New Jersey School District Rolls Out Kit for Kids
October 31, 2023
Hillsborough Township became the first school district in New Jersey to roll out OAR’s Kit for Kids program in elementary school classrooms. The Kit for Kids is OAR’s peer education initiative for teaching elementary and middle school students about their autistic peers and promoting acceptance of autistic students in the classroom.
The Hillsborough Township Board of Education approved the Kit for Kids’ “What’s Up with Nick?” story as supplemental material for its school counseling program. The story is narrated by a classmate of Nick, who is autistic. It teaches students in grades K-8 that autistic individuals may think differently or need some accommodations, but all students are of equal worth and should be treated as such.
“When Anthony Ferrera brought this to me as a possibility, I was elated,” said Mike Volpe, Hillsborough superintendent of schools. “This program is a great example of social and emotional learning and helps students understand and empathize with those around them, most especially students with autism. The fact that these materials were free was an absolute bonus!” Ferrara is a former member of OAR’s board of directors.
Jennifer Baccarini, the school counselor for Hillsborough Elementary School, agrees. She delivered the lesson to all K-4 classes with a focus on the importance of empathizing with others, especially those with autism. “With the third and fourth-grade students, we read the book together and really had a nice conversation about similarities and differences. Many of the students have been able to relate to Nick or know someone personally with autism,” she explained. “With the kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students, we have been talking about the word ‘accepting’ and what that means, as well as drawing pictures showing what being a good friend looks like. With all the grades, we have also been discussing how we are all different and that is what makes not only [Hillsborough], but the world a more interesting and wonderful place.”
“I was happy to bring the program before Superintendent Volpe and the Hillsborough Board of Education as OAR continues our community outreach and am excited to have the program implemented in Hillsborough as the first school district in New Jersey to do so,” said Ferrera.
OAR partners with school districts to promote autism acceptance and inclusion. For inquiries about using the Kit for Kids program in your school district, please contact Kimberly Ha, Senior Director, Research and Programs, at 703-243-9762 or via email.