NSSA currently offers an educational program, consultation services to Long Island school districts, in-home respite services, a Saturday recreational program, an adult services program and Summer Day Camp program. All of our programs are staffed by trained employees who are supervised by Masters or Ph.D. level psychologists and special educators. Our support is derived from the New York State Education Department, the Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), and private fundraising.
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In January 1993, NSSA was proud to open The Martin C. Barell School, named in honor of then New York State Board of Regents Chancellor, Martin C. Barell. Chancellor Barell shared our vision and advocated for our programs to the New York State Education Department. The Martin C. Barell School provides a full-day, twelve-month program for school age children ranging in age from five to twenty-one years. It enrolls a maximum of twenty-five students, with an instructor-to-student ratio of 1 to 1.5. The small size and high teacher-to-student ratio are integral to achieving optimal results for each student. They allow for the promotion of a significant degree of individualization of each student’s program, curriculum, reinforcement and motivation systems, as well as intensive clinical oversight and on-going data analysis.
The highly structured program is based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), in which each child has behaviorally defined and measurable goals. Each child’s progress is reviewed regularly so that if the child is not learning, adaptations to the teaching method can be made immediately. On-going assessment of each student’s reinforcement preferences leads to the development of highly individualized motivation systems for all students. Ultimately self-monitoring, or the ability to deliver one’s own reinforcement in the absence of teacher supervision, is the goal of each system. Students receive instruction in a variety of settings (i.e. in the classroom, at home, and in the community). Student-to-teacher ratios are based on the individual needs of each student. Some receive instruction on a one-to-one basis for some or part of their day, others are taught in small groups, and still others are slowly integrated into public school special or regular education classrooms in their home district.
Each student’s program is designed to teach pre-academic and academic skills, communication, recreation, socialization, and daily living skills. Depending on the needs of the student, behavior reduction plans to reduce and replace inappropriate behaviors are designed, implemented, and monitored on an on-going basis. Careful attention is placed on the systematic generalization of skills from school to the home and into the community. The goal of each child’s program is to increase independence, communication, and socialization skills and to enable students to maximize their full potential and become contributing members of their families and communities.
Parents play an integral role in their child’s education. At the Martin C. Barell School parents receive extensive training, both in school and at home, in the principles and application of behavioral theory and teaching techniques. This training empowers the parents to be active participants in their child’s education program and enables them to support the transfer of newly acquired skills to the home and community. In addition, families receive specific instruction in their home on an as needed basis, to address goals and challenges specific to their child and family (e.g. eating and/or sleep disorders, aggression, dining out in restaurants, attending a sibling’s sporting event, etc.) Family support is also provided through NSSA sponsored parent and sibling support groups and on open door visitation policy.
In 2004 when the first student attending NSSA’s Martin C. Barell School reached the age of twenty-one and could no longer be served in the Education Program, NSSA launched an Adult Services Program to serve the needs this student and the many others who will graduate after him. With each passing year NSSA will be serving an expanding population in its Adult Services Program.
Through this program, NSSA is helping to foster the skills that develop greater independence for our clients throughout their lives. Whether through job sampling, or job training, NSSA works to ensure that the adults we serve are still able to grow and develop to their maximum potential. Our primary concern for the adults that we serve is that they continue to grow to their greatest level of independence through employment and skills required of daily living. The intricacies of appropriate behavior in the community are also addressed through the Adult Services Program.
NSSA’s commitment is to high quality lifelong support. Through the Adult Services Program, NSSA is living up to that commitment.
NSSA is deeply committed to providing quality services to individuals with autism residing in Nassau and Suffolk counties. As such NSSA continually strives to increase the availability of these services to children and families in need. The provision of consultation services to school districts is one way that NSSA fulfills this commitment.
NSSA staff provides observation and assessment of students with autism in public and private school settings at the request of the student’s home school district. In addition, NSSA provides training and consultation services to district personnel supporting students in inclusion or self-contained public and private school settings and home programs.
NSSA launched its Assistive Technology Program in order to better address the learning and communication needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders through the use of technology. The program provides evaluations of individuals with autism spectrum disorders to identify reading, writing, and communication strengths and weaknesses that can be remediated or compensated through the use of Assistive Technology (AT). The program also provides consultation services and on-going support and training to educators, service providers, and family members on the incorporation of AT into the school, home, and community settings. NSSA works directly with the child’s education team and family members to modify curriculum, facilitate learning, and meet the child’s communication needs in varied settings. The Assistive Technology Program also provides continuing education to those working with and caring for individuals with ASDs on existing technology to help remediate both communication and literacy deficits. On-going training and demonstrations to professionals and family members will help them identify simple technology solutions to remediate many learning and communication challenges of autism.
NSSA receives funding through the Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to provide much needed respite services to families struggling with the responsibility of caring for a child with autism. Services are provided during the day or evening in the family’s home by NSSA-trained staff members.
In addition to in-home respite services, NSSA offers a bimonthly Saturday recreation program. The program is held at NSSA twice monthly from 10 am to 3 pm. The program, which is also staffed by NSSA-trained staff members, offers a variety of leisure and recreation activities to individuals with autism. These activities include arts and crafts, baking, sports, game playing, puzzle and block building, and music participation.
NSSA established a week-long summer day camp program to help provide additional structure and recreation opportunities for children with autism at the close of summer school sessions, a time when it is typically not available. In addition to developing sports and leisure skills, the camp benefits children with autism by giving them opportunities for social and community integration. The camp program also helps to lessen the burden placed upon their families during a particularly challenging period of time each year.