Creating a Safe Space for Special Needs Individuals
As part of Making a Difference Week, Steve Adubato goes on-location to LifeTown to discuss how this facility is preparing individuals with special needs for independent living by offering real-world scenarios in a safe, fun and controlled environment.
"The first day we opened this building, there was one mother walking down the hallway, holding her child's hand. And one of our staff members passed by, and just out loud, as if to nobody, she says, "This place makes you proud to have a child with special needs." When I heard that, that was it. It was worth the entire project. Now we are familiar with you, both of you, and your work. Your extraordinary work. Particularly dealing with those with special needs. Teens and children. Through the Making a Difference Awards, the Russ Berrie Foundation Making a Difference Awards. Tell us, Rabbi, what this location is, and why it's so special? There's times when there's opportunities and responsibilities, and when we started the Friendship Circle, that's the type of response that we always felt we needed to step up and make a difference. The families were coming to us, they were asking for programs, they were asking for opportunities for their children. As those children grew, to teens, to young adults we needed to respond. And this is just an expansion of that. New Jersey has the highest rate of autism... In the nation? In the nation. And therefore across the world, because the United States has the highest rate of autism. Essex County has the highest rate of autism in New Jersey. So this really puts this building in the epicenter, and therefore in the opportunity and the responsibility. I mean there's a Jersey Shore room. There's a room with... there's a bank over here, there's a pool that's being built, there's a football field connected with the New York Jets. They built the f... It's extraordinary. Describe some of the rooms. And why they're so special. We really wanted to give these children an opportunity to have what they really need. So every room is... What do they need? They're... you know, it's different than your typical child. You can put them in any room and kind of set up a location for them and, you know, teach them those skills. But for these young individuals, they need everything to be perfect for them, so that they really feel at home and at ease, and they can learn those skills that they need. So for example, when I was in the gym, you said to me, Rabbi, that it's soundproof. Because? Bec... well the echo. We have a special ceiling and wall panels, so there's no echo, because a lot of the individuals have sensory issues and sensitivity at the gym. And therefore they can't participate in sports in a regular gym. So here, we're gonna have a basketball league with all the area..."