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FAQs

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex disorder of brain development that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction and relationship forming, verbal and nonverbal communication, rigidity to change, and repetitive behaviors. For more information please consult your pediatrician or the DSM-V diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Dr. Donald M. Baer (2001) concisely defined Applied Behavior Analysis as “A scientific process of identifying environmental supports for improving behavior.”

More specifically, Applied Behavior Analysis is an experimental science of behavior. It produces analysts who can demonstrate that observed improvements in behavior are a function of procedures put in place by them. These analysts turn to their data and learn from it when a procedure fails to determine what might be done next.

Applied Behavior Analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place – the relationship behavior has with environment. Behavior Analysts objectively describe, quantify, and analyze behavior. They operate from assumptions of all natural sciences: the belief that the world is an orderly place where events occur because of other identifiable events rather than by chance.

Through decades of research, the field of behavior analysis has developed many techniques for increasing useful behaviors and reducing dysfunctional ones. These techniques (e.g., contingency management, positive reinforcement, incidental teaching, etc.) are used in the structured classroom environment as well as in the home and community.

How can I seek enrollment at Somerset Hills Learning Institute?

In order for a child to be considered for enrollment in the Institute, parents or school district personnel must make a referral. To make a referral, please mail:

  1. A copy of the initial report of the child’s diagnosis
  2. A one-page cover letter, including:
    1. A description of the child
    2. Information regarding any services the child is already receiving
    3. His/her date of birth
    4. A return address and phone contact information

Referral Policy

We do not operate from a waiting list, rather we have a referral file to which we turn when we have a vacancy. That means children are not enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, when we have a vacancy, we consider the needs of the students we currently serve and the needs of the referred children. As such, you are welcome to make a referral at any time.

Mail Referrals To:
Kevin J. Brothers, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Executive Director
Somerset Hills Learning Institute
1810 Burnt Mills Road
Bedminster, NJ 07921

Can I visit the Institute?

Yes, the Institute hosts visitors’ days approximately every six weeks. Visitors’ days generally begin at 9:00 AM, lasts two hours and consist of a presentation, tour, and brief question and answer session. For more information or to register to attend, please contact Patty Scott at (908) 719-6400.

How can I contribute to the Institute?

Thank you for your generous consideration.  *Please note that the Institute does not accept donations from families who have children in our referral file. Others may contribute via PayPal, over the phone by calling Tara Ferrigno at 908-719-6400, or by mail at Somerset Hills Learning Institute, 1810 Burnt Mills Road, Bedminster, NJ 07921. We also accept automobile donations. For information on making stock contributions, please contact Dave May at 908-719-6400.

Are there any employment opportunities within the Institute?

Thank you for your interest in becoming employed by Somerset Hills Learning Institute. Regrettably, we have no positions at this time but can accept your resume via email at info@somerset-hills.org for consideration for future positions. In the meantime, we wish you all the best in your search for employment.

Are there any volunteer opportunities within the Institute?

Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Somerset Hills Learning Institute. We currently have no volunteer projects left unfilled. Nevertheless, please consider sending your resume and cover letter including the type of volunteer experience in which you are interested for consideration for future volunteer opportunities. Thank you.

How has the Institute complied with the regulations of the Safe Drinking Water Act?

The Safe Drinking Water regulations as specified in N.J.A.C. 6A:26-12.4 and N.J.S.A. 58:12A-1 et seq. Requires the testing of Lead in drinking water in all New Jersey schools. We are pleased to inform you that the levels of Lead for all the taps tested in June at the Institute do not exceed the action level of 15.0 parts per billion (ug/L). The link below will direct you to the test results as well as other pertinent information regarding Lead tap water monitoring.

Somerset Hills Learning Institute takes very seriously the purity of its water and has contracted with McGowan Well Water Management Company and The Portasoft Company to manage and maintain our water system since we moved into the building in 2007. The Institute will continue to remain diligent to ensure its water is safe for consumption.

Click Here for Test Results

What is the Institute’s School Closure Preparedness Plan?

Purpose

The purpose of this plan is to outline the steps Somerset Hills Learning Institute will undertake in the event of a health-related required school closing to provide equitable access to home instruction for all students, and to outline the steps the Institute will undertake to prepare for and execute a plan to re-open the school building. All of the Institute’s students hold the demographic profile of “students with disabilities” (i.e., autism), 0% of whom hold the profile of State Funded Preschool, Homeless, LSE, and ELL.  We polled every family we serve and learned that 100% of our families have internet access and devices for the execution of our plan.  On a routine basis during live-stream video sessions, instructional personnel will continue to identify and evaluate any technology needs that may cause a digital divide such as network access issues, insufficient access to devices, or any other concerns that prevent equitable access to instruction.  In addition, Somerset Hills Learning Institute has sufficient resources available to execute our plan and will promptly address any needs as they arise including providing families with IT support and devices if necessary.  Somerset Hills Learning Institute does not participate in the national breakfast and/or lunch program as it is not a food service provider for students.  There are no families of students enrolled at Somerset Hills Learning Institute who  are classified as food insecure. Because the Institute exists to meet the extremely diverse educational needs of learners with autism, this plan seeks to preserve child-centered decision making with adherence to relevant NJDOE regulations, as we ensure a safe workplace.

Preparedness Plan

The diversity of our students’ needs makes a single, one-size-fits-all plan impossible.  As such, our plan reflects the needs of students who can receive academic instruction independently via live-stream video formats, those who cannot receive academic instruction independently via live-stream video formats and instead need instruction mediated by the student’s parents under the direction of our instructional staff either present or via live-stream video, and those who need direct instruction from our staff in-vivo.  All plans include adapted materials and assignments to meet all students’ needs and will be implemented in accordance with their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to the greatest extent possible.

  • Students who can receive academic instruction independently via live-stream video because of criterion levels of engagement, success with small group instruction, and low levels of aggression, self-injury, and stereotypic behavior:
    • Certified Teachers or instructional aides under the supervision of certified teachers & BCBAs will provide 1:1 instruction or small group instruction via live-stream video no fewer than 10 hours per week during no fewer than 3 separate days
  • Students who cannot receive academic instruction independently via live-stream video because of sub-criterion levels of engagement in group instruction, and/or impeding levels of aggression, self-injury, or stereotypic behavior:
    • Certified Teachers or instructional aides under the supervision of certified teachers & BCBAs will supervise parents delivering instruction via live stream video.  Staff will instruct parents in a 1:1 ratio no fewer than 10 hours per week during no fewer than 3 separate days
  • Students who require direct instruction from staff because of low levels of engagement, lack of prerequisite skills for small group instruction, high levels of aggression, self-injury, or stereotypic behavior that require ongoing understanding of function and clinical decision-making:
    • Certified Teachers or instructional aides under the supervision of certified teachers & BCBAs will provide direct instruction in a 1:1 ratio to students in-vivo no fewer than 10 hours per week during no fewer than 3 separate days, except when doing so exposes the staff member to a contagious, infectious, or communicable disease, or the condition of the student is such as to preclude benefit from instruction

Evaluations, IEP Reviews, Eligibility Meetings, & Re-Evaluation Meetings
 
We will remain in contact with Districts and follow their lead on rescheduling or holding via tele-conference all Evaluations, IEP Reviews, Eligibility Meetings, & Re-Evaluation Meetings.

Methods to Document IEP implementation and Track Direct Delivery of Services

Somerset Hills Learning Institute staff provide direct instruction to students and coaching to parents on the IEP goals and objectives to the greatest extent possible.  In addition to the provision of direct instruction, staff communicate with parents routinely between the regular work hours of 8AM – 4PM to discuss instructional programs, create and share materials electronically, analyze data, and provide support for any other student challenges that arise.  In some circumstances (e.g., parent work schedules, illness, behavioral issues, etc.), when students and families require additional support, Institute personnel may temporarily provide intervention services beyond the regular work hours.  The day and length of time of these services are automatically recorded by the virtual on-line platform which the Institute uses to deliver remote learning.  Parents are also encouraged to continue to work on skills yoked to IEP goals and objectives outside of the hours of direct instruction to further extend their child’s instructional time.  Through the use of activity schedules, students work on a variety of skills including, but not limited to the following areas: academic, self-care, leisure, physical education, independent/home living, pre-vocational, expressive and receptive language, engagement, behavior-control and social/communication skills.  Instruction across activities varies in format to facilitate skill acquisition, promote independent completion of work assignments, and complete activities that are directed by parents and instructors.

Accommodations and modifications continue to be provided and implemented in accordance with students’ IEP’s to the greatest extent possible.  In addition to school personnel modifying and creating new instructional materials (which are shared electronically with parents, printed and used during instructional sessions and home programs), instructional materials and other related supplies are also purchased on-line and delivered to students’ homes directly as needed.  A variety of digital on-line resources are also utilized with students and shared with parents.

Methods to Track Student Progress and Maximize Student Growth and Learning

Every goal and objective in a student’s IEP is aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and has a corresponding individualized instructional program which is created by the teacher and serves as the lesson plan for the student to acquire the target skill.  Individualized instructional programs specify a response definition, teaching procedure, measurement procedure, and means for collecting, recording and analyzing data.  To the greatest extent possible, teachers and parents collect data on the student’s performance based on the method of assessment described in the measurement procedure of the individualized instructional program.  Student progress is measured through on-going assessments of student performance.  Student performance data are summarized and analyzed by the Institute’s intervention team to ensure satisfactory progress towards goals and objectives. Ongoing data-based decisions guide programming modifications as students acquire skills and when data show that the teaching procedures are not yet achieving the desired outcome.

In addition to the teachers and aides, Institute BCBA’s continue to provide supervision and support to staff and parents during instructional sessions with students via video conferencing, and work with other team members to analyze data and make ongoing data-based decisions to maximize student growth and learning.  As many students have, or will develop medical co-morbidities, the Institute’s nurse  works collaboratively with staff and parents to address these complex issues.

Attendance

Somerset Hills Learning Institute recognizes the importance of consistent attendance so that students receive the maximum possible benefit from the program. It is the policy of the Somerset Hills Learning Institute to support students daily attendance and timely arrival to virtual instruction classes during home instruction in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25 through 31), the New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C. 6A:7:6, 6A:32-8, 6A:16-10, and 6A:14-4.8), the document entitled, “Guidance for Reporting Student Absences and Calculating Chronic Absenteeism” issued by the NJDOE (Version 3: May 2019), and the official School Register issued annually by the NJDOE.
As such, classroom teachers record attendance daily. For each virtual instructional session during which home instruction is provided, teachers record the date and the start and end times.  Students are recorded as present, or absent for each scheduled school day.  Students will receive no fewer than 10 hours of instruction per week on no fewer than three separate days.  When instruction is provided for less than the minimum number of hours and/or days required per week, the student will  be recorded as  absent for one or more days based on the amount of hours missed according to the institute’s attendance policy.  If a student has an unexcused absence from a regularly scheduled remote learning session or has not submitted assignments, the student’s parent or guardian will be contacted for an explanation.  If a student is absent or late more than three days per month or for up to four cumulative unexcused absences, Somerset Hills Learning Institute personnel will conduct an investigation by following protocols delineated in N.J.A.C. 6A:7.6(a)4i including contacting the student’s parent or guardian to discuss the problem and developing an action plan to address patterns of unexcused absences.  If attendance continues to be a problem or if there are five or more cumulative unexcused absences, the absences shall be reported to the sending school district who shall then proceed in accordance with the district board of education policies and procedures pursuant to the provisions set forth in N.J.A.C. 6A:7.6(a)4ii.  If there are 10 or more cumulative unexcused absences, or if a parent or guardian repeatedly fails to make a student available for scheduled home instruction, Somerset Hills Learning Institute personnel will contact the school district which shall then conduct its own investigation and consider whether the student is truant in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:7.6(a)4iii-iv., N.J.A.C. 6A:16-1.3 and N.J.S.A. 18A:38-25 through 31 and proceed accordingly.  A student who has been absent for more than 10 days for an unknown reason will be reported as a dropout.  Chronic absenteeism, which is defined in New Jersey’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan as the percentage of a school’s students who are not present for 10 percent or more of the school days in session, will be a determining factor when considering promotion, retention, graduation, and discipline.

In addition to the provisions set forth above, the attendance plan and its  procedures shall be applied to students with disabilities, where applicable, in accordance with the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), pursuant to 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the procedural protections set forth in N.J.A.C. 6A:14, the accommodation plan under 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 and 705(20), and the individualized healthcare plan and individualized emergency healthcare plan, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.3(b)3xii.

Facilities Maintenance Plan

Since the state-mandated school closure, Somerset Hills Learning Institute has implemented the following building maintenance policies and procedures:

  • Contracted with a professional cleaning company that specializes in sanitizing  buildings to disinfect furniture, fixtures, equipment, and everything visible within the building including toys, curriculum, office supplies, and instructional materials according to CDC guidelines;
  • Restricted building entrance access to all Institute personnel, students, parents, trustees, visitors, vendors, and independent contractors with the exception of individuals required to run and test the water;
  • In accordance with DEP regulations for public water systems, continued to perform water testing on a quarterly basis and required technicians responsible for testing the Institute’s water to wear PPE while inside the building;
  • In accordance with best practices recommended by the DEP for public water systems, authorized an employee of the Institute to don PPE and enter the building on a weekly basis to run the water and flush toilets to prevent build-up of matter in  the pipes that could be potentially hazardous to building occupants upon return to the school building;
  • Continued to contract with a professional pest management company to provide pest control services for the exterior perimeter of the building and grounds including the playground area.   We have authorized an employee of the Institute to conduct a visual inspection while inside the building to identify and work with the pest control technician, if needed, to address any pest control needs that may arise during the school closure;
  • Continued to contract with our central station monitoring company to perform routine tests remotely on the building’s fire, burglar, and carbon monoxide alarm systems;
  • Programmed the buildings thermostats and interior and exterior parking lot lights to vacation schedules to decrease energy costs and operate from best practices for energy conservation

Extended School Year (ESY)

The following policies are subject to change at the discretion of Institute personnel as new facts, governmental guidance and research on responding to COVID-19 emerge.

Services: Instruction for students for whom ESY services are provided as specified in their IEP’s in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-4.3(c) will continue remotely for ESY 2020. 

Other ESY policies

Somerset Hills Learning Institute students do not participate in STEM or other programs using reallocated grant funds, nor does the Institute receive Title 1 funds or participate in Title 1 extended learning programs.

Goals and objectives in students’ IEP’s, including 21st Century programs if applicable, will be implemented to the greatest extent possible within the guidelines and limitations specified in the ESY Action Plans above.  Given the changes necessary to protect the health and well-being of staff and students, the mode of instruction may prohibit teachers from implementing all of the goals and objectives and/or providing all of the accommodations, supports, and supplementary aids and services as specified in students’ IEP’s.  As such, the IEP team may need to discuss modifications to students’ goals and objectives and amend the IEP in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7.

If necessary and applicable, assessment of credit loss or shortages for high school seniors and an initial plan to address credit recovery, as well as assessments of learning loss and an initial plan for potentially addressing learning loss will be discussed on an individual case-by-case basis by members of the IEP team in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-3.7.  The Institute will defer to the sending school district’s plans for Class of 2020 graduation ceremonies for any out of district placement students for whom this may be applicable.

Revised Plan Addendum – SHLI Employees

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