Families unite in effort to start school for children with autism

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

TENAFLY - A borough family has united with other North Jersey families in an effort

to start a school for children with autism.



"It's one of the most exciting things that has really ever happened," said Jon Singer,

whose 6-year-old daughter, Rebecca, has autistic tendencies.  "Knowing that the

school will have a credible impact on Rebecca's future and so many children is a

great feeling."


Singer and his wife, Michey, of Valley Road, began raising funds last year to start a

school that would benefit their daughter. After talking to officials from the Alpine

Learning Group in Paramus, the Singers found there were five other Bergen County

families who had a similar mission for their own children.


"We were on the same track," Singer said. "We wanted to start a school and they

wanted to start one, too, so it was a clincher to work together."


Resources for Effective Educational Development or REED Academy is slated

to open in the fall. Denise Gonzalez, a school spokeswoman, said a location in Bergen

County has yet to be determined.


She said that at first, the school will serve about seven children, ages 3 to 7.

Gonzalez, a school founder, has 5-year-old twins with autism who will attend the school.


"We felt that joining together we would be stronger in advocating for our school," Gonzalez said.


In August, Singer and his daughter, set out on a 3,500-mile trip from New York to California.

"The Drive for Rebecca" was designed to increase autism awareness and to promote and raise

funds for advanced medical and educational research.


The Singers raised more than $80,000 through pledges and other donations.  Singer said they

have distributed more than $20,000 to two autism medical research organizations, and to three

autism educational institutes in New Jersey, as they promised to do in their original fund-raising

announcements. He said about $60,000 was raised for the new school.


For Autism Awareness Month, which is this month, the REED Academy will get help from

Borders Books and Music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.


For every customer who makes a purchase and presents a special coupon on those days, the

store will donate 15 percent of the proceeds to the school and other autism organizations. The

coupons can be printed from the Singers' Web site.


Autism is a lifelong disability that affects communication, social, and life-skills development. It

is sometimes characterized by repetitive movements and children who seem emotionally distant

from their families.  At least one in every 500 Americans is affected by some form of autism,

according to the National Institutes of Health. The cause of autism is not known and there is no cure.


The new school will teach students through the method of "applied behavioral analysis." Students

will all have a one-on-one assistant to focus on life skills, who will help them interact with their family

and community.  For more information about the school or the fund-raising efforts, visit the school's

Web site at www.reedacademy.org.


Monsy Alvarado's e-mail address is alvarado@northjersey.com




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