Students with autism and other developmental disabilities who attend the Phoenix Center in Nutley are reaching out this Valentine’s Day with handmade cards for the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“In spite of their disabilities, our students have deep compassion for the families and children in Newtown,” said Dr. Geraldine Gibbia, co-founder and executive director of the Phoenix Center.
According to Gibbia, acts of kindness are part of the curriculum at the center.
“Here, we actively teach our students about compassion and how they can make a difference in the lives of others,” she said.
Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, marks the two-month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy.
“These Valentines are one small way for us to show the children, teachers and parents of Newtown that they will always be in our hearts,” Gibbia said.
Founded in 1991, the Phoenix Center is a private, not for profit school in Nutley serving 146 children with autism and other developmental disabilities from 66 towns in eight counties throughout New Jersey, she said.
The school received a prestigious award last year, as one of 10 New Jersey schools recognized for creative special education programming through the 11th annual Innovations in Special Education Awards.
The Phoenix Center located at 16 Monsignor Owens Pl., was honored for “Stretching Our Fitness Goals into the Community.”
In this program, students combine video gaming technology with exercise, according to Gibbia.
That program was an effort among our school, Volt Fitness in Glen Rock and Seton Hall University, Gibbia said.
Currently in its 21st year, with the last 12 in Nutley, the Phoenix Center is a non-profit special education school for students with autism and multiple disabilities who require a highly customized program tailored to their individual needs.
The school is unique in its holistic approach and ability to handle each child, no matter how many challenges they face, Gibbia said.