Summer 2017
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GREETINGS
I hope you are enjoying your summer. Since our last newsletter, so many wonderful events have taken place. We completed another stellar school year, we held another fun-filled Rock Brook Celebration fundraiser, we finished another Extended School Year program. Now, we are busy gearing up for another exciting school year. So sit back, relax, and enjoy reading about some of the events that took place over the past several months. As always, please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions. Or, if you would like to schedule a visit, please call us at (908) 431-9500. 

Mary Caterson
Director 
Upcoming Events
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#rbsrocks

Don't forget to use our hashtag on all of your Rock Brook Social Media Posts! 
Extended School Year (ESY)
Rock Brook's Extended School Year Program is an opportunity for our students to continue to build on their skills. A balance between therapy, academics and summer fun, make Rock Brook's ESY program a big hit with our students.  Each week is dedicated to a specific theme. This year's themes included Food/Cooking week; LEGO week; Sports Week; Dance week; and Theatre/Movie week. Below are some photos from our summer fun.











Pictured is RBS Executive Director Mary Caterson (C) with her son Tim (R) and her friend Andy (L).
Rock Brook Celebration
On June 4th, we held our third annual fundraiser
Rock Brook Celebration ... An Evening of Two-Step & Honky Tonk at the Lodge at Montgomery. 
T he fun-filled evening included Country Line Dancing led by instructor Debbie Figel, live Blue Grass music by The Blue Wave Ramblers , and delicious  barbecue buffet b y  the award winning food truck  Mary the Queen of Pork.

Check out the videos of our Country Line Dancing and live music.

You can v iew more photos from our event on Facebook. 
Community Open House/Family Night
On May19th, RBS held its third annual Community Open House/Family Night. A fun evening which included presentations in the classrooms, Pony Rides, compliments of Unicorn Therapeutic Riding in Pennington, DJ Drew Zimmer, arts & crafts, and yummy treats from Kona Ice, Mr C's Grease Truck and Mary the Queen of Pork. A highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the students Connections Project. The event marked the end of Special Education Week. Students created a link that explained how the students, staff and community are all connected. On hand to say a few words was  Mark Caliguire, Somerset County Freeholder and former Mayor of Montgomery. Watch the video to hear a few of the very nice words he had to say about our school. 


From Queen of Pork to Rock Brook Mom 

Pictured are Mary and Eric Erbe with their sons Connor (L) and Alex (R).
On June 4th, "Mary the Queen of Pork" catered Rock Brook's annual Celebration, but there's more to Mary than just delicious barbecue, she's also mother to Alex, who has been a student at Rock Brook since March, 2016.

For 10-year old Alex, finding Rock Brook was a lifesaver. According to his mom, before Alex started at Rock Brook, he had become a shell of his former self. At 4 ½ years old, the family has videos of him singing Christmas songs and making Christmas cookies. When he turned 5, he started inclusion Kindergarten in their district school. Every day he cried. Before starting at Rock Brook, Alex had stopped speaking, singing, interacting. When he did talk you could no longer hear him because he spoke so low. "He was a zombie. He would do what he had to but all joy was gone from his life," says Mary.
 
Alex did not have behavior issues, but if you did not engage with him, he would stay in his own world. "It was traumatic to watch my beautiful engaging boy become so withdrawn."
 
During summer breaks, Alex seemed to come back a little, but once school started he would once again withdraw. Mary and her husband knew they had to do something. There had to be a better option for their little boy. After years of advocating for their child, the parents found it necessary to hire an attorney to make sure Alex was receiving an appropriate education, and lucky for them they found Rock Brook.
 
"It's like a miracle," says Mary. "Alex is back to his old self; bright, engaging, happy; interested in the world around him. Last weekend I had to tell him to stop talking multiple times and to use his inside voice. I never thought I would see this day. I am still in shock that it has happened so quickly."
 
Alex has been diagnosed with severe ADHD, Apraxia, CAPD, Autism and Dyslexia and so while his academic progress is always going to be slow, the teachers at Rock Brook have worked really hard with him and now he is starting to read and really communicate.  
 
Mary can't believe the difference Rock Brook has made in her son's life.
 
"His teachers have never given up on him. They have been all that is good in this world; loving, encouraging, affectionate, understanding, imposing high standards with the belief that he is capable. They provide an amazing atmosphere where Alex has felt loved and believed in. It is so important not to give up on these kids. They can do it; they just need some extra help. I want him to be the best Alex he can be, and at Rock Brook so does the staff. They absolutely go above and beyond for all the children so that they can be the best they can be. I am grateful beyond words to the staff and teachers for the amazing impact they have had on our family."
 
Side note:  Alex recently turned 10 and celebrated it in school with his friends with a pizza party and strawberry Cool Whip cake. One of the things they did in school this past year was try to expose the students to different foods. Until this year, the family did not know Alex liked Strawberries. Turns out he loves them!
Yankees Raffle 
This year, Rock Brook held its very first raffle for a 4-pack of tickets to a Yankees/Red Sox game. A tremendous thanks to Rock Brook parent Laura Jones for donating the tickets. The drawing was held on June 16 and the winner was pulled by Laura's son Maxx and his classmate. We raised $1,550 and the lucky winner was one of our Rock Brook dads!

Thanks so much to everyone who supported us and bought tickets. 
Our Champions
Each newsletter, we highlight a student and a staff member. This edition, we'd like you to meet Kiran and Ms. Chrissy. 

Kiran - Student
Kiran, who will be turning 6 this October, is a remarkable little boy. He is non-verbal, and eager to learn. When he was 2-years old, his father Chander and mother Swathy, adopted him from an orphanage in India. After his arrival in the U.S., Kiran was diagnosed with Apraxia (speech disorder) and Strabismus (similar to lazy eye) in both his eyes, which has since been corrected with surgery.
 
Before Rock Brook, Kiran spent time in public school, but his progress was slow and his communication skills were not improving. In February 2016, Kiran came to Rock Brook. In the year and a half he has been at the school, Kiran has made tremendous strides.
 
Very curious about everything, Kiran is great at following directions. Initially, he comes across as a quiet child but he loves company and tries his best in participating in each activity.
 
"Kiran's education and therapy at Rock Brook has helped him come a long way," says Swathy.  She says he has become more independent and uses multiple ways to convey his feelings and needs. He has acquired some sign language and has become fluent in using his iPad to form sentences in order to communicate. He uses that to share his day and activities with family, friends, and teachers in school or to communicate his desire to bicycle or watch television.
 
People with severe speech or language problems rely on augmentative communication devices, including the iPad, to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional.  Kiran's teachers at Rock Brook taught him to use the iPad so he can express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.
 
Kiran loves watching children shows on television, solving puzzles, reading books, bicycling, swimming, running, throwing Frisbees, and playing basketball. He is also part of a local T-ball team. Kiran has an older sister. The family enjoys traveling, reading books, music, and sports among other activities.
 
"We are very grateful to the teachers at Rock Brook who whole-heartedly invest their time and energy in the development of all the kids," says Swathy.  "Everyone is extremely nice and understanding of kids with special needs. They go above and beyond for their students so they can have a normal life and eventually move back to regular school district."
 
Rock Brook's Director Mary Caterson has high hopes for Kiran's future.  "He has so much going for him. With the proper support, we hope that he will eventually return to the local school in his community."
 
As for the future, Kiran's parents wish and look forward to hearing Kiran speak fluently one day. They know he has so much potential and want him to enjoy his life with friends and family. 

Chrissy Sulouff - Speech & Language Pathologist

"When choosing a profession, I knew I wanted to spend my career helping others."
 
This school year marks Chrissy Sulouff's 10th year as a Speech and Language Pathologist at Rock Brook School. Chrissy, or better known by her students as "Ms. Chrissy," says she specifically chose the field of Speech Language Pathology (SLP) because she is very people-oriented and believes communication is crucial in life to meet our needs, transfer information, and foster relationships. She states she has spent her life working and teaching children, so naturally, she felt like working as an SLP with young people was a great fit, and the best way to spend her life's work. Chrissy has a keen interest and desire to help students read, an essential life skill. Her background as an SLP greatly contributes to her ability to teach reading. She uses the Orton-Gillingham approach with many of her students.
 
Orton-Gillingham (OG) is an instructional approach used primarily with individuals who have difficulty reading, spelling, and writing; however, it can be used with all literacy learners.  It is multi-sensory, language-based, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible.  OG is described as an approach, not a program, since it tailors all lessons to individual needs, and is diagnostic and prescriptive; meaning it continually monitors progress and affects the planning of the next lesson.  The ultimate purpose of the OG approach is to help an individual become a competent reader, writer, and independent learner. Chrissy started using OG at Rock Brook in 2015; however, OG has inspired many "programs" that utilize one of its hallmarks -- multisensory learning. Rock Brook has been using a multisensory approach since it was founded in 1974.
 
Chrissy is a wife and mother of 3 young boys under the age of 3 ½ (2 of which are twins!).  She also has spent more than half of her life in the Irish dancing world (competing and teaching). Chrissy says working at Rock Brook is like an extension of her home.  "I thoroughly enjoy working with the students, their families, and staff.  Rock Brook provides a culture for learning and a family atmosphere."  
Building Skills for a Lifetime
Employing individuals with special needs is not charity. It's the opportunity for both employer and employee to learn and grow. Individuals with special needs oftentimes bring a very specialized skill set and usually have a work ethic that goes well above and beyond that of a typical employee.

A critical component of Rock Brook's high school program is to teach students functional skills in order to reach his or her potential as a fulfilled, self-confident person and become a productive member of the community.

Partnering with area businesses allows us to prepare students for successful transition into adulthood after graduation.

We are excited to announce that Somerset Wood Products Office is the latest business to employ our students. Our students are also employed by Kismet Farms, Mary Jacobs Library, Montgomery Shop Rite, and Montgomery Farmer's Market.

If you are interested in hiring Rock Brook students, please contact Rock Brook School's Principal, Katie Hardgrove at (908) 431-9500 or email khardgrove@rock-brook.org