Special Support from the Guttenberg Center (dedicated)

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It doesn’t take long, after the birth of your first child, to realize that you’re going to need to find other new parents and resources to help you navigate this parenting gig you’ve just signed up for. But when a child is born with special needs, the search for support becomes a challenge, especially when parents are also learning the ins and outs of the specialized care their child will require. At Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, the Guttenberg Center for Special Services addresses these challenges by building an inclusive community, and programs and services, designed to champion children with special needs, and their families.

Families who are caring for children with special needs face challenges that are both universal and unique. They are faced with additional financial strain, the emotional toll of constantly needing to advocate for their child, the threat of burnout from never having the luxury of being “off duty”, and a deep uncertainty about their child’s future. Families often feel socially isolated, misunderstood and marginalized, and balancing the duties of caregiving with work, managing a household, and other family commitments can be challenging and exhausting.

The Guttenberg Center for Special Services provides a place for parents and families to access resources, network with professionals, and build community with other families who share counsel, give emotional support, understanding, and empathy. Families have access to practical assistance including advocacy, assistance in accessing state-provided services and funds, accessing resources, information and services tailored to the individual needs of their children. And because we are all stronger together, families associated with the Guttenberg Center have the opportunity to join with others who are advocating for policy change, increased accessibility, improved services, a reduction in stigma, and equity for individuals with special needs.

Most importantly, the Guttenberg Center has a full slate of programs to assist families. Designed for high school and college students, youth groups, and camp counselors, the Guttenberg Center Babysitting and Shadowing Training program provides comprehensive training for caregiving roles. This addresses a primary concern of parents with children with special needs – finding caregivers for their children who are educated, experienced, and reliable, with the confidence to handle diverse situations with compassion.

Parents of special needs children aged 0-3 are invited to attend Discovering Together, a Mommy and Me class for Special Little Ones. In addition to meeting other parents who are facing similar challenges, parents are able to engage in play activities, and participate in expert-led discussions on child development in a community of understanding, encouragement, and mutual support. Discovering Together classes are safe spaces where parents can, for at least a little while, put aside their constant worries and engage wholeheartedly with their child, while also connecting with other adults and professionals who have a familiarity with their

The Guttenberg Center also offers Sibling Support groups, safe and empathetic spaces for siblings to express themselves and receive validation without judgment. Designed for teenagers aged 13-18, the Supportive Circle for Adolescents offers peer support, coping strategies, and empowerment for navigating sibling relationships and family dynamics.

Families of children with special needs know that with great gifts come great responsibilities. Though they are forever grateful for the gift of their children, their responsibilities and challenges are worth recognizing and addressing. For more information about any of the programs and services offered by The Guttenberg Center for Special Services at Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, please contact Ruthie Bashan, rbashan@jccotp.org 201-408-1489.

411 E Clinton Ave

Tenafly, NJ 07670

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