On January 11th, the Smithtown High School East Leadership Club hosted an evening of dancing, food and fun at their Red Carpet themed winter dance for NSSA adult participants, consultation students and Barell students over the age of 14. This is a unique opportunity for our students to participate in a typical school dance experience. They are able to interact with and learn from the students of Smithtown as well as have fun and create friendships.
Attendees arrived by walking up a red carpet and into a gym filled with high school students dressed up and ready to dance with them.
Many thanks to Stacey Agosta for helping to coordinate the event, NSSA teachers and direct support professionals for accompanying their students and adult participants and Smithtown High School East for their graciousness and hospitality in hosting for us once again.
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.
Many individuals with autism have extremely limited areas of interest and have to be taught how to pursue leisure interests on their own. Thanks to a generous grant from The Jack Fanning Memorial Foundation, NSSA has been able to offer the participants in its Adult Services Program opportunities to pursue a wide variety of leisure activities, such as music, yoga, bowling, painting, cake decorating, horseback riding and more. At NSSA we believe that the quality of life for all people is enhanced by developing a variety of interests to pursue. Through the generosity of The Jack Fanning Memorial Foundation, NSSA’s Adult Services participants are enjoying new leisure activities.
On October 25th, a group of adult participants went to New York Equestrian Center (NYEC ) in West Hempstead, NY. NYEC has a comprehensive therapeutic riding program that is specific to riders with special needs. The program has existed for several years and caters to those with physical, developmental or emotional disabilities. The program operates under PATH International guidelines which is the association that certifies riding instructors through training and education to safely and competently work with differently-abled individuals. PATH International has guidelines on therapeutic riding instruction that NYEC uses to asses both the individual as well as the most appropriate horse for them. While horses all have their own unique personalities, NYEC instructors assign specific horses for specific needs. For individuals on the autism spectrum, for example, they use a horse with a slower, smoother gait to provide less stimulation.
Jessica Boily was there to welcome the adults to their extended riding lesson, which takes place both mounted and on the ground. Jessica is a PATH International Instructor and Director of the Therapeutic Riding Program at NYEC. The adult participants started their visit with a tour of the facilities, petting velvety noses as they walked down the stable aisles.
They saw where the horses sleep, eat, are groomed and bathed, and where they go for outdoor turnout and exercise.
Then the group was split into two; with some donning protective riding helmets and others picking out brushes for grooming. The riders were helped up a sturdy mounting block and onto the horse they were riding. The horses were well-behaved and stood still while their riders clambered aboard. Once mounted, riders were shown how to position their hands on the reins and their feet in the stirrups, and off they went. Each participant was accompanied by an assistant, leading the horse and staying close to offer guidance and instruction.
Instructor Jess went back and forth, adjusting position and offering encouragement and praise. Every participant seemed perfectly at-ease with getting on and walking around the ring, even those who had never been on a horse before. One client who has been riding for several years even got to do some trotting. And the smiles! The indoor arena was positively glowing that chilly morning.
While the first group was riding, the others were learning how to groom a horse. Each chose a different brush and were shown how to move around a horse safely, while still getting them clean all over. Everyone seemed eager to be as close to the horse as possible and Lola was patient and still even with a dozen or more hands moving over her body at the same time. Eventually the groups switched roles and new riders mounted up and others continued grooming a different horse on the cross-ties.
Some of the more adventurous clients took turns leading a horse up and down the barn aisle, under the watchful eye of a stable employee.
After the mounted and ground lessons were finished, everyone got a special treat (including the horses!). Each client got to take a bucket of bran mash (a warm lunch treat for the horses) to a different horse and feed them.
The afternoon ended with hugs between NSSA clients and their new friends at New York Equestrian Center. We thank the center, all the helpful staff members, and especially Jess Boily for her experience and patience in helping our adult clients enjoy such a wonderful and memorable experience.
We can’t wait to see where NSSA adults go next!
On a crisp, sunny day in November, NSSA’s Adult Clients went to nearby Elija Farm to help with garlic planting. They started with a little exercise by walking around the planting fields, stopping at different spots along the way to smell herbs and identify different plants. They then all donned gloves and took turns planting garlic bulbs in the freshly-tilled soil. Many hands made quick work of the big job.
The ELIJA Farm offers opportunities for innovative, farm-based vocational programming for differently-abled individuals, and our Long Island community. Since 2016, NSSA Adult Services Program participants have helped with farm tasks, taken meditation classes and participated in healthy cooking presentations at the farm.
Everyone seemed to enjoy their work in the beautiful sunshine and we expect to be invited back in the spring to help harvest the garlic crop.
Participants in NSSA’s Adult Services Program have been busy making bracelets to sell to staff, families and at a local holiday fair. They started with Chakra bracelets, but they have branched out to other decorative beads and colors.
They work as a team, sorting and stringing the beads and packaging them according to size. Barell parent Liza Hein, has generously assisted the endeavor by sourcing and donating materials for the bracelets, as well as sharing her industry expertise.
On November 25, some of the adult program participants took their handmade bracelets and body scrubs, as well as knitted items donated by a staff member’s parent, to a local Holiday Fair. The Creating Keys Inclusive Holiday Fair was an ideal location for the clients to sell their items to the public.
Alyssa was an excellent salesperson, engaging with potential customers and upselling bracelet quantities. She was even interviewed by News12 (video below).
These handmade bracelets aren’t just beautiful to wear. They have provided an engaging project that contributes to the learning, growth and skill development of our adult program participants. We can’t wait to see where this project takes them next!
On November 30, the Smithtown High School East Leadership Club visited The Martin C. Barell School to learn more about NSSA’s school program. For seven years, Smithtown High School East students have been hosting dances for our students and clients at their school, so we have an excellent long-standing relationship with these amazing students.
When the Smithtown students arrived in the morning they were given a tour of the school by Stacey Agosta, NSSA Senior Behavior Intervention Specialist, then split up into smaller groups to spend time interacting with students in their different classrooms. Our teachers explained what the students were currently working on so the high schoolers were able to participate in the activities. They also brought craft projects to do with the students.
Afterwards, members of the Leadership Club shared a pizza lunch with the NSSA friends they have made over the years at their school dances.
We are so grateful to the students of Smithtown High School East for taking an ongoing and active role in the lives of our students and adult program participants at NSSA. We look forward to more wonderful events that these students host each year for their friends at NSSA.
For the past few months NSSA Adult Clients have been experiencing new activities thanks to a grant received from The Jack Fanning Memorial Foundation. NSSA has been offering more opportunities for enriching instruction in areas such as music, yoga, bowling, cooking, painting, horseback riding and more. Activities such as these help broaden the interests and skill development for our clients and help them to lead fulfilling lives.
On October 22, several groups of adult clients went to Bake Me a Cake Boutique for a step-by-step cake decorating class. They each had their own personal-sized cakes to decorate. They cut and shaped their cakes, rolled out fondant, cut out different shapes, and applied all the pieces to turn their plain cake into a whimsical rainbow fish. Tiny bites of sweet fondant may or may not have been taken throughout the class! At the end, the cakes were placed carefully into bakery boxes to be taken home to their families.
We can’t wait to see where NSSA adults go next!
Many individuals with autism do not know how to pursue leisure interests on their own or have extremely limited areas of interest. Due to a generous grant received from The Jack Fanning Memorial Foundation, NSSA is able to offer more opportunities for enriching instruction than ever before, in areas such as music, yoga, bowling, cooking, painting, horseback riding and more. Activities such as these help broaden the interests and skill development for our clients and help them to lead fulfilling lives of dignity and purpose.
In recent weeks, adult clients have been expanding their experience horizons with cake decorating, decorative sign painting, and horseback riding, all of which were a big hit!
On October 24, a group of clients went to LumberJax in Commack to make decorative signs. Family names and design choices were sent in ahead of the paint session and the LumberJax staff had stencils prepared for when the clients arrived. The use of layered stencils made it possible for clients to create unique and beautiful hand-painted signs for their home or family.
Decorative sign-painting was such a success, other groups from NSSA’s Adult Services have already returned to LumberJax for more creativity. What do you think of their artwork?
Thanks to the instruction and help from LumberJax. I’m sure we’ll be back!
From the time students and clients arrive at NSSA in the morning til the time they leave, their days are filled with learning, job sampling in the community, recreation and physical activity.
NSSA offers Parent Training workshops to help foster learning with challenges at home. In-home respite, a Saturday recreation program and a week-long summertime day camp are available to provide them with enjoyment, structure and leisure activities.
NSSA’s reach also extends beyond our walls with outreach in the form of consultation services to Long Island school districts and twice-yearly Adventureland events and training workshops for teaching professionals.
Your support allows NSSA to offer valuable school, adult and outreach programs such as these. Will you join our Give $5 Tag 5 Campaign for #GivingTuesday on November 27 to help NSSA raise money and spread awareness?