Upcoming New York Family Workshop & Support Group Events

Parent to Parent New York, Inc. will be hosting a free workshop and several family support groups throughout March that you won’t want to miss! Their free workshop “Special Education Mediation: A Collaborative Option for Resolving Disputes” aims to help parents and school districts become more effective partners, offering attendees an opportunity to look at conflict differently, learn about resources that enable people to communicate more effectively, and meet with representatives from organizations to assist parents and schools with communication issues.

Special Education Mediation: A Collaborative Option for Resolving Disputes
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Institute for Basic Research
Parent to Parent NY, Inc.
1050 Forest Hill Road
Staten Island, NY 10314

Those who wish to attend should RSVP by calling (718) 494-4872 or emailing SIPTP@aol.com.

They will also be hosting several support groups throughout the rest of the month. The Aspergers, Mothers, and Sibling Support Groups will also be held at the Institute for Basic Research. The Fathers Support Group will be held at the Page Plaza Diner in Tottenville, Staten Island. Please find the times and dates below for each support group:

Aspergers Support Group
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Wed, March 4th & March 18th, 2015

Mothers Support Group
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Wed, March 11th & March 25th, 2015

Fathers Support Group
6:30pm–9:00pm EST
Wed, March 11th, 2015

Siblings Support Group
6:30pm–8:00pm EST
Fri, March 6th & March 20th, 2015
RSVP is required, by calling (718) 494-4872.

For more information about these parent support groups, please call (718) 494-4872 or send an email to Parent to Parent New York at SIPTP@aol.com.

2015 Autism Speaks Baker Summer Camp Grant Application Now Open!

Summer camp can have a significant impact on individuals with autism. Applications for the Autism Speaks Baker Summer Camp Program are now being accepted! The program selects eligible camps in the United States to identify qualified campers and offer up to $5000 in scholarship funds for financially disadvantaged children with autism to attend a summer camp.

Autism Speaks recruits members for the Autism Speaks’ Baker Summer Camp Program Review Committee. The national committee is composed of families affected by autism, individuals with autism, and autism professionals. The Committee reviews eligible applications and selects camps to receive a Camp Scholarship Fund.

Visit their website to learn more about the program and its eligibility requirements. Click here for the scholarship fund application. For more information about the Baker Summer Camp Grant program, you can contact Elizabeth Fields, Family Services Grants Coordinator at elizabeth.fields@autismspeaks.org.

21st Annual Eden Princeton Lecture Series: March 19–20, 2015

Mark your calendars! This terrific lecture series by Eden Autism Services is happening again on March 19–20, 2015 at Princeton University. Guest lecturers include Connie Kasari, PhD, Helen Tager-Flusberg, PhD, Matthew Goodwin, PhD, Ron Suskind, and more.

Attend the 21st Annual Princeton Lecture Series to learn more about current technologies in autism research, strategies for effective early intervention programs, and more. For more information about the event, please email Joni Truch or call (609) 987-0099 ext. 4010.

You can also download a copy of the event brochure here (Registration Form included inside)!

TDF Presents an Autism-Friendly Performance of “Aladdin”

Mark your calendars! On March 8, 2015, the Autism Theatre Initiative of the Theatre Development Fund will present an autism-friendly performance of the acclaimed musical comedy “Aladdin” at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City.  Tickets will go on sale on Monday, February 9th, 2015 at 12:00pm EST.

All tickets for this special performance are being specially priced to ensure that as many individuals, as possible, affected by autism, sensory and communication disorders, or learning disabilities, are able to experience this extraordinary production. This show will be performed in a welcoming, supportive environment for individuals on the spectrum, with sensory and communication disorders, or learning disabilities. Slight adjustments to lighting and sound will be made for the performance. In the downstairs lobby, there will also be a break area staffed by specialists in the field, if audience members need to leave their seats during the show.

For more information about this performance, visit the Theater Development Fund’s website.

Autism Speaks Partners with Simon Malls to Feature a Caring Santa Program

We’re delighted to share that Autism Speaks has partnered up with Simon Property Group, Inc. and the Noerr Programs Corporation to bring children and their families a new Caring Santa programOn Sunday, December 7, 2014, for two hours prior to the mall opening, children with special needs will have the opportunity to meet Santa personally in a sensory-friendly environment set up in 120 different Simon Malls across the country.

Reservations to meet their Caring Santa’s at Simon Malls are going fast, so book your spot today to meet Santa in a fun and sensory-friendly environment at this private event just for families with special needs. For a full list of locations and dates of the Caring Santa event, visit www.simon.com/caring-santa.

Make a Reservation with Caring Santa!

Special Education Students Learn How to Share and Prepare for Thanksgiving

(SGVN/Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb/SWCITY)

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought we would share this wonderful report we came across on learning how to prepare for Thanksgiving festivities at Dexter Middle School in Whittier, CA. With weeks of preparation for their annual tradition, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in this school’s special education program learn about manners, responsibility, budgeting at the grocery store, and treating others with respect, especially at the dinner table.

How are you preparing for Thanksgiving with your special student this year? What’s your annual tradition?

Click to read: Thanksgiving comes early for Dexter Middle students

A Call for Conferences on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior and Social Skills

Banner_LargeDo you know of any upcoming conference or workshops on Autism?! Please let us know of any ABA, Verbal Behavior or Speech-Language Therapy events and we will share it with our community. We strive to help our readers be informed about resources and events for parents and educators of children with autism or other developmental delays. No matter how big or how small – email info about your event to hannah@difflearn.com. Please include the date, location, scheduled sessions/speakers, registration details, contact information, and anything else you feel would be informative. If you have a flyer or website, send it over!

We’re always happy to send catalogs or a door prize for your attendees so don’t hesitate to contact us. Help us help our parents and teachers educate and inspire!

We’ll let our readers know about your event on our site where we keep a running list of upcoming conferences at https://www.difflearn.com/events.

Registration Open for Bridge Kids of NY’s Specialized Social Groups – Winter Session

If you’re in NYC, you must check out these Specialized Social Groups offered by the wonderful folks at Bridge Kids of NY. With a team of professionals who strive to improve the quality of everyday living for children and families, BKNY presents several fun and interactive social groups to support children in their social, communication, and behavioral growth. Below are two groups in which you can now enroll your child for the upcoming winter session:

Bridge Kids Social Circle
This fun and interactive group meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and is a 50-minute social skills group for children ages 2–5 years who experience difficulty in socializing with peers. Through play and group activities a qualified therapeutic team will focus on key social behaviors such as:

  • Eye-Contact
  • Taking Turns/Sharing
  • Understanding Personal Boundaries
  • Utilizing Appropriate Social Language
  • Initiating and Maintaining Social Interactions

Bridge Kids Happy Eaters Group
This group meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and is designed for our little ones who are “picky eaters”. If your child often refuses new foods, presents with a limited range of accepted foods, and/or engages in problematic behavior surrounding mealtimes, these skilled therapists can help! This group focuses on:

  • Creating Positive Mealtime
  • Experiences
  • Introducing New and Nutritious Foods
  • Healthy Exploration of Food
  • Simple Food Preparation
  • Supporting a Healthy Mind and Tummy

Register your child now in these specialized social groups for the upcoming winter session. Both groups meet for 10 sessions each at 4:00 PM on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

+steps Program Cultivates Social and Executive Planning Skills in Students with Autism

Link

We’ve always believed in the importance of nurturing independence in our students. When we came across this article in the Lowell Sun, we found it a great opportunity to share how one school district is cultivating its autism curriculum to help their students towards achieving independence.

+steps (read: Positive Steps) is a program within the North Middlesex Regional School District in Pepperell, MA that helps over 600 students with autism and other developmental disabilities develop social and executive planning skills with various activities of daily living, from going out to local supermarkets to learn how to shop, to preparing meals for assisted living residents, and to creating podcasts to improve on public speaking skills.

Read the full article here

Guest Article: “Promoting Socialization in Children with Autism Through Play” by Julie Russell

We’re so pleased to bring you this guest post by Julie Russell, Educational Director at the Brooklyn Autism Center (BAC). BAC is a not-for-profit ABA school serving children aged 5–21. Here, Julie describes specific, simple strategies for promoting socialization in children on the spectrum.

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Promoting Socialization in Children with Autism Through Play
by Julie Russell, Brooklyn Autism Center

Socialization – defined as a continuing process where an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and appropriate skills – is a vital part of life. It is also a particularly difficult skill for individuals with autism. Children with autism often struggle with initiating conversation, requesting information, making contextual comments, and listening and responding to others. These difficulties can interfere with the development of friendships for children on the spectrum.

The best way to improve socialization in children with autism is to emphasize play. There are several strategies to teach play skills to children on the spectrum that can help them improve socialization and develop friendships.

One method of teaching socialization is to condition the typically-developing peer as a reinforcer by pairing the peer with items and activities that are reinforcing for the child with Autism. The peer can give the child with Autism a preferred edible or join in on a preferred activity for the child with autism. If Ben’s (the child with autism) favorite edible is Twizzlers and his preferred activity is completing a puzzle, Adam (his typically developing peer) can offer Ben a Twizzler and join in on completing the puzzle. The typically developing peer is then associated with both the preferred edible and the preferred activity, making Adam a reinforcer for Ben.

This method is a great way to make the peer more desirable for the child with autism. The items or activities used for conditioning should only consist of items/activities that the child with autism already enjoys. When trying to introduce a new item or activity to the child with autism, peers should not be included right away. Trying to teach how to play with the item and the peer simultaneously can be confusing and over-stimulating for the child with autism. The child with autism should first be taught how to play appropriately with the age-appropriate activity during individual instruction, and then the peer can be included in the activity once mastery of the activity has been demonstrated.

Another way to promote socialization is to engage the child with autism in cooperative games, or any activity that requires interaction where each child has a role that is needed in order to complete the activity. This way, the motivation to engage with the typically developing peer will be higher. When teaching the child with autism how to play cooperative games, such as board games, you can include teaching skills that target turn taking and sharing. Children with autism (or any child) may have difficulties with giving up preferred items/activities, so these may be challenging skills to teach. In order to teach these skills with success, begin by having the child with autism share and take turns with non-preferred items/activities, then gradually fade in more highly preferred items to take turns and share.

Evidence-based practices such as social stories, peer modeling, and video modeling are also excellent methods to promote socialization in children with autism. Reading social stories and watching “expert” peers interact will allow children with autism to view and understand appropriate behavior before interacting with a new peer or practicing skills such as turn-taking, requesting information, and listening and responding to others.

All of the above methods of promoting socialization are used in Brooklyn Autism Center’s after school program BAC Friends, which pairs our students with typically developing peers from neighboring elementary and middle schools. We also provide additional opportunities for our students to practice peer socialization (along with academic work) during our reverse inclusion program with Hannah Senesh Community Day School. These methods combined with enthusiastic peers have helped our students improve their socialization skills and develop meaningful friendships.

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WRITTEN BY JULIE RUSSELL, MS, BCBA

Julie holds an M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts and received her BCBA in 2009. She has over 10 years of experience working with children with autism and related developmental differences in centers, schools, school districts and home-based programs. Julie received her supervision hours for board certification in behavior analysis by Dr. Nathan Blenkush, Ph.D., BCBA from JRC in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a Clinical Supervisor at ACES (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis) in San Diego California and Clinical Supervisor at the ELIJA School in Levittown, NY before joining the Brooklyn Autism Center as Educational Director.