Community Life

Video Program Combines Film and Friendship for Special Needs Students and Typical Teens

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Tyler O’Neill of Scotch Plains, a client of The Center for Independence in Livingston, works with Louis Pitingolo of Berkeley Heights on a scene for a film in the program at The Children’s Institute. Credits: Courtesy of The Children’s Institute
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SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Tyler O’Neill of Scotch Plains, a client of The Center for Independence (TCI) in Livingston, is among the aspiring filmmakers involved in a special Saturday video program that is bringing together teens with special needs who are learning to make films together at TCI.

The new program was created by TCI Film School productions director David DiIanni, who works with students on their projects.  The goal is to help students make new friends while learning to make films.  The program also involves typical peer mentors from Summit’s TryCAN program, who gain valuable experience working with the special needs teens.

“Peer mentoring gives students on the spectrum the opportunity to be exposed to more typical social interactions and model those behaviors,” DiIanni said. “Our students also benefit from the socialization with peers who are accepting of them and who sometimes become life-long friends.”

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The Summit TryCAN program, offered through Summit Community Programs, offers affordable classes for youths with special needs as well as a peer mentor program which trains students to work with their peers with special needs.

This program has been so successful that DiIanni said he hopes to offer it again in August or next fall through the TCI Film School.  For more information, please contact DiIanni at ddiianni@tcischool.org or visit www.tcifilmschool.org

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