Students with autism are taught through systematic strategies and are consistently reinforced for displaying desired behaviors. A vital part of this program is the collection of daily IEP data to measure the progression of skill development and to equip staff with information they need to make judgments regarding programs. Social skills training is incorporated into all autistic classes and is applied during community-based instruction. Instruction in the community provides a real-world opportunity to assist in the generalization of skills learned in the classrooms. Staff members engage in strategic planning for transition to more inclusive settings. The social skills curriculum focuses on the development of social skills including play, conversation, understanding nuances, body language and various sensitive topics.
Autism - Navigating Through the Maze - DDD Office of Autism
Multiple Disabilities Program
The Multiple Disabilities (MD) Program provides IEP-based instruction for all students. Individualized instruction supports different learning styles. A variety of reading and math teaching strategies assist students who have difficulty with traditional methods of teaching. A special education teacher delivers the instruction based on the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards, the district curriculum and the goals and objectives in the student's Individual Education Program (IEP). The program is designed to meet the needs of students who have more than one disability. Students with severe disabilities develop increased functioning in personal skills as well as adaptive behavior. All students learn how to function as independently as possible and can take advantage of the school's Activities of Daily Living rooms which are modeled after a functioning kitchen. Students can practice their skills with the goal of generalizing to the home setting. All services are IEP driven. Students receive a full complement of therapy according to their IEPs including speech, occupational and physical therapy as well as individual and group counseling.
Behavior Disabilities Program
The Behavioral Disabilities Program provides support for academic progress while enabling students to obtain strategies to improve social and emotional skills. Students are able to access a wide variety of services including participation in individual and small group counseling, social decision-making and anger management groups. Crisis intervention team members and behavioral assistants provide support and assistance to staff and students. School-wide behavior support systems ensure that Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) are implemented through all school and community settings. The goal is to provide the students with the strategies and replacement behavior necessary for continued success.
Cognitive Severe Program
The Cognitive Severe Program provides intense therapy and classroom support for students with the most severe medical, cognitive, and physical needs. A collaborative approach is used with classroom staff and therapists working together to provide a stimulating and supportive environment for those students with the significant developmental delays. The goal is to keep the students actively engaged throughout the school day using a wide array of sensory experiences and integrated techniques and strategies.
Throughout the school year, field trips and community-based instruction enhance and supplement the school-based curriculum and activities. Staff members plan assemblies which provide a hands-on approach to learning. Students and parents are encouraged to participate in community activities such as Challenger Baseball and Basketball, Special Olympics, S.K.O.R (Special Kids Organized Recreation), PAL programs, community and sending district school athletic teams. Parents and students participate in the Scholastic Book Fair which provides a wide variety of reading materials and educational games for students. All students learn how to function as independently as possible and can take advantage of the school's Activities of Daily Living rooms (ADL), which are modeled after a functioning kitchen. Students can practice their skills with the goal of generalizing to the home setting.
A portfolio assessment evaluation process is used at Mercer Elementary School. Each student has his/her own portfolio for academic, social and therapy assessment. Staff members evaluate students at least twice per year and keep ongoing information regarding student progress in the portfolio. The portfolio documents follow the student throughout their time at Mercer Elementary School. When the students return to their sending district or move on to Mercer High School, these documents follow them to their next teacher. Parents are invited to review the portfolios on a regular basis. When appropriate, students have been able to participate in the selection of materials included in their portfolio. Student progress reports are issued three times during the school year and once during Extended School Year. Formal parent conferences are held twice yearly, however parents can request a conference any time throughout the year.
Individual, dyad and small group instruction are employed depending on the needs of the student and the demands of the curriculum. Staff members engage in strategic planning for transition to more inclusive settings. Social skills development is a key component which encourages appropriate decision-making, developing independence and building responsibility. Students participate in several clubs including C.A.L.M.(Caring, Accepting, Leading , Mentoring) , K.I.N.D (Kind, Inspiring, Noble, Determined) and RAKtavists ( Random Act of Kindness Activists) to give back to the community, to learn leadership skills and to mentor others.
Related Arts & Clubs
Special subject teachers provide instruction in Spanish, Music, Art, Library, Health and Physical Education. These classes provide students the opportunity to experience success in a venue that encourages cooperation and working as part of a group. Mercer Elementary also has two choirs for students interested in singing. There is a vocal choir and an augmentative choir. The choir hosts a winter and spring concert each year, and has performed at the Princeton MarketFair during Read Across America Week. An art club is available for students who are interested in developing a variety of skills, or participating in more extensive art projects. Projects are displayed within the school and community throughout the year, and various art contests are entered. Intramural sports is a daily option for students and encourages team building and sportsmanship. A Speech club is conducted by members of the Speech Therapy department that focuses on the use of assistive technology to communicate using iPads and the application Proloquo2go. All classes participate in code.org’s “Hour of Code” to increase computer science skills and they utilize various coding applications throughout the year.
Mercer Elementary School hosts a dynamic and active student body with special needs ranging from physical, emotional, and behavioral areas. A Sensory room is used to facilitate self-regulation, self-organization, relaxation and sensory awareness in order to integrate the student back into the classroom prepared to learn. The room allows students to achieve an optimal level of arousal to be able to attend to classroom activities. Use of the Sensory room by students addresses the primary senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing, vestibular, proprioception and oral motor/taste.
Through partnerships with Young Audiences NJ/PA and Roxey Ballet, staff and students have the opportunity to work with artists in residence at Mercer Elementary School. Young Audiences believes that “An arts-rich education provides a child with the ability to look beyond facts and figures and creatively meet new challenges as they arise.” Young Audiences believes “the arts make learning fun, providing an environment varied and compelling enough to engage even the most reluctant learners and providing day-dreamers with a classroom as rich as their imagination.” The use of Arts infused lessons and special projects are incorporated into the student's day. Recently, Mercer Elementary School was awarded an NRG STEAM Grant from Young Audiences that will allow students to work on the creation of a school mural.