Air travel can be stressful for even the most seasoned travelers, but for those who have autism and experience difficulty waiting, hypersensitivity to crowds and noise, anxiety and communication challenges, it can be even more difficult. As a result, flying is simply not an option for many families in the autism community.
On Sunday, October 28th, Autism Speaks and JetBlue hosted families at JFK’s JetBlue Terminal to participate in their Blue Horizons Event. Families were given an opportunity to navigate the air travel experience in a realistic and controlled environment, surrounded and supported by caring volunteers, Jet Blue employees, members of the TSA and NSSA’s experienced clinical team, as well as other families in the autism community. They checked in, received boarding passes, went through security, waited to be called for boarding and sat through an in-flight safety training. Once everyone was on board, the plane taxied around the runway for 15 minutes giving everyone the feel of an actual flight.
A team of NSSA’s behavior analysts was on-hand to provide support to families, helping to reduce anxiety, stress and behavioral challenges.
Crisp autumn air and colorful fall foliage mean one thing – it’s time for NSSA’s Annual Halloween Party for students, clients and staff! The day began with bears, pigs, a dinosaur, The Back Street Boys and more entering the building in full costume.
Students went trick-or-treating from room to room asking for treats, waiting their turn and showing off their costumes.
But Halloween is not just about costumes and candy. The gym was turned into Halloween Hall for the annual party. Adult clients manned stations where students took turns making pumpkin slime, cheez-doodle jack-o-lanterns, q-tip skeletons and more.
At least one teacher got mummified by her students with toilet paper!
The grand finale of the party was the pinata where everyone took a swing or two at the hanging pumpkin. There were a few tentative swipes and then one decisive swing brought the pinata crashing to the floor!
Teachers, Direct Support Professionals and other administrative staff showed off their creativity in the costume contest–and while everyone is a winner–The Banana Splits got the most votes. Congratulations, Classroom 4!
anks to the hard work of Principal Deb Kennedy and all the teachers and staff for creating such a fun day for students and staff!
Classroom 1 headed to De Lea Sod Farms in Elwood, NY to pick pumpkins in preparation for Halloween. It was a crisp, clear morning and the students had the pumpkin patch all to themselves.
While they were having a brief break from their classroom day, they were still working on things like following group and individual direction and practicing waiting in line to make their purchases.
Some students chose the biggest pumpkins they could find!
While others chose more manageable sizes.
Not sure who had a better time – students or teachers!
Lugging pumpkins is hard work, but somebody’s gotta do it!
Pumpkin picking was a perfect break after a morning of classroom work for Classroom 1!
It was Spirit Week here at NSSA! The last week before program breaks we like to have a little fun and dress in a different theme for each day.
Monday was Character Day, where students, clients and staff dress wear a logo tee representing a favorite character.
Everyone’s favorite, Tie Dye Day, was Tuesday.
Some recreation time at Adult Services.
S. using the postage meter to finish the Adventureland flyer mailing. Are you coming? It’s Friday, September 28, from 6:30-9:30pm.
Through a grant awarded by Autism Speaks, NSSA was able to host a two-day workshop entitled Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism Spectrum Disorders for School District personnel from Long Island school districts.
R. washing veggies for the Salad Shoppe.
Adults do a yoga class for some relaxation.
Classroom 1 went to an end-of-year party at a classmate’s house!
And a last day of summer program field trip to Adventureland for some adult clients.
We had a great, active summer here at NSSA and now it’s time for a program break. Hope everyone enjoys their time off…and we’ll see you back here in September!
Every year NSSA holds a special “Sibling Day,” when families and friends are invited to spend a fun day with students, clients and staff. Siblings have a chance to interact with their own brothers and sisters, and to meet up with other siblings and family members like themselves.
It was another scorcher last week for this year’s Sibling Day, but students, clients and families made the best of it by playing on the giant bouncy waterslide, splashing in the pool and lunching in the shade.
The playground was put to good use, as well.
The NSSA Parent Association treated students and clients to a delicious lunch from the Eat Me, Drink Me food truck, while staff enjoyed a hero and accompanying sides.
Families and friends mingled and enjoyed watching the children (even the adult ones!) having a fun day.
Welcome to another week at NSSA. Here’s a little of what’s been going on around here.
The face you make when you see your buddy wearing the same shirt as you!
Who doesn’t love bubbles?
Classroom 2’s littlest yogis.
NSSA’s annual Sibling Day is always a lot of fun for families, students, clients and staff. Here’s a sneak peek….you’ll see more in a full blog post next week!
And that brings us to the end of another week at NSSA – join us again next week!
NSSA’s Education Program, The Martin C. Barell School, has four classrooms. Classroom 3 is the second oldest class, with seven students ranging in age from 16 to 17. They spend their days doing classroom work both individually and as a group, doing jobs in the community, and engaging in recreational activities, such as yoga, going in the pool, spending time on the computer, or relaxing in a beanbag chair in a quiet corner of the classroom. That said, every day is a little bit different…so let’s follow the students of Classroom 3 around for one day and see what their actual day is like.
This particular Wednesday started out drippy and steamy as the students arrived at school by bus.
They put their belongings away in their lockers then went to their classroom where they worked independently on tasks such as filing, counting, following written instructions, etc.
Early in the morning they headed to one of their job sites at Outback. They go well before opening time to clear off tables, wipe them down then re-set them with menu cards and folded napkins. They fly through their tasks but still do a really good job.
Great job, guys!
After finishing their work at Outback, everyone got back in the van to return to school. A few students went right back out to another job site with Classroom 4 and a couple headed to Elija Farm for a meditation class.
When everyone returned a little later, they all met in the gym for yoga with Miss Danielle. The practice involves following instructions, maintaining positions and breathing.
By this point in their busy day everyone was ready for some savasana!
After lunch the students had leisure time, during which they can go on the computer or iPad or do puzzles or other favorite classroom pastimes.
Then it’s Smartboard time where students work on taking turns, calendar skills, phonics-based learning and more.
After their long day the students got to relax until it was time to get on their bus, either having a snack or using a computer or iPad.
And then it was time to go home after a very full and productive day!
Hope you enjoyed spending the day with Classroom 3!
Earlier this summer we shared (here) that Randy Horowitz, NSSA’s Associate Executive Director of Program Development, began a school-based running club here at NSSA. The weekly practices are broken into two groups: The Junior Runners (the younger students in classroms 1 & 2) and Senior Runners from classrooms 3 & 4.
The club meets on Friday mornings and Randy and Barell parent Jennifer Prince spend 30 minutes leading students through warm-up exercises…
an individual short run…
a couple laps around the playground track with a teacher or running partner….
…and finishing up with a brief cool-down and a round of applause for their efforts.
The purpose of the running club this summer is to assess student’s skills, motivation and interest in running. Randy anticipates that by summer’s end they will have identified a handful of students who could be interested in running longer distances (perhaps a 5k, Jack’s Run, Blazing Trails for Autism 4 mile run, etc.). These students will be paired with staff and parents who can coach them towards this goal.
Randy shared why participating in organized runs or races could be a benefit for our students: “In addition to decreasing problem behavior and increasing health and fitness, among the most important benefits of exercise for individuals with autism, are the social implications of participating in activities with typically developing age matched peers, and relatives (e.g., siblings and parents).”
If you want to read the story of a family who helped their two sons with autism by running together as a family, read Silent Running: Our Family’s Journey to the Finish Line with Autism by Robyn K. Schneider. Ms. Schneider, the boys’ mother, shows how skill building, effective supports, developing community partnerships and selecting activities based on shared interest, can promote independence and community integration for individuals with autism.
And there’s certainly no denying the joy on these faces!
Thanks, Randy, for starting this important exercise club for our students!
Last fall we shared the story about Classroom 4’s Salad Shoppe program (read full story here). The program was such a resounding success they decided to expand their product line and delivery days. The teachers were able to replicate the program they created for salads and apply it to a new product with the same outcome and success. Now, in addition to Salad Thursdays, Classroom 4 is offering staff Fruit-Yogurt Parfaits on Fridays.
Each Wednesday staff members get a parfait order form delivered to their desks where they can choose yogurt type, up to 3 mix-in fruits, such as blueberries, honeydew melon, grapes, etc., and whether or not they want granola. When the forms are submitted on Thursday, the Classroom 4 team takes inventory of what is needed to fill the orders and goes shopping for all the ingredients. They keep track of the money and budget so they can make all the necessary purchases.
Friday mornings are spent rinsing, chopping and melon-balling.
Afterwards a production line is set-up on long tables in the classroom and everyone has a specific job to do: layering yogurt in cups, measuring and dropping in berries, filling separate cups with granola and writing customer names on labels. Students are assigned jobs based on their IEP goals and they are also learning to work as part of a team.
As with the salad production, health and safety are of paramount importance. The students use special tools for chopping, everyone handling food and containers wears gloves and students are closely monitored during the entire preparation process.
Everyone’s happy to see the delivery team arrive at their door with their Friday morning fruit parfait.
Classroom Four’s Salad Shoppe and Fruit-Yogurt Parfait delivery is an excellent illustration of the creativity and ingenuity of our teachers, who are tasked not only with teaching academics but also (and perhaps more importantly) teaching vital skills necessary to navigate and progress through everyday life. With careful assessment of each student’s needs and goals, our teachers created a new and exciting endeavor that combines their students’ academic goals with daily living objectives while generalizing and building upon skills that have already been mastered.
Congratulations on your success, Classroom 4!
Welcome back! After a 2-week program break, students, clients and staff returned to NSSA this week for the start of the new year.
Students settled back into familiar classroom routines.
Adult clients started a new pilot program this week called “Life Long Learning Series” that will run two days a week over the six-week summer program and then throughout the rest of the year with more students and perhaps an additional day. You’ll be reading more about this in a future post but for now we wanted to share some pictures of clients getting right into the program this week.
A new group of enthusiastic summer interns started.
Adult clients made new friends at the Elija Farm.
The NSSA Cafe began serving morning coffee again to happy customers.
Classroom Four’s Salad Shoppe resumed business.
And they picked up again with their new Yogurt-Fruit Parfait product that staff can order for Friday mornings. Learn more about this in an upcoming blog post.
NSSA’s school-based running club started this week. Randy Horowitz, NSSA’s Associate Executive Director of Program Development, and Barell parent Jennifer Prince led the students through some warm-up exercises, an individual run, a couple laps around the playground track with their teachers and a brief cool-down at the end. You’ll be hearing more about the running club soon!
Jen and Tori from NSSA’s Development Team led adult clients in tie-dying tee shirts for July 28’s Brew-B-Q (are you going?).
And the week ended up with a visit from Mr. Softee!
It looks like our summer session is off to a great (and busy!) start. Thanks for sharing it with us and we’ll see you again soon!