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The Center for Sensory and Complex Disabilties: A mission that does not fall on deaf ears

By Kella Davila

The Center for Sensory and Complex Disabilities was brought to the College by Jerry G. Petroff, the center’s program director. While CSCD does focus on the deaf and visually impaired, that is not to say that qualifications to participate in the program are restricted to these characteristics.

“We also are concerned about those students and those children and people that have the most significant disabilities, the most complex … because those are the people that don’t get the things that they need,” Petroff said.

Along with programs for the deaf and blind, the CSCD also welcomes those with physical disabilities and intellectual disabilities, such as having an IQ less than 70.

At the College, CSCD will be busy carrying out its plans for this year’s Blindness Awareness Month. October has been recognized as the official month of BAM in New Jersey since 2009 and has expanded to include 43 other states across the country.

The Center has planned events which include showing a film and hosting a follow-up discussion, staging a band night at the RAT, and bringing speakers to the campus who can shed light on the issues occurring today in the deaf-blind community. Although BAM is a huge part of the CSCD’s work on campus, it is not the only program run by the CSCD’s crew.

The CSCD has different divisions to meet the needs of the diverse participants of the program. One of these divisions is the Work Skills Preparation Program, headed by one of the College’s alumni, Kelly Reymann. Reymann, class of 2003, has devoted over eight years to deaf-blind and special needs education and is the project director for the WSP program at the College.

The WSP program works with students with special needs to “teach them skills, like ways that they could access their money, or pay for a purchase,” Reymann explained. The social skills that are taught to these students ready them for jobs they may have in the future.

“We have the students actually go to work, and our staff provides support,” Reymann said.

Through the WSP program, many students have acquired jobs on campus in The Library Café or at The Atrium in Eickhoff. Outside of the College, the WSP program has managed to find jobs for students at venues like the Trenton Thunder, Marshalls and the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company.

“We have this belief that all people with disabilities are capable and able to work in the community. It is our job to be creative and tenacious in finding that match and job carving it out,” Reymann said.

CSCD has also become a great resource for College students who are interested in working with complex disabilities. Nicholas Schade, senior special education and history double major, was able to get a jumpstart on gaining experience in his intended work field while still in his third year. The CSCD is also working on a project called the Support Service Providers that endeavors to teach any and all students interested how to provide assistance to people with complex disabilities.

Schade expressed his view on some interactions he has witnessed at the College between students without special needs and those who have them.

“People are just not really sure what to do about it … there is an etiquette to interacting with people who are blind that most people are generally not aware of,” Schade said.


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