Parents seek programs for adults with special needs in Old Bridge

OLD BRIDGE — Parents and guardians of special needs children are seeking the township’s help for an adult center for their children as they age out of the school district.

“Once they turn 21 [years old], they are no longer involved in school and we need to find something for them to do,” said Barry Solomon, whose son, Scott,  has special needs.

Solomon attended recent Township Council meetings with other parents, requesting the township begin a group or committee to discuss the needs of their children, noting that there are about 700 special needs adults in the township.

“It will be great for them to stay in Old Bridge as they get older,” he said. “In high school, they obtain work experience and they also get to say they get to go on the senior trip to Disney.”

Solomon said the Old Bridge School District and the township offer numerous services for children with special needs including the Project Unify Club, Camp ROBIN – which he said is one of the best programs run in the state – and Special Olympics.

Camp ROBIN is a year-round program offering both therapeutic and diverse recreational activities for children ages seven through 21 through the Old Bridge Township Parks and Recreation Department.

“Old Bridge is very much lacking in the 21-and-over services,” Solomon said. “Old Bridge doesn’t have a day program. Currently, parents have to look outside the town for these services that do exist in other places including Monmouth (County) and [northern] New Jersey.”

Mayor Owen Henry said he has been working with Pete Pero, Camp ROBIN coordinator for about two years on a possible special needs adult program.

“Currently, we only have the one Friday night program for the adults,” he said. “We are working with the state to have permission. We can’t just do the things that you want to do with special needs. We have to have a program that is approved and we are working with the state to accomplish that.”

Henry said with the state, there are some hurdles. He said he has reached out to state Sen. Sam Thompson (R-Middlesex) and other state officials.

“We are working in a direction where we want to go,” he said, noting that it is still a process.

Henry said he supports the township’s special needs population.

“I would like to see those programs continue through the adult stages of life,” he said. “I believe it would be very productive and it makes us a better community if we provide those services. We are trying to come up with game plan to move forward.”

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.