SUMMIT, NJ - Kristie Hanley, Psy.D., has joined The Connection as Special Needs Program Director, and new programs have been added. The Connection is a non-profit, human service organization providing a variety of programs and activities open to everyone in the community regardless of physical ability or economic circumstance.

Hanley has worked in the special education field as a school psychologist for the past 14 years. She is dedicated to advocating for individuals with disabilities and emphasizes the importance of fairness and acceptance. Hanley is embracing her new role, saying, " I am excited that The Connection will enable me to integrate my experience, allowing us to meet the educational and social-emotional needs of students of all ages with the recreational aspects of the lives of children and adults with disabilities. I look forward to offering fun-filled opportunities for socialization, exploring interests, and self-discovery." 

A part-time instructor of psychology at New Jersey City University at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, Hanley holds a doctorate in school psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.  She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University, and earned her master’s degree in counseling and school psychology certification at New Jersey City University.

New classes coming this fall for The Connection’s Special Needs Program include: Yoga (grades 2 -4), “Girl Talk” (girls grades 6 -8), and Open Gym (grades 9 – 12).  Returning this Fall, members may also participate in “Young Athletes”, “Teen Club”, One-On-One Fitness, “Adapted Aquatics” and Special Needs swim lessons.  Boys and Girls grades 2 – 4 can engage their mind, bodies, and spirit through fun stretches and poses in the new Yoga class, offered Saturdays 11 to 11:45 a.m.  Modifications will be provided as needed.

“Girl Talk” is a support group geared toward increasing positive social connections, problem solving skills, self-concept, and competence in young adolescent girls with learning disabilities.  This group will focus on topics such as achievement, friendship, individuality, body image, positive thinking, and assertiveness through activities including interactive games, drama, journaling, poetry, and craft projects.  “Girl Talk” is offered Wednesday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m.  Open Gym gives teens a chance to engage in a variety of physical activities with an emphasis on fun and socialization Saturday afternoons from 1 to 2 p.m.

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The Connection’s Special Needs programs also present a volunteer opportunity for members of the community.  Free Volunteer Training Sessions for Special Needs Programs will be offered on Saturday, Sept. 14, from 11 to 1 p.m., and Tuesday, Sept. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m.  The purpose of the training is to provide potential volunteers with general information regarding autism, ADHD, and other disabilities affecting children and adolescents. Participants will also learn positive reinforcement techniques and strategies for addressing challenging behaviors to best ensure a positive and safe experience for all.

Those interested in volunteering as an assistant for a special needs class are required to have either been trained by TryCAN’s Peer Mentor program or to attend one of the upcoming volunteer training sessions at The Connection.  To sign up for one of the Volunteer Training Session for Special Needs Programs, contact (908) 273-4242. For questions, contact Kristie Hanley, Special Needs Program director, at (908) 273-4242, ext. 131 or kristie.hanley@theconnectiononline.org.