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.
Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism and the Genesis School partnered on May 10, 2019 to present a Staff Development Day for their combined staff. Staff Development Day is a scheduled day of no programs for school students and adult program participants so teachers and direct support professionals and all clinical staff are available for a full day of training and inspiration to expand upon learning opportunities for their students and adult participants.
Over 150 staff members were in attendance for the Keynote Address by Joanne Gerenser, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Executive Director of Eden II. Dr. Gerenser’s talk was titled, “Lessons from the Field: What I Love About ABA.” She spoke passionately about her lifetime of work with individuals on the autism spectrum and her experience with Applied Behavior Analysis. The talk was inspirational and the audience was attentive throughout. There was much positive feedback afterwards as well.
Following the keynote, Mary McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA, Associate Executive Director for Long Island Programs and Chairperson of Eden II’s Research Review Committee, took the stage for a talk on “Evidence-Based vs. Non-Evidence-Based Interventions for Individuals with ASD.”
After a full morning in the auditorium at the Commack Jewish Community Center, everyone moved next door. Lunch was set up for round-table discussions such as “Multiple Schedules of Reinforcement,” “Leisure & Fitness,” “Transition & Aging Out” and “Challenging Behaviors.” People shared experiences and asked questions as they ate.
In the afternoon following lunch there were more presentations:
• “Working with Parents of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder” by Jayne Eaton-Bove, MS, NSSA Director of Clinical Services, and Michelle Banville, MS-Ed, BCBA, LBA, NSSA Director of Adult Day Services
• “Providing a Purpose for Students and Their Instructors by Creating a Functional Curriculum for Adolescents with Autism” by Kathryn Reres and Rebecca Chi
• “Innovative Employment Options for Adults with Autism” by Erin Sparacio-Archibald, MS Ed., SAS, SDA, Director of Long Island Administration at Eden II
The day was informative, educational and inspiring for all.
Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day, which is part of Teacher Appreciation Week, the first full week in May of each year.
The National Education Association describes National Teacher Day “as a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives.” And NSSA is more than proud to honor our teachers, who are kind, patient, dedicated and SO hard-working.
Thank you for all you do!
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 email@example.com.
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.
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!