First Lady Mary Pat Christie Continues Commitment to Promote Autism Awareness in Visit to Jefferson Elementary School in Hawthorne

  • Thursday, November 3, 2011
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Trenton, NJ – Advancing her commitment to increase autism awareness in New Jersey, First Lady Mary Pat Christie today toured Jefferson Elementary School in Hawthorne to see first-hand the unique programs in place for students with autism. The school’s Autism Program began nine years ago with just five students. Today, there are 58 children in the program and Jefferson Elementary is the sending school for the Hawthorne School District.

“Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to see some innovative approaches educators are using to enhance learning and life skills for students with autism,” said Mrs. Christie. “I am very impressed by the distinctive programs being offered here at Jefferson Elementary School and applaud Principal Zagatta and her staff for providing an educational environment that will give these children an excellent opportunity for a productive future.”

The Autism Program at Jefferson Elementary includes three full-day classes of Pre-K ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) for three and four-year olds. Teachers in this program work with students gathering data and use positive reinforcement techniques. In addition, there is a Pre-K Disabilities program comprised of two morning and two afternoon classes for three and four year olds with language and or learning disabilities.

For older students, there is Transition ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) for children at the lower end of the spectrum to work in small groups, individually or both; STEPS ("Special Teaching for Exceptional People") for student who are on a higher functioning spectrum than the Transition ABA students; and Language/Learning Disabled 1, 2, and 3 for students who can function in a small group for their major subjects, such as reading, math and language arts. These students are then mainstreamed to the regular education classes for science, social studies and health.

“Speaking for the Jefferson School Family, we are honored to have First Lady Mary Pat Christie visit us,” said Principal Rosanne Zagatta. “We are proud to be a 2011 Blue Ribbon School, recognized for high achievement in academics for the past five years, and the sending school for the Hawthorne District's successful autism program. The balance of providing a strong K-5 academic program as well as meeting the needs of our PreK-5 special education population is a challenge that continues to be before us every day. The passion and support of staff, parents and community make this a positive ongoing experience.”

Jefferson Elementary is one of seven public schools in New Jersey to be recognized as a national Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.

During her tour, Mrs. Christie visited several classrooms to meet with students in Transition ABA, STEPS, Speech and Mainstream programs. Autism awareness is an advocacy area embraced by Mrs. Christie to bring greater understanding of the developmental disability.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders that is complex and lifelong. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nationwide, it is estimated that autism occurs in 1 out of every 110 births. A reported 1 in 94 New Jersey children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, one of the highest prevalence rates in the nation.

Press Contact:
Michael Drewniak
Kevin Roberts

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