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
Hawaiian shirts and floral leis were all the rage at the spring Smithtown High School East dance for NSSA adult program participants, consultation students and Barell students aged 14 and up.
Guests were treated to the welcoming faces of their Smithtown peers, a delicious dinner and rocking music that kept the dance floor hopping.
It’s a wonderful treat watching our students and clients having a great time with the Smithtown East students and one another.
Many thanks to Stacey Agosta for helping to organize, NSSA teachers for accompanying their students and adult participants and special thanks to Smithtown High School East for their graciousness and hospitality in putting this event on for us once again.
Wonderful NSSA parents, Michael and Jennifer Jurena, have once again hosted a fun and successful evening to benefit Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism! The 2nd Annual Celebrate Life in Bloom event took place on April 11 at Grandpa Tony’s in East Rockaway.
The lively crowd was full of the Jurena’s supportive family, friends and colleagues, as well as NSSA staff members and families. The pizza and hors d’oeuvres were delicious, the open bar kept everyone happy and the raffle & prize table was buzzing with excitement.
Michael and Jennifer each spoke some heartfelt words and thanked all in attendance. (They were also celebrating their 10 year anniversary. Congratulations Michael and Jennifer!) Then it was time to pull the raffles. Lots of lucky guests took home exciting prizes and gifts cards. Thanks to all the local businesses who were kind enough to donate raffle items.
We are so grateful to the Jurena Family for much-needed funds for NSSA and for showing us a great time! They worked very hard to organize the 2nd Annual Celebrate Life in Bloom event and it means the world to us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
NSSA had some special visitors on April 8. John Lee Cronin, a 23-year-old man with Down syndrome, and his father, Mark Cronin, came to speak to NSSA teachers, direct support professionals and staff about their successful business, John’s Crazy Socks. The business was born out of John’s love for crazy socks combined with his love of making people smile. Their mission was clear: they want to spread happiness.
John’s Crazy Socks is a social enterprise with both a social mission and a business mission. The company currently has 39 employees, 23 of whom have a differing ability. John wants to show the world what these individuals are capable of doing. Since the founding of John’s Crazy Socks in fall of 2016, John and his team have built a $5million-dollar sock empire.
They give back by donating five percent of their earnings to the Special Olympics and raise money through sales of awareness socks (like Down syndrome and autism awareness) that they donate to their charity partners such as Autism Speaks and The National Down Syndrome Society. Through sock sales they have raised almost $300,000 for their charity partners!
They combine their social mission with a commitment to be a great sock store. They carry socks with a wide array of fun, unique designs that let customers express their passion and personality. Socks are delivered with fast, personal service, providing same-day shipping, a hand-written thank you note from John, coupons for future orders and candy in every package.
NSSA has begun several social enterprises, as well: the NSSA Salad Shoppe, the NSSA Café, and the newly created bracelet enterprise, so John and Mark had our full attention as they spoke about their experiences.
They talked about showing what is possible when you give a person a chance, citing several examples of “happy ending” hires, all ending with the phrase “We did nothing.” But they did do something. They gave a person a chance. And that can make all the difference in a person’s life.
For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit their webpage, Facebook page, Instagram account or YouTube channel. You can also contact them at 631-760-5625 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Saturday, March 30, 2019, NSSA’s annual Dinner For Our Children was held at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck, NY. For 27 years, this event has brought together family, friends, staff and supporters to celebrate the accomplishments of NSSA, and most importantly, our students and clients.
The evening began with a lavish cocktail reception. Guests enjoyed the delicious food, browsed the raffle and board prizes, shopped for beautiful beaded bracelets handmade by adult program participants, had their pictures taken and tried their luck in the casino. Before we knew it, it was time to sit down for this year’s event program and heart-warming video, produced by Associate Executive Director, Kathy Mannion.
We were proud to introduce and celebrate this year’s two graduates and their families. Annie and Kevin have worked so hard and made amazing progress during their time at the Martin C. Barell School. We are confident they will continue to be successful in NSSA’s Adult Services program. Congratulations to the graduates and their families!
Executive Director Nicole Weidenbaum presented the Winters family with an etched glass plaque, expressing just how much we appreciate the Winters Bros. organization. She thanked them for their wonderful generosity in sharing their facilities with NSSA, and making Winters Bros. a second home where our adult program participants can learn, work, exercise and be part of an accepting community. Nicole also thanked NSSA parent Liza Hein for her generosity and help with NSSA Enterprises’ bracelet endeavor; as well as parent Jennifer Prince for donating her time each week, rain or shine, to help with the NSSA Running Club.
We kicked off a new fundraiser at this year’s dinner dance, Step Up for Autism Awareness, a virtual campaign you can participate in no matter where you are in the world. Participants can either register to walk or run themselves, tracking their distance with a fitness tracker or cell phone app, or by donating to the overall campaign at www.charityfootprints.com/nssa. Jen O’Malley and Tori Ardito answered questions and signed up enthusiastic guests. The fundraiser runs through the end of April, so there’s still time for you to participate.
We couldn’t have such a successful event without our wonderful sponsors.
And we always owe much of the event’s success to long-time Event Chairs: Paul & JoAnn Raguso.
We are so grateful to everyone who helped us to offer such exceptional prizes. Special thanks to: Pat and Mary Beth Miranda for donating a week-long stay at Smuggler’s Notch Resort, Michael Rodriguez of Alliance Building Services for four Mets tickets in a box behind home plate at Citifield and The NSSA Parent Association for their support of this year’s dinner dance. And, of course, all the individuals who donated raffle prizes through our new NSSA Amazon Wish List! Thank you so much to everyone!
The evening would not have been complete without the support of our many generous friends: The Rogers Family for donating the printing of the beautiful journal, Bill Montzouros of Creative Design for his help and skill in putting together the wonderful video, M&M Casinos for running our exciting casino games, Sal Mazzeo and Chris Rosborg of CR Solutions for their technical assistance, Sandy’s Party City for the festive balloons, Sir Speedy for our signs and picture background, and, of course, Leonard’s Palazzo for their beautiful venue, delicious food and impeccable service.
The 27th Annual Dinner for Our Children was a great success. We hope you will join us next year, Saturday, April 18, 2020 at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck, for another great evening.
For more pictures, visit our Facebook page.
World Autism Awareness Day takes place internationally on April 2 each year. It is a time to increase understanding and acceptance of the 1 in 59 individuals who live with a diagnosis of autism. We encourage everyone to light it up blue and help to highlight the potential of those with autism, elevate their voices and spread the message of awareness, understanding and acceptance.
This year, we decided to get a little creative with our pledge to wear blue for autism awareness. We tie-dyed t-shirts with our students and adult participants and they came out great!
Everyone did a fantastic job waiting for their turn to tie-dye a shirt. Students and clients had the opportunity to participate in a recreational activity while practicing skills such as following directions and identifying colors.
To try and minimize the messiness that comes with tie-dying, each student wore a pair of gloves. For some, tolerating gloves and rolled up sleeves required some encouragement to endure. We were proud to see our students and participants work through the challenge to finish their gorgeous t-shirts!
The project resulted in a sea of beautiful blue tie-dye.
Our staff, students and adult participants look wonderful in the shirts they created. However you choose to light it up blue this year, we thank you for your support!
NSSA’s Salad Shoppe has been in existence since 2017. Classroom Four Lead Katie Reres and teacher Becky Chi developed the salad preparation and delivery program to help their students learn functional skills to use as they transition into adulthood and beyond their school-age program. The success of the program is due to the conscientious work of all the teachers involved and, of course, the students’ enthusiastic participation.
The salad shop program has proved so successful that educational publishers Different Roads to Learning published the curriculum in a digital format, which is now available for sale on their website here.
To show our appreciation of their efforts in creating this program, NSSA Executive Director Nicole Weidenbaum presented Katie and Becky with plaques of appreciation for their contributions.
Nicole expressed her pride and appreciation for all of Classroom Four’s efforts: “I am in awe of the NSSA staff every day. The systematic, dedicated and respectful way they work with our students and program participants is unparalleled. We strive to reach as many people who are in need of services as possible. The fact that Katie Reres and Becky Chi took what they do in class and made it replicable is a great source of pride for NSSA. Thank you Katie, Becky and Different Roads to Learning for helping us to disseminate our curriculum. I hope it is the first of many more to come!”
We are all very proud of the NSSA Salad Shoppe and especially the students for bringing this program to life by creating delicious, healthy salads and delivering them to happy customers at NSSA every week.
NSSA received a lovely donation of 100 undecorated snowman cookies for our students to decorate and enjoy. Anne Doscas is a long-time friend of NSSA, first learning of the school through Barell parent Cindy Wittels. She has been donating beautiful autism-themed cookies to and attending NSSA fundraising events for years.
Someone’s excited about cookie decorating!
All the Martin C. Barell classrooms participated in this project, from icing to decorating with sweet shapes, colored sugar and pretzel sticks.
Even while doing a fun activity, the students were practicing skills such as following directions, working in a group, using fine motor skills, counting, color identification and snack preparation.
And the reward for their efforts?? Cookie eating!!
Thanks, Anne, for giving our kids such a sweet project!
For six years, a group of NSSA’s Adult Clients have been running a morning coffee shop called NSSA Cafe at the Martin C. Barell School. This has been a welcome perk to teachers and staff.
As soon as the young adults arrive they get busy preparing for customers, setting up their work station in the gym, setting out milk, sugar, cups and stirrers and putting money in the cash register for making change. Michelle goes around the building with clipboard and order form, taking teacher and staff orders. Once she’s taken someone’s order, she knows it forever. She can even recommend new coffee flavors if a customer’s favorite is out of stock.
While Michelle is out taking orders, the others start filling requests from customers who go to the coffee shop themselves. Katherine takes orders at the register and makes accurate change every time. Alex makes the coffee and keeps the milk and sugar containers filled and neat. Once drinks have been made, Jessica takes one cup at a time to its awaiting recipient.
Plenty goes on behind the scenes as well. In addition to running the coffee shop itself, the adults are also responsible for keeping track of inventory and purchasing supplies and cleaning their coffee station and equipment. All the coffee shop related tasks are aligned with their goals of socialization, money management, sorting and inventory and following directions on purchasing supplies and staying on task.
Diana Mazzeo, NSSA’s Finance Coordinator and longtime coffee shop customer, says “it’s a wonderful thing to have the coffee shop here at the school to enjoy a cup of coffee with a smile.”
We all like the NSSA Coffee Shop a latte.