March 2020 was certainly one for the history books! Before coronavirus (BC) hit NY, our students and clients were busy with their usual activities.
NSSA staff, one Barell student and one Adult Program participant spent March 8th at Hofstra University’s popular Irish Fest. The Embracelets table had many admirers and shoppers throughout the day.
People especially loved the green bracelets, made especially for St. Patrick’s Day by students and adult participants.
Last fall, NSSA’s Adult Services Program started running a Sandwich Shoppe for program participants. The shop allows participants to generalize their mastered skills across people, settings, and materials.
Task analysis is used to teach hygiene rules (e.g., wearing gloves) to promote a safe and healthy environment. Visual cues are used to facilitate client collaboration to assemble sandwiches. And the process of delivering sandwiches to staff who have ordered them allows for generalizing communication goals of speaking slowly and clearly in a real-world setting.
And while it is benefiting participants, it benefits staff as well!
13-year-old Tommy recently celebrated a milestone—he got his braces off!
Prior to getting braces put on when he was 11, Tommy would go into his dentist’s office monthly to just spend time and get acclimated to the dentist and other staff. He would sit in the chair and the dentist would count his teeth, allowing Tommy to get used to having someone put instruments in his mouth. Dr. Schindel would go over a social story with Tommy, telling him each step of what was going to happen. Sometimes Tommy was able to watch other patients having their braces adjusted so he would know what to expect. In the beginning some of his classroom teachers would go with Tommy and his mother to the appointments to help the process go as smoothly as possible.
Tommy looked forward to his appointments and visiting his friend, Dr. Schindel. Earlier this month, after two years, Tommy had his upper braces removed and he now has the most beautiful smile! He currently wears a retainer at night and had no trouble adjusting to it. In fact if Mom forgets to give it to him at night, he reminds her.
You did a great job, Tommy, at handling this entire process with such maturity!
Since March came in like a lion, Adult Program participants continued making good use of the indoor exercise opportunities at the JCC and the Winters Bros. gym.
Jamie, an Adult Services Program participant, turned 33 in March and her friends at NSSA had a party for her with balloons and cake. You can tell from her big smile that she had a great day!
Happy Birthday, Jamie!
We’re always happy to see smiling faces on students and participants as they go about their day at program and at home.
NSSA’s school and adult programs were closed as of March 16, in response to the Covid-19 virus. But that didn’t mean that learning stopped! Our teachers, Direct Support Professionals, and clinical staff stay in contact with families, students, and adult participants via phone, email, text, and virtual learning via video conferencing.
Families shared with us how they’re all doing during this challenging time.
Exercise continues, even if indoors!
Students and adult program participants are putting skills learned at NSSA to good use in the real world.
And families are just enjoying having more time together,
We hope everyone is well, and being safe and careful. We look forward to seeing everyone back at NSSA soon!
While February was a short month, NSSA managed to fill it full of activities!
On February 7, the students of Smithtown High School East invited NSSA Adult Program participants and Barell students over the age of 14 to attend a Winter Wonderland themed dance. As always, everyone had a great time dancing, enjoying dinner and refreshments, and socializing with their peers from Smithtown High School East. Thanks to DJ Matt Figuccio for keeping the dance floor hopping!
Martin C. Barell School staff and students, and NSSA’s Adult Services participants and staff had fun dressing in themes each day of Spirit Week.
Barell Pink & Red Day
Barell Favorite Sports Team Day
Barell NSSA Day
Barell Fancy Friday
A Girl Scout mom, who works for Adult Services parent Joe Longo, arranged to have her girl scout troop visit NSSA on Valentine’s Day. They gave out cards they had made to our students and Adult Program participants.
February 11 marks the 15th anniversary of Autism Speaks. NSSA’s Executive Director, Nicole Weidenbaum, and Associate Executive Director, Kathy Mannion, attended a celebratory event where our colleagues at Autism Speaks unveiled a new re-imagined look and logo and launched a commitment to make 2020 the “Year of Kindness” for people with autism.
Part of the night’s program was a video presentation narrated by NSSA’s own Chris Cortale. Chris did a fantastic job and we are so proud of him! You can view the video at https://www.autismspeaks.org/…/introducing-new-autism-speaks.
We are so proud of Chris and his advocacy efforts on behalf of the Autism Community – congratulations, Chris!
Chris with the Autism Speaks social media team
Some of NSSA’s Adult Program participants spend a few days each week at Winters Bros. in a Lifelong Learning program. They have classroom lessons, fitness sessions in the gym, and do office tasks such a shredding and filing.
NSSA students go out in the community regularly to learn new skills and practice those they’ve already acquired. Here students are shown working at Panera and purchasing reinforcers.
Mikey has been practicing blowing out candles with his teachers and on the day of his birthday party, he did a great job blowing out the candle on his cake. Great job, Mikey!
Classroom 4 designed and created this beautiful bulletin board. Students colored each of the wing feathers. Don’t you think it makes a charming photo backdrop?
See you again in March!
Maybe Autism is My Super Power Ben Blanchet is a 13-year-old boy with autism. When he was three years old, he was tested for having perfect pitch. His mother says he has supersonic ears. He calls it his autism superpower.
Ben has written a book called, “Maybe Autism is My Superpower.” In the book he describes the unique ways he hears, sees and thinks about the world around him.
On his Facebook page he encourages other kids to post about their “superpowers,” whether it’s drawing, musical ability, memory, etc. It’s a place for them to share their stories and pictures or videos of their special talents.
On June 9, at the Carle Place, NY Barnes & Noble store, Ben did a book signing and reading from his book. A fun event was planned around his appearance, with activities for children and families.
Ben did a great job reading aloud from his book and finished up with this, “Everybody has superpowers. Even kids without autism have superpowers.”
Ben and Barnes & Noble generously selected NSSA to benefit from a portion of sales of eligible in-store purchases at the Carle Place store on June 9 and online sales through June 13. Ben’s book can be purchased here. We’re so pleased to have met Ben and his Mom and to have been part of such a fun day!
May 18, 2019 was a picture perfect day for NSSA’s 13th Annual 5K Run Walk for Autism Awareness. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and a light breeze kept everyone cool while running.
This was a special year as the run was moved to beautiful Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. This is a more central location for many people as well as a scenic spot with generous shade trees and grassy picnic areas for relaxing after the run. We hope this made for a great experience for our runners and their friends and families.
The day began with a generous breakfast spread of bagels, bananas, oranges and Entenmann’s and home baked goods by our own Connie Grassle. Gatorade, orange juice and water was available to quench our guests’ thirsts. Thank you to all our Breakfast Sponsors for keeping our runners fed and refreshed!
Volunteers from Global Facility Management & Construction, Inc. and both Lynbrook and Half Hollow Hills High Schools were on hand bright and early, balloon filling, course marking, table cleaning, muffin cutting, tee shirt dispensing – all the things that need to happen before a successful run. NSSA families and staff were also on hand to help out where needed. We couldn’t do it without their tireless help.
The race went off right on time at 8:30am and runners sped around a 3.1 mile course.
And as always, we welcome walkers too!
We were excited to see so many NSSA students and adult program participants joining in the race after training with the NSSA Run Club this year.
Post-run, Mike Miranda announced the overall and category winners.
Congratulations to James Gallagher for being the overall race winner and Top Overall Male with a time of 19:18 and to Courtney Koleda for coming in as Top Overall Female with a time of 22:50.
You’re ALL winners in our book!
Thanks to the Slone and Miranda families for all their support of Jack’s Run and NSSA.
We couldn’t put on an event like this without the help of our sponsors, volunteers, donors, families and runners. Your generosity means so much to so many.
You can see all the finishers below!
On April 2, 2019, World Autism Awareness Day, 10-year-old Jake Prince got up in front of his entire school at Waverly Park Elementary School and gave a presentation about autism to his fellow students.
Jake’s younger brother has autism and attends the Martin C. Barell School in Commack, NY.
Jake’s presentation was called “What is Autism” and shared what it’s like living with a brother with autism. When he asked the audience if there were any questions, one girl asked, “Do you ever wish your brother didn’t have autism?” His very mature and poised response was, “I wish NOBODY had any disabilities!”
All during the week, Jake has been reading to his 5th grade classmates from Meet LISA at NSSA, a book featuring stories inspired by those served by NSSA, and selling Autism Awareness bracelets. His bracelet sales raised $477 which he donated to his brother’s school!
Jake is a wonderful example of today’s youth that is being raised to be compassionate and accepting of differences in people in the world around them. Young men like Jake give us hope that the future can be a better place.
We’re so proud of Jake that we’re officially declaring him an NSSA Champion!
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.
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!