The Bergen County Special Services School District (BCSSSD), like all districts that make up the New Jersey Joint Council of County Special Services School Districts, is dedicated to providing specialized services and programs to students with special and diverse learning needs.

The mission of the Bergen County Special Services School District is to effectively address the unique social, emotional, physical, intellectual and career needs of students by creating positive, stimulating and encouraging learning environments in schools, homes, and communities.

A female staff member smiles while holding up a poster board explaining different ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. A male student is reading the poster while helping hold it up.

A staff member holds up a poster board entitled “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” that breaks down the Smart Apartment room-by-room. Each room has photos of different ways power can be saved and shows what can be recycled.

“Positive environment” doesn’t even begin to adequately describe the culture of the district’s Norman A. Bleshman Regional Day School, which serves students of all ages.  Walking in through the main doors, students, parents, and visitors are met by smiling student greeters and the warmth of the space.  Students can also be found working in the school store, where they sell cards and other items created by students, a fun way to reinforce math and social skills they are learning in class.

The brightly colored murals and sunlight beaming in through big windows create a vibe of positivity and joy – feelings administrators and teachers hope students and their families feel while they’re there.

The goal of the Bleshman Regional Day School, and all county special services school districts, is to help students reach their greatest potential. The school offers an academic / functional / career-based curriculum with an intensive therapy program that includes occupational, speech, and physical therapies as prescribed by the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  Lessons and activities are differentiated and individualized to meet the diverse learning styles and strengths of the students.

A television screen displays a popup showing someone at the door, who is waving.

When someone rings the doorbell at the Smart Apartment, all of the screens show an alert and a video image of who’s there.

Technology is cutting-edge at Bleshman and utilized whenever and wherever possible.  From helping students communicate, to learning new skills, and even helping with their raised garden!  But it’s the school’s new smart apartment that houses all of the state-of-the-art technology available to help those with special needs live their most independent lives.  The apartment is almost fully automated (controlled by a touchscreen device) and includes safety features and modifications that could easily be replicated in a student’s own home.  Some of the features include an induction stove that only gets hot when specific pots and pans are used and cools immediately when they’re removed, colored lighting flashes as a visual cue to notify those who are hearing impaired when a doorbell is rung or if there’s a leak coming from the washing machine they wouldn’t otherwise hear.

A woman stands in front of an open kitchen cabinet in the Smart Apartment, as she holds on to a handle that will allow the shelving to easily be lowered.

Gail Coe, Bleshman’s Principal, demonstrates all the different features in the Smart Apartment’s kitchen that make it more accessible.

The apartment serves as a realistic place to practice functional life skills like cooking, doing laundry, and basics like getting in and out of bed or the shower.  The sleek look of the apartment and all the bells and whistles make it a space where students enjoy spending time.  The rooms were intentionally created to be as open as possible, so they are easy to navigate for students who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to move around.  Students also practice leisure skills in the apartment, which is the perfect space to reinforce social skills while sitting in the living room or around the large table.

Natural Learning and social opportunities exist throughout the school and in its spacious, fully accessible playground. The giant smiles on students’ faces as they see their teachers and principal in the hallway is a clear indicator of the comfortable environment they learn in every day.

A colorful mural (one of many at Bleshman) says

A colorful mural (one of many at Bleshman) says “We are like a box of crayons, each one of us unique but when we get together, the picture is complete.”

Bleshman is just one of many schools and programs operated by BCSSSD within Bergen County. Established in 1958, BCSSSD serves students ranging from preschool to young adults up to the age of 21. BCSSSD offers a comprehensive range of educational, therapeutic, and support services tailored to meet the unique requirements of each student ages 3 to 21, including students and young adults with autism, multiple disabilities, emotional and behavioral disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing. BCSSSD also offers an adult program that begins when formal student education ends.

For a complete list of programs serving students with special needs ages 3 to 21, please visit this link on the district’s website, by clicking here.