April 8, 2011 - First Lady Mary Pat Christie Highlights Woodrow Wilson Middle School Program to Improve Life Skills for Students with Autism

For Immediate Release: Contact: Michael Drewniak
Kevin Roberts
View Photos
Date: Friday, April 8, 2011 609-777-2600 Bookmark and Share
photoAlt School's Coffee Shop Provides Unique Approach to Learning Trenton, NJ - Continuing her efforts to increase autism awareness in New Jersey, First Lady Mary Pat Christie stopped by the Woodrow Wilson Middle School coffee shop in Edison today to get a closer look at how the program is providing students with autism the skills they need to succeed in their daily lives. The coffee shop is open every Friday in the school's home economics classroom.

 "As parents we want our children to have the best opportunities possible for a productive and fulfilling future," said Mrs. Christie.  "It's wonderful to see how important life skills are being taught in this non-traditional classroom setting. I applaud the Woodrow Wilson staff for their fresh approach in expanding the learning process for these special needs students."

 In operation since October 2010, the coffee shop is strengthening vital skills for the 12 students who work there serving coffee, tea, donuts and other sweets for purchase. Students learn and perform a variety of tasks that include operating the cash register, ordering supplies and delivering orders to staff members.
"This program is unique because it educates the whole child," Principal Patricia Cotoia said. "Academic, communication, social and life skills are practiced and reinforced in a meaningful way."
Autism is a spectrum of disorders that is complex and lifelong. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nationwide, it is estimated that autism occurs in 1 out of every 110 births. In New Jersey, the prevalence rate is reported to be 1 in 94.  Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls and affects families of all races, ethnicities and socio-economic groups.

Autism awareness is a new advocacy area being embraced by First Lady Mary Pat Christie to bring greater understanding of the developmental disability.  During Autism Awareness Month, Mrs. Christie is highlighting the innovative work being done by organizations throughout the state to serve people with autism spectrum disorder. Last week, she toured the EPIC School in Paramus to see the structured educational programs that are teaching new skills and increasing independence for students with autism.