April 8, 2024
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The Special Children’s Center Empowers Young Adults With Special Needs

There are plenty of reasons to love The Special Children’s Center in Lakewood. It offers numerous programs and support to children with special needs and their families, and the love and care provided by the exceptional staff is second to none.

The Special Children’s Center also runs five group homes for young adults with special needs and these homes are possibly the only fully kosher group homes in the entire state of New Jersey, Shira Lieberman, COO of The Special Children’s Center explained, “It allows parents to have a home for their adult children that is within keeping of the traditions that are important to them and where the clients are treated with a tremendous amount of love and caring.”

The group homes receive fresh homemade meals that are delivered to them daily—even during Pesach—that are loaded with nutrients and prepared with the highest quality ingredients.“It goes with the entire mission statement of the center, which is, caring for our young adult clients the way that you’d want your own children to be cared for.”

There are currently three homes for men and two for women, Residents are 21 years and older and there are typically three to five residents per home. “What we’re finding is that each group home really melds into a family, and it’s a beautiful thing for parents to be able to see it and watch their children be a part of that.” The care in these group homes is highly individualized to the needs of each client and their parents, but parents are still very much a part of their lives.

There are a variety of ways that residents of The Special Children’s Center spend their days. The programs are all individualized to what will be the most meaningful for the particular client. For some, that means being with peers and spending their days at adult day care facilities. For others, a more individualized program might be the best option and it’s all part of a team approach for each client.

Another way residents spend their days is by helping to run a 30 acre farm, just outside of Lakewood, in Howell, New Jersey. The farm opened this past fall and is filled with all the wonderful features you’d expect to find on any farm, where residents help tend to and care for the farm’s horses, cows, sheep, goats and lots and lots of chickens. There you’ll also find dogs, rabbits and even a reptile exhibit.

The farm has a two-fold purpose. First, the animals help to regulate individuals with special needs. “In a world that bombards our senses with so much, one can go onto the farm, sit down and simply hold a rabbit and find tremendous regulation,” Lieberman explained. Second, it provides a deeply meaningful and robust work experience for clients who come and spend their days taking care of the farm.

Lieberman said, “The overall mission of The Special Children’s Center is to really make every client’s life as meaningful and wonderful as possible. We see it as how we can make their day the most meaningful, so the farm is a huge piece for us.”

Lieberman explains that the extraordinary aspect about the farm is that the way it has been designed easily enables the clients of The Special Children’s Center to actually run it.

“Whether they are brushing the horses, helping to clean out the stalls, or giving water to the goats, everything they are doing is truly meaningful work.” She explained how the clients learn how to do all kinds of tasks throughout the facility. “For example, they know when the horses need to be fed, how to fill up a cup to a certain point with food for the horses, and then bring this food to the horses.” The roles that clients take at the farm really depend on what they gravitate towards, and is often determined by their interests and strengths. They are able to accomplish these tasks independently after being shown how to do them just a few times. “It is beautiful to watch the amount of joy and pride that these residents are feeling because they feel that they are in charge. Here on the farm, they are the ones in charge. They feel it and you see it. The farm is giving them this real sense that they are needed.”

Lieberman said that the enjoyment she gets from watching the young adults go to the chicken coop, open the combination lock on their own, get the food out, collect the eggs and count them is nothing short of amazing. Then they bring the eggs to the kitchen and—under supervision—cook the eggs themselves. “There’s a tremendous sense of pride in that and knowing that those are the chickens that they care for.” The clients also help tend a garden where they grow an assortment of vegetables and then pick them to use as ingredients in their meals.

Although much of what the clients do is under supervision, the supervisors know that their job is to make them as independent as possible. “It’s simply a wonderful place for your young adult to live, where they are going to be loved and cared for.”

If you would like to learn more about getting services for your adult child with special needs, call The Special Children’s Center hotline at 732-367-0099 and speak with a case manager who will explain what services are available for your child.

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