Union County, NJ – In recognition of April as National Autism Awareness Month, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders reminds residents that the new Office for People with Special Needs is available to provide opportunities to engage in recreational and social activities, and connect with the broader community.
One highlight of the month is Union County’s annual Walk for Autism Awareness and Spring Carnival, featuring entertainment, food and prizes. This year the rain-or-shine event takes place at the County’s Mattano Park in Elizabeth on April 28, beginning at 11:00 a.m.
“Throughout April, blue lights illuminate many homes, landmarks and buildings to encourage awareness, support and inclusion for people with autism,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “The new Office for People with Special Needs provides us with a springboard for moving from awareness to action.”
The Office for People with Special Needs is the first office of its kind in New Jersey. It was established this year as part of Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados’s 2018 “Moving Union County Forward” initiative, which focuses on including and empowering all residents.
Union County’s ongoing programs for people with autism include the Sensory Friendly Theatre series at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway. The series was established as an initiative of Freeholder Alexander Mirabella when he served as Chairman in 2012.
“Sensory Friendly Theatre provides a ‘judgment free zone’ where children and their families can enjoy the enriching experience of live performances,” said Mirabella. “I’m very proud that my colleagues on the Freeholder Board continue to support this popular program.”
For more information about Sensory Friendly Theatre visit ucpac.org.
Granados noted that New Jersey residents have an especially strong interest in focusing resources on programs for people with autism.
“Nationally, one in 68 school age children are identified on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the number climbs to one in 41 in New Jersey,” he said. “It is imperative to step up our efforts to ensure that people with autism, along with their families, friends and caregivers, have access to programs and activities that connect them with the broader community.”
The Office for People with Special Needs provides recreational and social opportunities for residents living with special needs including physical, cognitive and developmental challenges to promote inclusion and full access to community enjoyment.
The office also partners with educational, health and social services organizations serving those living with special needs children.
Activities for people with autism in April offered by Union County in April include yoga, volleyball, and more. The annual Touch-A-Truck event also includes a quiet hour for children with sensory sensitivities.
In support of Autism Awareness Month, the Freeholder Board will also host a group outing to the Red Bulls Arena through the Office for People with Special Needs.
Beginning in May and after, the programs include ceramics, karate, Zumba and cooking, along with social events including the Spring Fishing Derby, Summer Carnival, Fall Fishing Derby, Barn Dance, Ice Skating and Night out with the New Jersey Devils.
The Walk for Autism Awareness and Spring Carnival is offered by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders through the Office for People with Special Needs, with the generous help of community partners, PepsiCo and the Pepsi Beverage Company. To join, use the online registration form at ucnj.org/opsn-reg.
For more details about the Walk for Autism Awareness, and for more information about all programs for special needs youth and families, contact the Office for Special Needs Coordinator Manuel Ramirez at 908-527-4781 or Assistant Coordinator Nicole DeAugustine at 908-527-4916.
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