Council for Exceptional Children links communities together

By Hannah Newman

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a program designed to bring together those with disabilities and the Rider community through games, events and activities that allow both communities to learn from one another and build a stronger sense of unity throughout campus and beyond.

Although this is an education club, students do not need to have experience in special education to join this council and can get involved as much or as little as they would like to. 

Council meetings and events are created based on the contributions of members so that everyone can find their connections to the community in their own personalized way. 

Co-President and junior elementary education major Danielle Spalding described this program as a chance to spread inclusion and gain more experience conversing with community members.

Spalding said,“It is open to anyone who is willing to develop an open mind about working with people who may be different than themselves to erase that stigma, and also that we are making a move to more professional development opportunities as well as more in person and Zoom events with our community members to tighten the community we’ve worked so hard to maintain.”

A group of community members and students participate in different activities at a CEC event. Photo courtesy of Allison Pitner.

The executive committee discussed how working with a community of people with disabilities appears to be intimidating to people who have never done so before; however, she mentioned how community members are able to teach Rider students a thing or two about how powerful human connection is and that it can be demonstrated without a verbal exchange of words.

Treasurer and junior elementary education major Juliana Vierbuchen explained what she has personally learned from this experience and how it has shaped the growth of her social abilities. 

Vierbuchen said,“This club has given me the ability to work on communication skills with our community members along with the Rider community as a whole. I remember one of our community members was nonverbal, and I could tell through his facial expressions that he was having a great time. You can have a conversation with these members without them having to speak a word.” 

The general members of CEC are Rider students, but the community members come from all different places as well as ages. Rider students are able to engage in activities with people who range from high school students up to those in their 40s.

The executive board of the Council for Exceptional Children pose for a photo at their latest event. Photo courtesy of Allison Pitner.

 Co-President and junior elementary education major Allison Pitner described the passion that all members contain for each event and how they yearn for the next one by the time the event is over.

Pitner said, “Everytime you walk away from an event as a participant you feel really great after seeing all of the community members just so excited for the next event.”

The next event will be held on April 29 in the Mercer room inside of Daly’s Dining Hall. This event will be Luau themed and include activities such as tie-dying T-shirts, life- sized games, pizza and desserts, as well as a limbo competition. 

For further details pertaining to the event or council, please contact riderucec@gmail.com.

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