Therapeutic School and Preschool

 The Therapeutic School and Preschool at Northwest Essex

570 Belleville Avenue Belleville, NJ 07109

(973) 450-5496


About Us


The Therapeutic School and Preschool was founded in 1971 to provide services for children age three to five years old that were having difficulties learning and socializing. There were eight children a teacher and two assistants. The school has grown to ninety students and a staff of ninety-five professional and paraprofessionals.

Our School Mission

The Therapeutic School and Preschool is an approved private school by the New Jersey State Department of Education. The school accepts learners from three to fourteen who are classified Preschool Disabled, Multiply Disabled and Behaviorally Disabled. Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder are served from age three to twenty-one. The school provides a multidisciplinary approach enabling each child to grow at his/her own pace. Psychiatric services and monitoring are available at no cost to our school families.


The Therapeutic School and Preschool follows the Common Core Curriculum in English Language Arts and Math. All other subjects are covered in the New Jersey Common Core Curriculum Standards. A carefully developed and implemented Individual Educational Plan is followed for each learner. Applied Behavioral Analysis is the technique used for learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is a social emotional curriculum developed for building relationships in which learners are intrinsically motivated both academically and pro-socially. NHA builds “inner wealth” through everyday interactions. Staff training is ongoing and energizes all positive behaviors.


Individual Educational Plan Services

Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Play Therapy are available for all eligible students. Eligibility is determined in a collaborative IEP between the Therapeutic School, the district and the family.

Discipline Policy

The staff at the Therapeutic School and Preschool uses The Crisis Prevention Institute model. The core values of the program are: CARE, WELFARE, SAFETY, and SECURITY. The goal of all discipline at The Therapeutic School and Preschool is to have the students internalize and learn to control their own behavior.

  1. Admissions

A learner’s complete record is reviewed by the multidisciplinary team of the Therapeutic School and Preschool. A current IEP is assessed to determine if the applicant is an appropriate match for the program. The Therapeutic School must be able to provide all necessary services.

An intake interview is scheduled with the sending school district and the family and child. The prospective learner will have the opportunity to visit in a classroom. The family will be given a tour of the school and have a chance to see the classroom.

Acceptance will be determined on the availability of an appropriate classroom and the school’s ability to provide services, and the parent or guardian satisfaction with the program.

The Therapeutic School and Preschool does not discriminate on its intake process based on race, religion, sex, color or national origin

Case managers may forward records for review to:

Elizabeth Callahan, Ed.D. Principal

NECHN Therapeutic School and Preschool

570 Belleville Avenue

Belleville New Jersey, 07109


  1. Additional Services

Adaptive Physical Education

Learners meet twice weekly with the physical education teacher and have thirty minutes a day of physical exercise. A field day is held each June. A basketball team enjoys intramural competition with other schools.


Multimedia art projects enhance the curriculum throughout the year. A spring art show is a beautiful culmination of the learners’ highly creative projects.


All learners participate in music class and winter and spring concerts. A string orchestra and chorus are available.


Clubs are available every Friday afternoon giving our learners the opportunity to interact with other peers and select their own activity. Clubs have included laptop, computer art, string instruments, Legos, dance, cooking, basketball, baseball, yoga, chess, and board games.


A school yearbook is completed each year detailing all the activities and events that the students participate in throughout the year.

Therapy Dog

Coby is a yellow Labrador Retriever who is trained as a therapy dog and visits the school weekly. Pet therapy engages children in building respect for all living things. Pet therapy is an adjunct to the individual play therapy provided by our clinical social workers.


Assistive Technology Services – Assistive technology devices are used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of the child. iPads are the most frequently used devices.

Media Center – Each classroom contains a computer for the children to use. The school also has a computer lab which has eight computers. A computer technology assistant works with the classroom teachers to instruct the students in the use of various educational computer programs.

Laptop Computers – Students are able to use laptop computers on a daily basis in their classroom. They are introduced to keyboarding with innovative programs.

SMART Technology – Each classroom has a SMART Board which provides the children with interactive learning. The SMART Table engages pre K – 3rd grade learners in active problem solving and small group collaborations. It is a social tool to excite young learners.

Internet Agreement – Internet access is available to the students at the school. Students using the internet do so as part of an educational process. Therefore, users must adhere to school guidelines. A permission form is required for each student to have internet access.

Transition Program

All learners who continue after age fourteen participate in the transition program. School to work careers begins within the school setting. It is imperative that these young adult learners practice good work habits and apply appropriate social skills that will be utilized after leaving school. These young adults can be seen throughout the building performing meaningful work tasks.

There are several enclaves of prevocational jobs that are successfully completed by our older learners depending on their skill level. They can be seen recycling, delivering classroom materials, and helping with food service in the cafeteria. Our office workers can be found filing, copying, collating and faxing.

All of these skills are practiced in our Life Skill Room through our Consumer Family Life enclave where our learners can cook, set a dining table, make a bed, and clean the room in a natural setting. There is a school store to spend the money they earned working.

Community Based Instruction occurs on a weekly basis providing the opportunity to generalize the skills acquired in the school setting.


  1. Contact Information

School contact numbers

Principal’s Office:                             Elizabeth Callahan, Ed.D.                         973-4503123

Supervisor of Instruction               Sue Wilson MAEd/ADM                             973-450-5038

Behaviorist:                                      Michele Fagan MA, BCBA                         973-450-3165

Main Office:                                     Toni Petillo                                                  973-450-5496

Anne Marie DeBlasio                                                                                           973-450-3138

Nurse’s Office:                                      Donna O’Connor, RN, BSN                    973-450-3125

Social Work Supervisor & :                Trish Bradley, LCSW                               973-450-5486

Anti-Bullying Coordinator

Speech Therapy Supervisor:             Ellen Millman, C.C.C.                             973-450-3149

Occupational Therapy Supervisor:   Donna Hicks OTR/L                              973-450-3114

Reading Specialist/:                               Joan Waxman, M.A.                         973-450-5488

Testing Coordinator


  1. School Hours and Closings


School Hours:


8:15am – 2:00pm Regular School Year


8:15am – 1:15pm Extended School Year

Emergency Closings


The Therapeutic School and Preschool has contracted with Honeywell Instant Alert for Schools. This system will contact you during all emergency situations including delayed openings, school closings, and early dismissals.




Professional Affiliations: