What better way to break up the dog days of summer than with a party? NSSA did just that with a new event: Pizza & Pints. Held on a muggy Thursday evening at the Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore, families, friends and staff were delighted to be in a spacious air conditioned room, sipping “pints” and sharing pizza and salad prepared by NSSA’s Salad Shoppe.
Guests chatted over beer barrel tables or relaxed on cushy sofas.
They took their chances at winning raffle prizes or spinning the prize wheel. And this was no ordinary prize wheel. In order to win, guests had to perform feats of knowledge, balance or tongue twistery. This made for much entertainment and laughter in the wheel corner. The grand raffle was a much-coveted brew-crew cycle tour in Riverhead for up to 14 guests.
Others played giant chess or Jenga, or practiced their prowess at cornhole or the foosball table.
Thank you to all who attended, donated and volunteered. Thank you to Rob Donahue of Great South Bay Brewery for making the event possible. And we’re especially grateful for the initiative, creativity and hard work of Jen O’Malley and Tori Ardito for creating this new fun summer event!
In the summer of 2018, NSSA started a Lifelong Learning Program as part of its Adult Program. The program is comprised of three main categories: Health & Wellness, Lifelong Learning and Paid or Volunteer Work.
The Lifelong Learning topics have ranged from Basic Communication and Safety Skills to Money Management, Leisure Skills, Agriculture, Independent Living, Employment/Workplace Behavior and more.
These lessons have been taught by Adult Program staff, but this spring they broadened the range of topics and introduced some new classes taught by other NSSA staff members. Among these are:
Fire Safety and Shopping and Paying for Items by Stacey Agosta
ID Cards & Personal Safety by Jason Watson
Lavender Vanilla Salt Scrub by Donna Lebovitch
Many individuals with autism have extremely limited areas of interest and have to be taught how to pursue leisure interests on their own or be exposed to new activities that they may enjoy. The Adult Program participants enjoyed these hands-on lessons, from holding practice babies and playing card games to taking pictures or snacking on treats they’d made themselves!
The 2019 New York Bike to the Beach Ride for Autism and disABILITIES lucked out once again with a picture perfect day for cycling. June 8 dawned with blue sky, no humidity and light breezes, making for a pleasant ride for the almost 400 riders. Most started in Manhattan at 5:00 am, heading east to Westhampton Beach. This year there were also 50- and 25-mile ride options starting in Wantagh and Blue Point, all headed to the same finish line.
NSSA had four riders on TEAM NSSA: Thomas Cardone, Richard Kobel, Kristian Nielsen and Danielle Spinnato. Between them they have raised almost $4,000 so far! We’re so appreciative and proud of our NSSA Team for doing this ride and raising money for NSSA.
Two NSSA staff members manned Rest Stop #6 in Blue Point, some 75 miles into the ride. As the ride is growing in size, it’s also picking up in speed. The first rider rolled into the Blue Point rest stop at 10:08 am! He was closely followed by a steady flow of cyclists all throughout the day. They got Dunkin Munchkins from NSSA (#NationalDonutDay), as well as water, power bars, sunscreen, band-aids, bananas and even pulled pork sliders from Texas Roadhouse!
Riders took a little break in the shade, comparing notes with fellow cyclists and resting ride-weary legs. But soon they were on their way to finish the ride and enjoy the finish-line festivities there.
We’re so grateful to organizations like Bike to the Beach for promoting awareness and for raising funds that make a positive impact on the autism community. We thank Bike to the Beach for letting us be part of this wonderful event once again.
You can still make donations by going here, typing NSSA into the search box, and selecting TEAM NSSA.
Friday, June 14, was the perfect day for a party: sunny, breezy and dry. And Empire Merchants took that opportunity to treat their staff to a fun day of food trucks and carnival games as a way to show their appreciation for all the hard work their employees do on a daily basis.
NSSA was graciously invited to participate in Team Appreciation Day by Fidele Miranda, Vice President, Sales, United Division, who happens to be Jack’s (of Jack’s Run) proud uncle. We set up a table with lemonade, brochures and giveaways, and offered free raffle tickets for a $100 Amazon gift card. People stopped by the table throughout the day to get raffle tickets and make a donation while they were there.
Everyone appeared to enjoy the day, talking and laughing while enjoying sausage & pepper heroes, wood-fire pizza and cannoli. From the NSSA table we had a front row seat to the strongman game, watching people test their strength in trying to ring the bell. That drew quite an audience over the afternoon!
In all, it was a wonderful day. Generous people donated over $1,300 in just a few hours!
NSSA is so grateful for friends like Fidele Miranda and Empire Merchants, not only for inviting NSSA to be part of their Team Appreciation Day but also for donating all the wine to NSSA’s Annual Wine Tasting every year for the past 12 years. Their generosity has helped us to fund much-needed programs and services to families touched by autism.
June 17th was Graduation Day at NSSA and we are very proud of our newest graduates – Annie and Kevin.
A graduation ceremony was held in the NSSA conference center for families, teachers, students and school district personnel. Unfortunately, Kevin was unable to attend but Annie and her family were able to join in the celebration. Annie’s classmates attended the ceremony as well as students from other classrooms.
Annie entered the room with her teacher Christine to the tune of Pomp & Circumstance, wearing her blue gown and white graduation cap.
She sat with her parents and sister while Principal Deb Kennedy welcomed our guests. Teacher Becky Chi put together a slideshow of both the graduates from their time at NSSA.
Teacher Christine Holmes paid a touching tribute to both students. She expressed, on behalf of her fellow Classroom Four teachers, her pride and affection for both Annie and Kevin.
Annie was presented with a certificate of completion from The Martin C. Barell School.
Mary Catherine Culella-Sun, Director of Pupil Personnel Services from Annie’s home school district, presented her with a Skills & Achievement Commencement Credential.
Congratulations were given, photos were taken and guests enjoyed socializing and refreshments after the ceremony.
Best wishes on your transition to NSSA’s Adult Services Program, Annie and Kevin! We’re so very proud of all of your accomplishments.
Global Running Day 2019 was on June 5 and NSSA turned out on the track ready to run!
This national event is a worldwide celebration of running that encourages everyone to get moving. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you run—what’s important is that you take part, and how you do it is up to you. Run a lap around the block, take your dog for a walk or meet your friends for a jog along the beach. The important thing is that you have fun being active—and you inspire others to join you.
This is the second year that NSSA has participated, thanks to the enthusiasm of Randy Horowitz, NSSA’s Associate Executive Director of Program Development. NSSA students, clients and staff celebrated Global Running Day 2019 by running or walking a couple laps around our playground track then getting a well-deserved snack.
Everyone had fun at this impromptu break!
May 7, 2018 was the spring graduation ceremony of SANYS University. SANYS, the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, is a statewide network of self-advocates with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. According to their website, “Regional self-advocacy groups throughout New York State provide opportunities for individuals to meet and discuss ideas and concerns with people who have had similar experiences. These groups assist individuals to become full and valued members of their communities, and help to educate individuals on their rights and opportunities.”
SANYS U is a leadership course that teaches self-advocates and their support staff about the history of self-advocacy and their rights and responsibilities. It promotes strengthening of grassroots support and the development of strong local and statewide leaders. A sampling of topics offered in the course are: Introduction to Self-Advocacy & Leadership Development, Your Individual Rights & Responsibilities, Self-Advocacy Leadership Skills, You and Your One Wild Precious Life and Current Self-Advocacy Issues.
Chris, a participant in NSSA’s Adult program, was one of the proud graduates of SANYS U in May. Chris describes SANYS as a group that advocates for people with developmental disabilities. He stressed the importance of learning how to write letters to state representatives. He said the group also helps individuals work on their goals and learn how to live a fulfilled life.
After attending four classes during the month of April, he received his SANYS U Certificate of Leadership Curriculum Course Completion at a ceremony at the Commack Jewish Community Center. Each participant took the stage for a brief speech. Chris was confident and eloquent as he spoke about what he had learned in the course and what he hoped this education could bring to his future.
Chris now looks forward to contributing to the Positive Power SANYS group, a local chapter that meets periodically to discuss issues they want to address, such as making the self-direction process easier to navigate.
We’re so proud of Chris for taking steps to live a more independent and productive life.
Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism and the Genesis School partnered on May 10, 2019 to present a Staff Development Day for their combined staff. Staff Development Day is a scheduled day of no programs for school students and adult program participants so teachers and direct support professionals and all clinical staff are available for a full day of training and inspiration to expand upon learning opportunities for their students and adult participants.
Over 150 staff members were in attendance for the Keynote Address by Joanne Gerenser, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Executive Director of Eden II. Dr. Gerenser’s talk was titled, “Lessons from the Field: What I Love About ABA.” She spoke passionately about her lifetime of work with individuals on the autism spectrum and her experience with Applied Behavior Analysis. The talk was inspirational and the audience was attentive throughout. There was much positive feedback afterwards as well.
Following the keynote, Mary McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA, Associate Executive Director for Long Island Programs and Chairperson of Eden II’s Research Review Committee, took the stage for a talk on “Evidence-Based vs. Non-Evidence-Based Interventions for Individuals with ASD.”
After a full morning in the auditorium at the Commack Jewish Community Center, everyone moved next door. Lunch was set up for round-table discussions such as “Multiple Schedules of Reinforcement,” “Leisure & Fitness,” “Transition & Aging Out” and “Challenging Behaviors.” People shared experiences and asked questions as they ate.
In the afternoon following lunch there were more presentations:
• “Working with Parents of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder” by Jayne Eaton-Bove, MS, NSSA Director of Clinical Services, and Michelle Banville, MS-Ed, BCBA, LBA, NSSA Director of Adult Day Services
• “Providing a Purpose for Students and Their Instructors by Creating a Functional Curriculum for Adolescents with Autism” by Kathryn Reres and Rebecca Chi
• “Innovative Employment Options for Adults with Autism” by Erin Sparacio-Archibald, MS Ed., SAS, SDA, Director of Long Island Administration at Eden II
The day was informative, educational and inspiring for all.
In honor of National Storytelling Day on April 27, 2019, we are posting a few stories that staff has shared with us.
In the summer of 2018, Bobby attended Hidden Pond Day camp three days a week. We fondly referred to this as “The Hidden Pond Experiment.” Every day, Bobby would engage in activities with typical peers, which ranged from all different sports, swimming lessons to ice skating. In the beginning, Bobby tried very hard to understand expectations. He would do his best to ice skate, but was very afraid, and would only skate when holding onto an instructor with two hands in a training area.
By week 6, Bobby was the star of his group. His typical peers LOVED HIM. They constantly engaged with him, asked him questions, prompted him correctly if Bobby was unsure, included him in EVERY activity and cheered him on with secret handshakes. Bobby was changing independently for both swim and skate without being told what was next because of his understanding of his schedule and because of his observation skills. He followed the group during transitions and asked his peers questions in order to engage with them. He independently went underwater during swim, and skated throughout the entire rink only holding onto an instructor with one hand. Bobby was trying new things simply because his friends were cheering him on.
As a teacher, all I could have asked during that summer was to be able to remove myself as much as possible so Bobby could learn from his friends. Having this opportunity at camp created such a positive change in him and I cannot wait to see what he will do next.
PS: Bobby still keeps in touch with his camp friends via email and text!
by Melanie Youberg
In honor of National Storytelling Day on April 27, 2019, we are posting a few stories that staff has shared with us.
Early in my career I was asked to assist another teacher in teaching a student how to attend her brother’s bar mitzvah. This was a difficult task as we had to think of all the challenges the student might face on the day of the event and break them down into teachable skills.
We worked with Jamie, teaching her to sit quietly in the temple, to follow the schedule she would need to remain engaged during the long ceremony, being called up to receive a candle, how to handle the noise of a loud party and many more skills.
As a young teacher, I felt a lot of pressure in being responsible for a student’s behavior at an important family event. Thankfully, all the hard work Jamie put in paid off. She did fabulously and her family was happy and that’s all that mattered. Her brother had a great day and his sister was able to be a part of this wonderful memory.
The feeling I had afterwards was euphoric and seeing the smiles I helped create was priceless. It helped to motivate me as a young teacher to learn more about autism and ABA, so I could help more families.
by Stacey Agosta