The Bergen County YJCC

in Washington Township, NJ welcomes people of any background with physical and intellectual challenges. The Y provides experiences that are appropriate for those with varying abilities, as well as offers innovative programming for those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Brain Gym® sessions facilitated by Mariola Strahlberg, M.S., L.Ac. (Summer 2009)

This summer brings something new to Camp Shalom!

Mariola Strahlberg joins us every Monday and brings elements of Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood’s integrated educational/ therapeutic model to our exceptional children. This summer, campers will experience a Brain Gym® educational model that uses movement to effect whole brain learning. Mariola meets the children at their level, helps them draw from within, and invites them to move forward in their development, one small step at a time. Brain Gym® movements imitate developmental movements that neuro-typical infants naturally do on their own as they are growing up. These simple movements stimulate the sensory system, coordinate teaming of eyes, ears, hands and feet, activate core postural muscles and create an awakening in the brain to support learning from inside out in a joyful and natural way.

Prior to the start of the summer program, Camp Shalom’s staff attended training by Mariola and co-worker, Elisa Varano and learned a subset of Brain Gym® movements and its philosophy. Each day at Camp Shalom begins with Brain Gym® movements. These may be repeated throughout the day when a child feels insecure in an activity or environment, or shows signs of psychological, emotional or physical discomfort.

Our intention is to create an environment where learning can be fun and safe and where small, subtle daily advances can increase campers’ overall abilities.

Collaborative plans between the YJCC and Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood are underway to create a Therapeutic Classroom for YJCC’s children and adults with special needs.

Rhythm sessions facilitated by Elisa Varano, M.A. (Summer 2009)

Elisa Varano joins us each Friday for a 30 minute rhythm and music session, an integral part of the program cycle for children attending Camp Shalom this summer. Each child experiences a hands on session that combines traditional and non-traditional musical models and assist then with social skills, hand-eye coordination, listening skills, turn taking, and focus.

Students learn to create rhythmic dialogs using call and response approaches to teach non-verbal communication, listening and observation skills. Drum circles are an integral part of the session, where each child may take a leadership role and also be part of a team effort. A unique and innovative Color Drumming session, based on rhythmic games using colorful percussion instruments, offers opportunities to exercise coordination of dominant and non-dominant hand, improves focus and concentration and offers creative ways to encourage children to cross the midline. Emphasis is placed on traditional rhythms to enhance communication skills and cooperative social interaction, in addition to increasing self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, and promoting play.

Elisa Varano, M.A. provides parent advocacy session, music and rhythm sessions and administrative support at the Shining Mountain Center for Peaceful Childhood, Inc. She is co-founder of a community-based parent advocacy group and helps educate and support families who have school-aged children in special needs programs. She has taught music and movement in preschools and writing and illustrating enrichment workshops for traditional and non-traditional classrooms. She currently works in the public school system with children with learning, emotional, cognitive and behavioral disabilities. In 2008, Elisa published a bi-lingual children’s book.