The Ben Samuels Children's Center, which opened in September 2005, brought together three longstanding and proud programs:
- The Demonstration Program began in the late 1960s when the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders saw an educational need for children who had severe communication disorders. It was influenced by the fields of speech-language pathology and learning disabilities as it pioneered cutting-edge practices, encouraged the community to do the same. By 1990 it was providing special education for three to five year olds with significant communication and regulation disorders. Many of these children showed developmental patterns that were consistent with the spectrum of autism. This strongly transdisciplinary program was influenced by the Developmental, Individual-differences, Relationship-based (DIR) approach developed by psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan and psychologist Serena Weider who were in turn influenced by occupational therapist and psychologist Georgia DeGangi and others.
- The Jeffrey Dworkin Early Intervention Program began in 1981 when the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders saw the need to extend the work it was doing to children under the age of three. By the late 90's it was providing early intervention services to families in western Essex County in their homes and in other places where very young children and their families typically spend their time. This program was influenced by the field of early intervention that, as a whole, stresses family-centeredness, consultative transdisciplinary practices, and working in the naturally occurring environments and routines of families.
- The Child Care Center was opened in Feb 1989 under the Division of Student Development and Campus Life primarily as a service for the students of the University. The original Child Care Center was a one-room schoolhouse serving 20 children ages two and a half to six years of age. As the need for additional child care services became evident, the Center grew and expanded to meet those needs. It became a recruiting and retention tool for attracting students, faculty and staff to MSU and began providing early care and education employment opportunities for MSU students, as well as observation and fieldwork opportunities for students majoring in education.
The process for bringing these programs together began in 1994 with a group of faculty members studying inclusion of children with disabilities in general education settings, with the support of a grant from the New Jersey Network for Educational Renewal. This inclusion task force proposed several recommendations, one of which was the creation of the Ben Samuels Children's Center as a premier inclusive early childhood care, education, and professional development facility. Through the support of President Cole, The College of Education and Human Services, The Center of Pedagogy, The University Foundation, and many generous donors we opened our doors in September of 2005.