Mount Laurel, NJ — Vision Realized. That was the theme as Bancroft, the 134-year-old New Jersey-based human services and healthcare nonprofit organization, marked the opening of the transformative Bancroft Raymond & Joanne Welsh Campus for children’s programs in Mt. Laurel. The campus is one of the first in the nation designed and inspired by the challenges of today’s children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A decade in the making, the new campus is home to The Bancroft School and the renowned Lindens Neurobehavioral Program, one of few intensive residential treatment programs in the country focused on children with severe autism. More than a century of experience has been interpreted into sensory elements thoughtfully incorporated throughout the campus and its facilities to address the specific and individual challenges of children today and for generations to come.
“We believe this campus, school and residential treatment programs represent a new standard for special education and residential treatment for children and adolescents, just as The Bancroft School did when Margaret Bancroft established it in 1883,” said Toni Pergolin, President and CEO of Bancroft.
“With its purposeful design and function for the children we serve, this campus and all its features allow us to think beyond our excellent programing and into the unrealized potential of each child.”
Bancroft education and therapeutic residential programs are person-centered. Through individualized assessments, plans are created collaboratively with school districts, social workers and the Bancroft teams to best reach the behavioral, academic and social needs of each student. The goal, no matter what the child’s challenge, is building life skills to move toward greater independence, while ensuring each child lives each day with joy.
Dynamic learning and living environments on the campus include:
- -The Bancroft School (capacity 265) and Activity Center
- -Lindens Neurobehavioral Program (capacity 30)
- -Campus Residences (capacity 44)
- -Health Center
- -Activity Pool
- -Gymnasium, fitness center, art and music studios
- -Job Skills Training in retail/beverage service, environmental services, materials handling, food service and horticulture
- -Indoor/Outdoor Recreation
Bancroft, founded in 1883 by special education pioneer Margaret Bancroft, now serves and supports 2,000 individuals annually with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism, as well as those in need of neurological rehabilitation. Of Bancroft’s 2,500 employees, more than 530 special education teachers, paraprofessionals, speech, occupational and physical therapists and medical professionals will work on the Welsh campus.
Nearly 40 percent of students who attend The Bancroft School reside in Bancroft campus or community group homes. Staff work with children 24 hours a day, 365 days a year incorporating learning and skills development in all aspects of their lives.
“The complexity of the children we serve has evolved over the past few decades, many needing unimaginable supports their families struggle with on a daily basis. Our programs build on abilities, address communication and behavioral challenges and teach life skills to help children live life to their fullest potential and successfully transition into adulthood,” said Pergolin.
Medical complexities are frequently experienced by children with autism and related conditions. Bancroft’s holistic approach to wrap-around medical services revolves around a health center for daily nursing care and medication management as well as desensitization rooms to prepare children for interactions with healthcare professionals.
“As our nation and state are at a critical juncture, we are committed to providing sustainable solutions for those with disabilities. It is organizations like Bancroft that are developing solutions to address the complexities of serving and supporting individuals who need care today and well into the future,” said Congressman Tom MacArthur, New Jersey 3rd District.
The design of the campus, school and residences focuses on the academic, sensory, behavior, communication, health, recreation and social needs of children with special needs. Features include extensive natural lighting, which studies report relaxes students, permits better concentration, and reduces hyperactivity. Teaching kitchens for life skills development and new opportunities to engage in indoor and outdoor activity and sensory play are incorporated.
An Activity Pool was added to the project based on input from staff and families to provide swim and water-safety lessons, as well as sensory experiences. Music and art studios, a gymnasium and a fitness center offer students an opportunity for new programing related to their unique social and recreational needs, including Special Olympics activities.
“Since many children with special needs lack access to enrichment and recreation, we took the opportunity to provide a safe and welcoming environment for water activity, sports, and life/job skills all incorporated into the Activity Center. We plan to open these opportunities to families throughout the region, regardless where their child attends school,” said Dennis Morgan, Senior Vice President of Children’s Services at Bancroft.
The Mt. Laurel campus is named after former Bancroft board member Raymond Welsh and his wife, Joanne. Longtime supporters, they shared a deep appreciation for the care their son received at Bancroft.
“If there were ever a place that exemplified taking a child’s true potential and bringing that untapped possibility to the next level, it’s here at Bancroft,” said Senator-elect Troy Singleton from New Jersey’s 7th Legislative District. “This is not just a shiny new campus; this is poised to make a great impact on the special needs community for decades to come.”
“Every child, regardless of his or her ability, deserves the ability to learn, grow, and live their best life,” said future New Jersey First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy. “The Bancroft School has been delivering on that mission for over 130 years, and with the opening of this wonderful new facility, they will continue to serve New Jersey’s children for years to come.”
Children will begin to move into their new homes on campus in late December, and students of The Bancroft School will begin their first day on campus January 3, 2018.
“On time and on budget, the largest project in Bancroft history is just that: History in the making. We are so fortunate to provide this remarkable environment to contribute and shape the lives of these children today, and the children we will serve in the future. After all, this is for them, and they deserve it,” said Pergolin.