The First Children School was formerly the school program of Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH), a school with a long history of providing coordinated educational services to children with challenging developmental, medical, and rehabilitative needs. The school grew out of a nucleus of about five or six preschool-age youngsters with disabilities who lived at home and all came to CSH in Mountainside for therapy. In 1977, the Recreation Department at CSH decided that it might be a nice thing to form a play group that would meet twice a week where the children could come and socialize and do nursery school kinds of things, and, while they were there, be pulled out for half-hour sessions of individual speech, occupational, and physical therapies. The following year, it became law in New Jersey that children ages 3 and up who had disabilities should be entitled to educational services, and so the play group became an accredited private school for disabled children starting out with only one class. The class was taught by a special education teacher and therapies were delivered by NJ Department of Education certified therapists. The children’s tuition, therapies, and transportation would be underwritten by their local school districts. The school grew steadily as it became well respected throughout the state. As the student population grew, classroom space became less available in Mountainside, and CSH looked for a new home for the school.
In 1988, CSH bought the school’s current building in Fanwood which was a former public elementary school. In its new setting, the school reopened with three classrooms and 36 children ages 3-5 years old attending either half-day or full-day programs. The school benefited from the expertise and resources of CSH’s medical, therapeutic, and rehabilitative staff including neurodevelopmental pediatricians, psychiatrists, orthotists, dieticians, and physiatrists. That same year, CSH opened A Special Place Childcare Center on the Fanwood campus to provide inclusive childcare to children of employees and local families as well as children referred by early intervention.
In 2009, First Children, LLC acquired the school and renamed it First Children School. First Children School had an extensive staff to meet the needs of their many students with multiple disabilities including nurses, special education teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech and language pathologists, as well as a psychologist and social worker.
First Children School has continued our collaboration with CSH through ongoing neurodevelopmental and physiatry clinics while developing new collaborations with other local hospitals and providers. We also expanded our staff to include teachers of the deaf, board certified behavior analysts, and behavior therapists as well as a teacher of the visually impaired and a consulting audiologist so that we can provide a comprehensive level of education and care to children with the most complex medical needs. In 2016, First Children School received accreditation by the The National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Service (NCASES). As our students aged, the school opened up new classes for elementary and middle school aged students, and in September 2017, the First Children School welcomed our first high school class.
Now, forty years since the original school was established, we have a 13-classroom school with an enrollment of 90 full-day students ages 3 years old through high school age. Coming to us from 27 school districts, they live as far away as Jersey City, Perth Amboy, Hillsborough, and Morristown. Currently, over seven hundred individual, collaborative, and consultative services are provided to our students on a weekly basis. Under outstanding leadership, we all work together toward promoting the academic, social, emotional, cognitive, language and physical development of each of our students, as well as providing education and support to their families.