At the Jardine Academy for children with developmental disabilities, 88 students, most with cerebral palsy, receive loving attention from a large staff that includes teachers, therapists, nurses, administrators and others.
The K-12 school, operated by the Cerebral Palsy League in Cranford, provides elementary and secondary education for children and young adults, ages 3-21, with multiple disabilities. Many of which make use of electric wheelchairs that helps with their movement. The curriculum focuses on self-care, health and fitness, interpersonal skills, mobility and functional academics.
Providing effective instruction for Jardine’s students requires, among other things, seamless teamwork. But this doesn’t come naturally to employees in any organization, large or small. The inevitable problem: poor communication between people of different education, training, backgrounds and personalities.
“This is something everyone has to deal with in the work environment,” says school Principal Cynthia Isaksen. “When you’ve got that many people working together, you’re bound to have miscommunication.”
To help employees on every level do a better job of communicating with each other, the Cerebral Palsy League set aside a full day of training for all staff on effective interpersonal communication. Union County College’s Industry-Business Institute provided the training free of charge, through the state’s Basic Skills Workforce Training Program, which is funded by the NJ Department of Labor.
During the course of the day, Isaksen said, employees from different disciplines and backgrounds worked together intensively in break-out sessions.
Employees are doing a better job of communicating and they are working more closely as teams. “People feel more empowered to approach a colleague to solve a
problem,” she said.
Citing one example, she said a teacher can better support a therapist’s goal (be they a physical, occupational, speech or music therapist), if the therapist has clearly communicated what it is they want to accomplish.
The Basic Skills Workforce Training Program is available to all New Jersey employers in basic computer operations (Windows OS and Office), communications (verbal, written and customer service), English as a second language, Spanish in the workplace, and mathematics & measurement.
“Companies love this program because it’s free of tuition charges, and our 19 community colleges provide firstclass, customized instruction,” says Community College Consortium CEO Sivaraman Anbarasan. “In seven years, more than 75,000 employees with over 4,500 businesses and organizations have been trained through our Basic Skills program.”
This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of New Jersey Business, the magazine of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. The author is Christopher Biddle, President of Biddle Communications & Public Relations.