environment to meet the individual needs of each student. According to Matheny School principal Sean Murphy, the Creative Curriculum’s “emphasis on organizing the physical environment to promote learning is especially important for children who require structure predictability in their lives.”

The preschool class at Matheny is somewhat unique in that it’s a school setting within a hospital and has a registered nurse assigned as an essential part of the team. “We decided,” says Murphy, “that parents and families needed that extra peace of mind when sending their preschooler into school. This is often the parents’ first time away from their children.” In addition, speech language-pathologists, occupational and physical therapists are seamlessly integrated into the academic program. And parents, Murphy adds, “are always part of the planning process here and are invited to be part of the special education curriculum design team.”

Dawn Williams, Matheny’s preschool teacher, says emphasis is placed on learning basic skills such as playing and exploring. “Students need a lot of stimulation,” she explains. “They’re reacting to sensory movements and noises.”

Matheny views public school districts as partners and welcomes them to visit its classrooms. In fact, there is still time for districts to register for the Matheny School Open House on Wednesday, October 9, by calling Jill Baker at (908) 234-0011, ext. 234, or emailing mathenyschool@matheny.org.