The Art League of Long Island recently held their annual “Perspective” Exhibition Fundraiser for Young Artists with Autism and Developmental Disabilities.
One of NSSA’s own students, 17 year old Logan, submitted some of his original artwork to the exhibit. Since he was about 9 years old, Logan has been creating alphabets out of magnets, K’nex, PlayDoh and other toys. He creates them independently, spending time and concentration on each letter. He tries various combinations of shapes before deciding on just the right one and makes refinements along the way as the alphabet grows.
Logan’s mother takes pictures of them quickly before he takes them apart as he rarely leaves them lying around. She says, “When you witness the process, the artistry of what he does is more apparent than just viewing the final art.”
The exhibit shared three photographs of his original alphabet creations. The executive director of the Art League was very impressed with his work. His mother thinks he was happy to see his artwork displayed in a gallery setting alongside artwork by his peers.
We’re so proud of Logan for creating this original artwork and hope to see more soon!
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!
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!
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 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!
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.