Once upon a time, the outlook for becoming a contributing member of society for a child with Down Syndrome or other severe learning disability was poor. Before the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were no mandated programs or services for children with special needs. Often, infants were institutionalized. Parents of these children stepped into the void, coming together to form organizations, such as Education, Careers & Lifelong Community (ECLC), and start programs that provided early-intervention services in order to achieve their maximum potential.
Founded in 1970, ECLC is an accredited nonprofit educating students ages 5–21 with autism spectrum, Down Syndrome, severe learning and/or language disabilities or multiple disabilities at two schools located in Chatham and Ho-Ho-Kus. In addition, through its Community Personnel Services and P.R.I.D.E programs, ECLC provides post-graduate transition services, support coordination and job placements to any special-needs adult and offers pre-vocational training, independent living and other skills. The goal is to mirror a “typical” school experience with clubs, activities, trips, proms and a beautiful graduation ceremony! At the same time, students are prepared for life after graduation with a renowned Transition Program, beginning at age 14. The program begins with in-house work experiences and eventually places students into actual work places where they will nearly basic job skills and hone in on the type of job they might pursue as an adult.
Since its founding in 1970 by a group of concerned parents and others to provide early-intervention services to a handful of pre-school children with special needs, ECLC has expanded and today serves more than 750 children and adults from 11 counties across New Jersey.