South Plainfield Schools, Borough Promote Autism Awareness

Franklin students gathered outside the afternoon of April 20 for an Autism Awareness Balloon Launch.
With support from the student council, Kennedy School held an autism awareness assembly the morning of April 20.
Roosevelt Elementary School Principal Robert Diehl joins students and teachers in the bubbles for autism awareness event.
Kennedy School held an autism awareness assembly and also blew bubbles and released balloons at the April 20 event.
At Kennedy School, a large puzzle piece and the message 'We All Fit Together' was drawn on the playground and signed by the student body.
Kennedy students, teachers, and staff gather in support of autism awareness.
Nicole Lillis, a special education teacher at Roosevelt, during the school's autism awareness event.
Borough first responders and representatives from the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office, along with local special needs advocates, at the April Special Needs Registry event.
Local autism awareness advocates Jessica Spina and Danielle Staunton accept the proclamation from South Plainfield Councilwoman Christine Faustini and Mayor's Wellness Committee member Debbie Boyle.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – April is National Autism Awareness Month and throughout the Borough of South Plainfield schools and community groups have joined together to promote awareness of those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

“As we go through life we learn that we are all different and it is important to include everyone with patience, understanding and acceptance,” said Nicole Lillis, a special education teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School. “You never know what someone else is struggling with.”

Autism affects the areas in the brain that regulate pragmatics of speech and perceptions of others and can affects ones social, learning, and behavioral skills. It can affect how people with autism assimilate and express verbal and non-verbal communication as well as sensory processing. 

Sign Up for E-News

While once thought to be a relatively rare disorder that affected only 1 in 10,000 people, more and more health professionals have been diagnosing children on the autism spectrum. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reported that approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States – and 1 in 41 in New Jersey – had been identified with an ASD. 

On April 15, the South Plainfield Police Department, in conjunction with the South Plainfield Public Library and the Common Ground Support Group, founded and run by resident Jennifer Bentivenga, ran a Special Needs Registry event. With assistance from Bentivenga, first responders from the borough's fire, EMS and police departments along with officials from the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department were on hand. 

Additionally, the borough council, at its April 16 meeting, recognized the importance of autism awareness and commended those who advocate within the community. Declaring April 2018 as ‘Autism Awareness Month’ in the borough, Mayor Matt Anesh presented a proclamation to local autism awareness advocates.  

“I encourage everyone to observe the month by learning about people with autism, their strengths, abilities, and the programs which serve their needs,” stated Anesh.

With World Autism Day (April 2) falling this year during spring break, Franklin, Kennedy, and Roosevelt elementary schools each held awareness events on Friday, April 20. 

At Roosevelt Elementary School, said Nicole Lillis, awareness is promoted each April with lessons dedicated to ‘spreading awareness and understanding of those with autism’ and other differences.’ Classes color ribbons with the autism colors, red, blue, and yellow and display them around the school and the book My Brother Charlie’ – a story from the perspective of a sibling who's brother has autism – is used as a teaching tool. 

“As the years go on we find new resources each year to share with the classes. We started a Google site where we add videos and stories that are geared towards each grade. There is even a Sesame Street video that is helpful to preschool-aged students,” said Lillis, adding, “We try to focus not only on autism but accepting everyone no matter what our differences.”

At the end of the school day Friday, Roosevelt students, teachers, and staff all gathered outside in a large circle and blew bubbles to ‘spread joy, happiness, and acceptance of everyone.’ “Who doesn’t feel happy when bubbles are in the air,” said Lillis. 

At Franklin Elementary School, student, teachers, and staff also gathered outside Friday afternoon to release dozens of red, green, blue and yellow balloons – the colors present in the puzzle piece logo that, on a national level, is used to reflect the mystery and complexity of ASD  – into the sky. 

“Every balloon is different just like every child with autism is different,” Lauren Suske, a retired special education teacher and mom of autistic twins filling in at Franklin as a substitute on Friday, told the students. “You are all different…[but] everything you like, a friend with autism likes, too. Make a promise to be compassionate and understanding when you meet someone who might be different.”

Over at Kennedy Elementary School, each class signed a large paper puzzle piece as a ‘pledge and school wide promise to respect all students.’ The colorful puzzle pieces were displayed during a morning assembly April 20 that featured student-centered, age appropriate videos and a PowerPoint presentation. The Kennedy School community, may wearing blue –  the color used worldwide for autism awareness – then gathered outside to blow bubbles and release balloons in support of the awareness initiative. Additionally, during recess, students had the opportunity to add their names to the large puzzle piece drawn in chalk on the playground. 

“Awareness is key, especially from a younger age,” said Kennedy special education teacher Brittany Lillis. “If we can show them that we are all different – we all have strength and we all have weaknesses – it helps us have a culture of acceptance.”

“I am happy that we bring attention to something out kids should know about. Autism is real. It is incorporated in our schools and out communities. It is nothing to be afraid of,” said Kennedy Principal Kevin Hajduk, adding, “When we educate students, and teach them a very important concept, hopefully it trickles to their home environment.”

Autism Awareness will also be promoted on a borough-wide level on Sunday, April 29 with a special event sponsored by the South Plainfield Library with support from the Mayor’s Wellness Committee. Stop by the library from 2 to 4 p.m. for ‘Au’ some Balloons Art by Eddie Lin, sensory crafts and activities, a special themed storytime featuring ‘This is Logan,’ and meditation with Ms. Aimee. Special Olympics Coaches Brittany Lillis and Heather Hearne-Pascal will also be on hand and an indoor balloon release will take place. 

“I would like to welcome all families who would like to learn more or may need support to come and visit our library during the autism awareness event,” said Councilwoman Christine Faustini, liaison to the library board, adding  “It has been an honor to work along with committee members and library staff to bring this event to our community. The library has done an excellent job providing outreach and support to all children so it is the perfect place to host this event.”

“The South Plainfield Public Library is dedicated to meeting the needs of the entire community and we are honored to partner with the Mayors Wellness Committee for this year’s Autism Awareness Event,” noted library director Linda Hansen. “This is a wonderful way for our residents to be part of an event that celebrates all of our differences.”

TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at follow us on Facebook at on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

The Athlete of the Week Christopher Shine Baseball

The South Plainfield High School baseball team is continuing to have a successful 2018 season with a record of 15-9. This past week, the Tigers went 4-0 beating out of conference foes North Hunterdon, Montgomery, and Bernards.  They finished the week with a win in the first round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, over Carteret.   A major contributor to South ...

The Athlete of the Week: Jillian Holoboski Softball Pitcher

The South Plainfield Softball Team had an exciting week of action where the team saw Coach Panzarella break the all-time win total in NJ. The Lady Tigers got things rolling by defeating John F. Kennedy 3-2 on Monday.  South Plainfield then traveled to Perth Amboy for a night double header and crushed the Panthers 14-0.  On Wednesday they beat Colonia 5-1. The competition for the week ...

Holy Savior Cheerleading Squad Takes Season by 'Storm'

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy’s (HSA) ‘Biddy’ Cheerleading Squad, the Storm,  recently completed their 2017-2018 season with a first place win in their division at Cheerfest. Held May 12 at Six Flags Great Adventure, the annual multi-state competition featured teams from throughout New Jersey. 

“This cheer season has been such an ...


Mario Guido Abbruzzese, 70, died on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at St. Peter’s University ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Recreation Commission President Responds to Council Candidate Keefe

May 18, 2018

My name is Bill Cochrane and I am President of the South Plainfield Recreation Commission. A press release from Borough Council Candidate Kristine Keefe has recently come to our attention. In her press release Ms. Keefe states and I quote “Over the last eight years virtually nothing has been done to improve our parks and recreation program.” When this was brought to our attention at ...

Colin Berry and Cody Decker Earn Bachelor Degrees from Rowan University

May 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Colin Berry and Cody Decker, both of South Plainfield, received Bachelor degrees from Rowan University last week during commencement exercises.  Both young men are 2014 graduates of South Plainfield High School.  


Berry earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing and was awarded to the Deans List for the fifth time.  He served as ...

Community Happenings


May 12, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - On Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 11AM to 5PM, the John E. Riley PTSO (JER PTSO) will be hosting its first ever Food Truck Festival!


Come out for a good time while supporting a good cause! Proceeds from this event will go to replacing the 2 broken playground structures at John E. Riley Elementary School costing approximately $80,000. 11+ food trucks including ...

Holy Savior Cheerleading Squad Takes Season by 'Storm'

May 21, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy’s (HSA) ‘Biddy’ Cheerleading Squad, the Storm,  recently completed their 2017-2018 season with a first place win in their division at Cheerfest. Held May 12 at Six Flags Great Adventure, the annual multi-state competition featured teams from throughout New Jersey. 

“This cheer season has been such an ...

Holy Savior Academy to Hold 7th Annual 5K Run & Family Walk in June

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Calling all runners and walkers! Holy Savior Academy will hold its 7th Annual 5K Run and 1 Mile Family Walk on Saturday, June 2. Proceeds from this year’s family-friendly event will benefit the school’s academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs.

“Holy Savior Academy’s annual 5K offers the school an opportunity to provide other ...

The South Plainfield "Autism Awareness" Event

May 8, 2018

The South Plainfield Mayor’s Wellness Committee and the South Plainfield Public Library in conjunction with community volunteers hosted the Borough’s first Autism Awareness event at the South Plainfield Public Library on Sunday April 29, 2018 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. This “Afternoon of Awareness” was designed to help connect parents with important resources in order to help ...

Plainfield Animal Hospital

On Friday, April 20th, 2018, a South Plainfield resident responded to South Plainfield Police Department to report a fraudulent incident which occurred at Plainfield Animal Hospital, located at 2201 Park Ave, South Plainfield, NJ.  According to the victim, on April 4th, 2018, she and her husband brought their   family pet rabbit to the animal hospital to be euthanized due to the ...

Staying Fit at the Senior Center

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Staying fit and getting plenty of good exercise is a high priority at the South Plainfield Senior Center, located at 90 Maple Avenue in South Plainfield. Classes on health issues and a wide range of physical exercise are available almost daily.

The Walking Group meets every Friday, weather permitting, starting on May 18 and going through October. Participants meet at the ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, May 22, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield Soccer Association Travel Team ...


Tue, May 22, 6:30 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Sugar Land Skeeters ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Sports


Wed, May 23, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield Soccer Association Travel Team ...


Wed, May 23, 6:30 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Sugar Land Skeeters ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Sports


Thu, May 24, 11:00 AM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Sugar Land Skeeters ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink Sports

Wed, May 30, 6:00 PM

South Plainfield Public Library, South Plainfield

Town-Wide Girl Scout Registration


Diegnan & Ruiz Bill to Establish Grant Program to Develop Dual Language Immersion Programs Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz to establish a grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs was released from the Senate Education Committee today.


“The best way for a student to excel in a foreign language is an immersion program,” said ...

South Plainfield Motor Vehicle Office Tentatively Scheduled to Open May 21st

Dear Mayor:

I would like to provide you with an update regarding the Motor Vehicle Commission’s (MVC) new, modernized South Plainfield Agency.  At this juncture, if we receive the Certificate of Occupancy on Friday, May 11, as expected, the anticipated “soft opening” to the public will be Monday, May 21, 2018. 

We will schedule a ceremonial ribbon cutting shortly ...

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...


And here is (ACHOO!!) some more (ACHOO!!) news from (COUGH!!) South Plainfield Library:

            First, our previously-postponed Holi program, celebrating the Indian festival of colors, has been postponed again.  Due to predicted inclement weather, it has been rescheduled to Saturday, July 21st, from 11AM to 1PM.  Let’s ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.


Q. When did you join

I joined in September, ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Welcomes You

The Suburban Woman’s Club of South Plainfield is welcoming new members. Enjoy creative fund raisers, interesting activities while participating on standing committees, informative monthly programs, and the camaraderie of women whose efforts enhance the community. The club meets at 1:00 PM on the first Thursday of each month, September through June, at the American ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Has A Successful Fundraising Year!

After what can easily be described as a successful fund-raising year, The Suburban Woman’s Club of South Plainfield met on May 3rd at the American Legion Hall in South Plainfield to decide how to allocate the funds that were raised.  President Diana Cotone called the meeting to order and thanked April Bengivenga and Joyce Dieterle for the delicious refreshments provided.

The ...

Press Releases

Middle School Music Department wins 17 Trophies at the Showcase Music Festival

May 21, 2018

On Friday, May 11, members of the South Plainfield Middle School Music Department participated in the 2018 Music Showcase Festival.  The students performed exceptionally well and brought home 17 awards.  At this festival, the musical ensembles played for adjudication at the First Presbyterian Church and Bethlehem Catholic High School in Bethlehem, PA and then spent the rest of the day ...