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.
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