Special EDition Newsletter SPRING 2020


Franklin Walker, JCPS Superintendent of Schools

Created by: Dr. Gerry Crisonino, Special Education Director; Candace Cocarro, Supervisor; Jaime Merced, Lead Teacher

The Special EDition newsletter is a publication by the Jersey City Public School's Department of Special Education. It highlight's the latest student centered events and activities to keep families and educators informed throughout the school district. What's in this issue?


By: Heather Piechocki

The Jersey City Public Schools Department of Special Education received a donation of 150 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize Winning and Finalist Books from Hudson Subaru in Jersey City. Candace Coccaro, Supervisor of Special Education and Heather Piechocki, Lead Teacher have applied and been the recipients of this grant opportunity for the past three years.

Principal, Dr. Janine Anderson of PS #22 and Julian Petrella from Hudson Subaru pose for a picture with a group of grateful students, the recipients of the Subaru Loves Learning donation.

This donation was made possible by the Subaru Loves Learning Project in partnership with the Science Books & Films (SB&F) Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 2015, Subaru created the Subaru Love Promise Campaign—a pledge to do right by the communities in which we all live and work. It is a promise to make a positive impact in the world by focusing on improving neighborhoods and communities. The Subaru Loves Learning Book Donation Event donates outstanding, prize-winning books to schools. The goal is to engage young learners in the world of science and inspire them to want to learn more. These books are designed to supplement existing curriculum by supporting K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, while also helping to build reading and literacy skills.

All books have been awarded the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize (winners and finalists) for Excellence in Science Books. This prize celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. The prizes are meant to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books for all age groups.

On Wednesday, February 12, 2020 Julian Petrella from Hudson Subaru, along with Lead Teacher, Sean Healy delivered the books to four classes at PS #22 school. Each class received a set of books to add to their classroom library. The remainder of books will be distributed to classes for students with learning disabilities throughout the district. The Department of Special Education is grateful for this wonderful opportunity!

Getting Smart with Smarty Ants®!

By: Kristen Nardini

A student in Ms. Judson's class gets smart with Smarty Ants®.

We are excited to introduce Smarty Ants into our Pre-k Autism class at PS #41! Smarty Ants® is an effective, research-driven computer or tablet based program that differentiates instruction and accelerates students on the path to foundational literacy. This program provides instruction in an engaging, interactive, learning environment. The students in Ms. Judson’s class were excited to receive their tablets and get started with learning the program!

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds

By: Cara Van Note

At PS #5, Dr. Michael Conti School, Mr. Garner and Ms. Barnes’ 7th and 8th grade class is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. These stellar students have been doing their research on methods to obtain the ultimate goal of health. Along with their hours of researching and group discussions, these students, along with their teachers, have been learning new exercises and eating habits. With limited time in their days, recess time has turned into fitness fun!

Students in Mr. Garners class work on their cardiovascular fitness by hula hooping and going for a walk around the courtyard during their recess.

During recess, this class has been fully participating in circuit training, as well as different exercises for cardiovascular endurance! Healthy eating has been part of their daily discussions and as a result, many students are choosing fruit for their daily snacks instead of chips! Room 305 continues to learn that healthy bodies result in healthy minds!


By: Jennifer Lawrence, ATR-BC

Puppets are a fun way for our neurodiverse students to practice a range of skills including sensory regulation, psychomotor regulation, social behaviors and skills, and communication skills. Plus they’re super fun and the kids love making and playing with them!

We start the activity reading I Am Human: A Book or Empathy by Susan Verde. This is a wonderful book that invites students to explore all of the things we have in common as humans - our ability to be playful and caring, as well as how we all feel sad and can be hurtful sometimes. The beautiful illustrations help the students engage with the ideas presented, as well as get their artistic juices flowing.

Then we explore our individuality by putting our hands in the middle of the table and discussing how they are different. Students quickly identify differences in skin color. This transitions us nicely into picking out a skin tone paint that best matches each student’s skin. The kids love spending time picking their color, as well as mixing colors to get it just right. They are then faced with some of the first challenges of this activity - holding the puppet in one hand while also holding a paintbrush in the other, managing the discomfort of getting paint on their hands, and again using both hands to wash out their paintbrushes. It ends up being an activity rich in opportunity for bilateral integration and sensory regulation.

The next time we meet the students get to add detail to their now dry puppets. Using all of our fine motor skills the kids select small items like googly eyes, pom poms, feathers, and foam shapes to add character. Figuring out how much glue to use and being patient enough to let it set is a big challenge the kids get to struggle with and learn from. It always amazing how different each child proceeds with this task. As the students create I’ll often hear spontaneous imaginative play and excited sharing about who their puppet is and what she likes to do. It is hard but the students have to wait until the next session for the glue to dry and to share their puppet’s story.

The final day of this activity is puppet show time. Students practice listening and taking turns. Sometimes the puppet has a lot to say, other students may work from a teacher or peer model. Regardless of how the stories are created the students love sharing with each other and really light up when it’s each of their turns. Making puppets has a been a truly delightful activity to share this year.

Word Builders for Small Group Instruction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

By: Amanda Philp

Word building is such an important skill for students on the autism spectrum to practice on a daily basis. Students on the spectrum need a multi-sensory approach across the different learning topographies. If you're like me and many ASD teachers, word building materials make you absolutely crazy! Kids lose the pieces between lessons and they often end up swept into the garbage by the custodian. Also, students can't find the letters they need because there are too many pieces laying around. In an effort to make this process easier some of the ASD teachers and myself set out to find something that is easy, practical, and cheap. We finally figured out a simple solution. Index Card Word Builders.

Index card reading strip.

Here the students are able to pull the letters through the two attached index cards to create their weekly spelling words. The long letter strips are laminated to ensure durability and you can see at the end of each strip is a piece of electrical tape. Have fun building and practicing your spelling words.

NJCU Basketball CHOICES Clinic

By: Andrew Esposito & Mary Hussey

The C.A.P.E Program takes pride in community involvement. In January, the NJCU Men's Basketball team volunteered their time participating in and organizing stations for the annual Basketball Clinic. The Jersey City Public School's CHOICES program grades primary through high school gathered at the New Jersey City University campus to sharpen their basketball skills. Coach Brown and the Men's Basketball team organized multiple age appropriate stations geared toward skill development and learning the game of basketball. These stations include targeted practice in dribbling, shooting, passing, and small group games.

Students from the CHOICES program also got the opportunity to spend quality time with their pen pals from the Jersey City Police Department and Hudson County Sheriff's office. The student's from the program traveled through each station with their pen pals and catching up on the school year. It was a wonderful experience for all involved.

Thank you NJCU, Coach Brown, NJCU Men's Basketball Team, Jersey City Police Department, Hudson County Sheriff's Office, and the CHOICES program for making this event possible!

These Eagles are Bouncing with Success!

By: Cara Van Note

At PS #17 Joseph H. Bresinger School, Mrs. Carusone’s classroom is filled with multi-sensory action! During a Sonday System lesson, students incorporate many strategies that include auditory, visual, and kinesthetic approaches. These star students have learned how to spell and read a variety of different types of words that require major effort! Resources are available at students’ fingertips that display different methods to help with their success. Students in Mrs. Carusone’s class touch-spell, air-write, trace and say, and use sand trays to aide in applying different skills. Upon completion of an activity, students are rewarded with using a mini-trampoline to bounce out their hard work! Way to go Bresinger Eagles and Mrs. Caursone, you are multi-sensory stars!

Mrs. Carusone and her students work hard to apply multi-sensory strategies during their Sonday lessons.
Crocheting for the Community

By: Melissa Cook

Students and staff of PS 5 from the CHOICES program participated in a community service project that enabled the students to provide scarves and hats to a local homeless shelter. They have spent the past few months crocheting hats and knitting scarves with the guidance of their teachers and the counselor. On January 22, 2020, the class was able to enjoy a nice walking trip to Saint Lucy's shelter. The students greeted the staff, spoke about their project and handed over the completed hats. The students also worked hard gathering socks in order to add to their donation. This community service project really allowed the students to show empathy and compassion for the less fortunate.

JCPS Special Olympics Unified Sports Program-Full Steam Ahead!

By: Jaime Merced

Track and Field at PS 28

On January 25, students participating in the Jersey City Public Schools Special Olympics Unified Sports Program (SOUS) eagerly returned after a brief holiday recess. The SOUS Program was pleased to have a large turnout of athletes on that early Saturday morning who wished to participate in sports activities which included, Basketball, Softball, Swimming, and Track and Field. Athletes meet every week at various schools located throughout Jersey City to practice in preparation to qualify for the Summer Games held in June at the College of New Jersey in Trenton.

Click the video link below for a sneak peek at one of our Track and Field practice sites. ↙

So, what's the Special Olympics Unified Sports Program all about? Well, it brings athletes with and without disabilities together for training and competition. A primary goal of the program is to equalize the ability level of athletes and promote inclusion through team practice and competition. SOUS is an important program as it expands sports opportunities and increases inclusion in the community.


By: Sabrina Martin

The CREATE (Community Readiness Equity And Training Education) program continues to flourish as the students from Dickinson High School Classes participate. Students from both the Autistic and SLD classes attend class one day a week and the group is rotated every semester. The students are learning skills that can then be carryover into the workforce. Some skills include;

 occupational competence such as timelines, expectations/quality, team effort, following multi-step directions

 on-the-job training, and given the opportunity to come in contact with adult mentors and role models

 Experience joint accomplishment of tasks while working in small-group quality circles

 Personal investment in work, elements of a skill take on meaning in the context of the whole, and by allowing competence to build step by step

The program uses a scaffolding technique. Projects become more detailed oriented, require more steps, team/group work opportunities as well as accepting personalized orders and shorter timelines. Over time the program will be able to accept personalized orders for items such as party favors, goodie bags, teacher gifts, shelf sitters, bulletin boards and seasonal décor.

Currently the CREATE students are working on seasonal items, ranging from ornaments, greeting cards, shelf sitters and name plates. All are welcome to visit our newly launched website, or at our location at Dickinson High School.

Dream big and leave a little sparkle where ever you go!

Happy Crafting!