VERONA, NJ - The Children's Institute presents a free seminar open to the community, presented by a distinguished panel of faith leaders and special needs professionals.

As its final free Spectrum of Options Seminar Series of this season, The Children’s Institute will present “Autism, Faith Communities and Inclusion” on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. The seminar will be held at The Children’s Institute’s Verona Campus, 1 Sunset Ave. Verona.

For many families, participation in a house of worship is an important part of community life.  However, families touched by autism or a related disability, often feel uncomfortable engaging in their faith community.  This workshop, appropriate for parents, caregivers and faith leaders, will explore how all faith communities can become more inclusive of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

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The event will feature a panel of religious and lay leaders from various religious traditions who have created inclusive faith communities that have successfully integrated individuals with special needs and their families. Discussion will focus on the practical steps faith communities can take to fully engage special needs families. 

Members of the panel include:

Rebecca Wanatick, M.Ed., (Moderator) is the Community Inclusion Coordinator for Greater MetroWest ABLE Jewish Federation, which engages families, synagogues and agencies in creating a community that is accessible to all members.

Rabbi Steven Bayar who serves Congregation B'nai Israel in Millburn NJ, and has created an inclusive congregation and has presented workshops on education, inclusion, spirituality and values throughout the United States.

Pastor Deborah Huggins the Associate Pastor for Christian Education and Youth Programs at the Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, NJ who is completing a doctorate in Special Education, studying the inclusion of people with disabilities in faith community life.

Adrienne Robertiello, an Autism Educator for Children's Specialized Hospital. Her workshops include “Building Understanding and Inclusion Among Children of All Abilities,” with ways to include people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities in religious programs, activities and social interactions.  

Reem Suqi, LSW of the Islamic Center of Passaic County who works with special needs youth. Working with a peer support group of mothers with special needs children, she has facilitated meetings with mosque leadership to help the mothers set forth their needs and create a more inclusive worship community.

While the Spectrum of Options Seminar Series is free and open to the community, all those planning to attend must register by Friday, 4/22/16. Space is limited, so register soon.  Interested parties may register online ( by email (, or by calling 973.509.3050 x401. This seminar is appropriate for parents/caregivers, clergy and special needs professionals.  General certificates for NJ educators are available upon request.

About The Children’s Institute (TCI)

For more than 50 years, TCI has been a pioneer in serving individuals with special learning needs. Today, TCI includes two non-profit schools, approved by the New Jersey State Board of Education, which serve children from ages 3-21 on the autism spectrum and with related disabilities, and The Center for Independence, a program for adults with ASD over 21, approved by the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities and the NJ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. TCI believes the disability does not define the individual, and is committed to developing the academic, social, behavioral, communication, life and career skills of children, young adults, and adults on the autism spectrum.