What Helps the Jardine Academy Staff Do a Better Job of Teaching Their Students? Effective Team Communication

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, yoga instructors 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.

In case you were not already aware, cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that can cause limitations when it comes to movement, balance, speech, and more. A child living with cerebral palsy might need one or several different types of treatment depending on how severe the symptoms are and what parts of the body are affected. Consequently, the treatment differs from person to person, depending on the specific needs of each child.

That being said, most children with cerebral palsy usually start physical therapies in the first few years of life or soon after being diagnosed. In short, physical therapy is one of the most important parts of treatment. It involves exercises and activities such as yoga that can maintain or improve muscle strength, balance, and movement. A physical therapist helps the child learn skills such as sitting, walking, or using a wheelchair.

Accordingly, yoga is a form of exercise that emphasizes physical activity and mastery of both the body and mind. For many children with cerebral palsy, yoga can help alleviate some of the physical and mental challenges they face on a regular basis. We, therefore employ staff members that have completed the best yoga teacher training in india to carry out special physical therapy sessions for our students.

Essentially, yoga incorporates a series of stretches done in sync with breathing exercises to help reset different bodily systems, stretch muscles and tendons, as well as tone muscle groups across the body. Most importantly, it is gentle and can be done by people of virtually all ages, making it an ideal form of treatment for children with cerebral palsy who may suffer from a limited range of movement, as well as difficulty performing more mainstream exercises.

Many yoga instructors offer adaptive yoga programs for children that can help them to learn yoga at a comfortable pace. If you have particular concerns about the abilities of your child, discuss them with a qualified yoga instructor, and ask about their experiences working with children with cerebral palsy to see if they have recommendations. It is also strongly recommended that you consult with a few yoga studios and instructors in your area to find the best fit for the needs of your child.

Teaching assistant Annie Olivier spends time with Adonis in the Academy's hands-on Fun Zone.
Teaching assistant Annie Olivier spends time with Adonis in the Academy’s hands-on Fun Zone.

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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.

The result?

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.

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