Mark Levine, Council Member for District 7, Chair of the Committee on Parks & Recreation, and member of the education, finance, housing, and operations committees took the time to visit Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices to learn more about the services we offer at the school and see the work we do. Many of the special needs children we provide home-based services to are also located in the district he serves. He is a leading voice in advocating for safer streets, reliable public transportation, cleaner parks, and more affordable housing. As a strong supporter of equal opportunities and the Autism Initiative, he was interested in learning about the success we’ve had as well as the work that is still left to be done. Dr. Weinstein, CEO and founder of Shema Kolainu, explained the goals of the school and center and the daily activities we have to meet those goals. He also gave an overview of the history of our school and how we’ve grown to accommodate over 60 children at the school and over 1000 children citywide for home based services.
Councilmember Levine was particularly impressed by our teacher to student ratio and our commitment to providing each child with one-on-one therapy. While observing some of the classrooms, he was surprised but humbled by the level of engagement that the kids were showing with their teachers, Ipads, or the activity that they were doing at the moment. He remarked that, “oftentimes, disabilities are paired with extraordinary ability,” when discussing the success we’ve seen over the years at Shema Kolainu and shared in our vision of a more inclusive society. Mr. Levine was also able to interact with some of our school-age children and see some of our unique rooms; such as our Daily Living Skills Center, used to help the children develop and hone practical skills such as making their beds and setting the table, and the Snoezelen room, which is our multisensory room used to help children overcome any sensory challenges they may experience throughout the day.
He even expressed concern for the children’s safety when they visit Brizzi park, located across the street from Shema Kolainu. As someone who has worked with under-served children in his years as a teacher in the South Bronx and Director of Teach for America, we hope that Council Member Levine will continue to show his support for the autism community; especially as we strive to provide better and more far-reaching resources for our kids and their families and continue our commitment to giving children their best chance to reach their highest potential.