Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), the Schools for Neurodiversity at the Gloucester County Special Services School District, Rowan University and its medical schools and Gloucester and Cumberland counties have announced the creation of the collaborative Academy for Neurodiversity on the Rowan College campus.
The school’s president, Frederick Keating, announced the new initiative at a press conference on Oct. 25 in which he was joined by former State Sen. President Steve Sweeney; Gloucester County Commissioner Director Frank DiMarco; Special Services School District Superintendent James Dundee; and other officials, parents and students.
“What we have created with the Academy for Neurodiversity is a unique collaborative program that should be a national model for integrating lifelong services for the developmentally disabled,” said Sweeney, who also referenced ground-breaking for an on-site housing complex.
The three-story Residences at South College Drive will provide 24, one-bedroom rent-supported apartments for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as a community room, lounges, laundry facilities and office space for an on-site Counselor of Special Services, said Kimberly Gober, executive director of the Gloucester County Housing Authority.
The project is being funded with $7.365 million in National Housing Trust funds and $3.75 million in grants from Gloucester County.
Dr. Guy Davidson, Rowan College dean of Academic Achievement and Special Services who will chair the new academy, said the impetus behind the new initiative is “to strengthen, expand, and enhance the connections and partnerships that are already in place and create new relationships for the benefit of the students and communities that we serve.”
“At RCSJ, we’ve been in the business of serving the disabled community in Gloucester County and the surrounding region for a long time.”
DiMarco noted that Gloucester County has been on the cutting edge of a wide range of shared services such as county-wide tax assessment and ambulance services to jails, but noted that the partnerships that have been created to provide coordinated special services to the developmentally disabled have been the most rewarding.
“As Temple Grandin put it, ‘the world needs all kinds of minds,’” Dundee said. “This joint collaboration … will enable the Gloucester County Special Services School District to help neurodivergent learners shape their identity and help the world to see the unique strengths of each child’s abilities, rather than focusing on disabilities.”
Sweeney, who championed programs for the developmentally disabled as both Gloucester County freeholder director and senate president, led a tour of the a center named for him that will provide job training and placement programs and the Bankbridge Developmental Center’s autism unit.