Category Archives: SKHOV News

Council Member Mark Levine Supports Children on the Spectrum

Council Member Mark Levine visits school age classroom at Shema Kolainu - Hear Our Voices

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.

Shema Kolainu Raises The Voice of Autism at Legislative Breakfast

NYC Councilmember Brad Lander receives the Children Appreciation Award

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices The 12th Annual Legislative Breakfast earlier today, Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 at the Renaissance Ballroom in Brooklyn, New York. Over 150 guests from across the city were at the breakfast in support of Shema Kolanu’s mission to help those on the spectrum succeed. The event welcomed a diverse group of attendees, including community leaders, civic and religious leaders, as well as elected officials.

This year, more than ever, the need to bring awareness and recognition to the autism community was critical as the statistics now show that 1 in 68 children in the population are autistic. Each year Shema Kolainu honors members of the City Council as well as the State Legislature who have shown commitment and passion for helping those in the autism community, especially when it comes to giving access to the appropriate resources for children on the spectrum.

Some of the honorees this year included, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, NYC COuncilmember Brad Lander, NYS Senator Simcha Felder, NYC Councilmember Mark Weprin, NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon SIlver, NYS Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, NYS Assemblymembers Steve Cymbrowitz, Phil GOldfeder, and Dov Hikind. Also given recognition was Mrs. Leah Steinberg, Director of Project LEARN Special Education Affairs for the Agudath Israel of America, Jeff Leb, New York State Director of Political Affairs Orthodox Union, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and Larry Seiler from the Bronx Network Channel for his segment Special People Special Issued (SPSI).

The honorees and distinguished guests spoke about the hard work of individuals in the legislature that have pushed for funding for resources for the autism community and more importantly the need to continue advocating on behalf of those children who need the support of therapists, teachers, parents, and community members alike. They stressed the fact that all children, whether they are on the spectrum or not, deserve access to a proper education that successfully meets their needs.

Scott Stringer, who visited Shema Kolainu earlier this year received the Appreciation Award, spoke about his admiration for the school and center and is looking forward to visiting again. NYS Senator Simcha Felder gave a special address where he emphasized the need for every citizen to be advocates and out about the needs of their communities.

Dr. Joshua Weinstein, Founder of Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices thanked the council members and assembly members for their unwavering support on these issues in the autism community and for their recognition of the work that Shema Kolainu does. He commended their commitment to all children and schools across the sort that are better off because of their help and advocacy.

Using Technology as a Tool for Skill Development

Dr. Dana Reinecke Presenting at 2014 ICare4Autism Conference

Dr. Dana Reinecke gave a presentation at the 2014 International Autism Conference titled, “Technology Opens Doors for Students of All Ages on the Spectrum” where she discussed the best ways to use different aspects of technology to help those on the spectrum. She also discussed the reasons and situations where technology might not be so helpful and even so far as detrimental to a child’s development. For example, if the technology you are using does not actually meet a particular need that you may trying to address, if it becomes more of a distraction than it is helpful, and if it is too expensive and time consuming, then using technology may not be the best choice in your situation.
Another important point she was about using technology as a replacement for social interaction or as a babysitter for your child. Using technology too much and to the extent where it is being used in place of any other types of exercises can be counteractive towards the progress you are trying to make with your child or student.
​Young adults need to have social skills in today’s world to be able to ​maintain a job make personal decisions that are helpful and beneficial for their lives. Individuals need to be able to negotiate with others in order to have their needs met, which can be an especially difficult thing for people on the spectrum as many of them process the environment differently than we do.
​She also stressed the increase of autism diagnoses and rising need for different kinds of treatment and therapies to help people on the spectrum lead productive and fulfilling lives. Dealing with the stresses of daily life, the working life, the young adulthood life can be overwhelming for people who are not on the spectrum, and for people who are these could be disabling for them as they need certain skills in order to thrive in today’s social and tech savvy society. ​
Teachers, parents, and therapists all listened in to learn ways in which they could use technology to further their goals in teaching students on the spectrum different skills. She made sure to provide examples of sources as well as her own program design that people can create themselves to focus on specific needs. Overall, Dr. Reinecke was able to convey alot of useful tools for the audience.

AutismCare Nepal Collaborates with ICare4Autism

Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya meets with Dr. Joshua Weinstein to discuss Autism awareness initiatives.

On the morning of Tuesday, May 27th, Shema Kolainu welcomed an incredible Autism advocate, Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya, Chairperson for AutismCare Nepal. Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya met with Dr. Joshua Weinstein, Founder and CEO of ICare4Autism and Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices, School and Center for Children with Autism, to discuss the importance of bringing Autism awareness to the nation of Nepal.

Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya had previously attended a conference for ICare4Autism, as she had received a scholarship to the 2012 ICare4Autism International Conference in Jerusalem. She presented research entitled “Autism Diagnosis: A Challenge in Nepal”, which revealed the many difficulties facing those with Autism in her nation. Primarily, doctors and parents cannot easily distinguish if a child has Autism, and therefore they waste precious time that could be used for early intervention and other treatment opportunities.

Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya receives a tour of the classrooms at Shema Kolainu. (From L-R: Gili Rechany, Educational Director for Shema Kolainu, Dr. Joshua Weinstein, Founder and CEO of Shema Kolainu and ICare4Autism, Suri Gruen, Program Director for Shema Kolainu, and Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya of AutismCare Nepal.)

AutismCare Nepal Society (ACN) is the only active Autism society in the country of Nepal that is run by parents of children with Autism. The society aims to provide help and support for individuals with Autism, in order to improve their quality of life, give them a sense of purpose, and include them into communities. Not only do they want to shed light on Autism, but they want to educate others about the disorder as well as serve as advocates for the rights of Autistic children in Nepal.

Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya met with Dr. Weinstein to discuss the need to create more opportunities for those with Autism disorders in Nepal, which includes the development of inclusive educational programs for children with the disorder. Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya was able to tour Shema Kolainu and see just how beneficial the programs are to the education and wellbeing of each child. ICare4Autism aims to work with ACN as part of a Nepal Autism Initiative. The collaboration will help provide information about Autism disorders to families and give suggestions for early intervention.

Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya discusses Autism initiatives in Nepal with Dr. Joshua Weinstein, Suri Gruen and Gili Rechany.


The Incredible Progression of a Young Shema Kolainu Student

Like many children that have been diagnosed with Autism, 3-year old Daniel would refuse to communicate with words or even gestures. He would get frustrated to the point of tears, and would end up banging his head or pulling the hair of his teachers. They tried to get him to join in with social groups within his preschool class at Shema Kolainu, but he simply refused. Despite the fact that Daniel did not want to communicate, his teachers never gave up on trying, and were hopeful that one day he might find a way to express himself. What happened next was beyond what anyone would have expected.


Daniel learned to use a board that had photos of some of his favorite toys and things that he liked. His teachers hoped that he would repeat the names of these items after they said them, because he would not feel as threatened or afraid to communicate about an item that he truly enjoyed. Eventually, Daniel began repeating words regarding things he liked. He would speak one word, such as “iPad”, “truck”, or “ball”. His communication abilities expanded further when he began saying that he would “want” each specific item. His ability to convey his longing to hold a specific item, is truly astounding, and his journey from being non-verbal to being able to express himself, is nothing short of miraculous.

Video Games Can Be Helpful for Autistic Individuals

An occupational therapist explained in an interview with Marketplace on Tuesday that she has found video games to be helpful for those with autism.

Amanda Foran works with both autistic children and adults and is the director of occupational therapy at Motion Therapy in Rockville, Maryland.

Foran encourages families with an autistic child to look for video games with simple rules that also tend to be very interactive, such as tennis or boxing. Seek out “games that offer the motion capture technology, that shows the individual on the screen instead of an abstract character,” Foran says.

Video games can be a meaningful physical activity for those on the autism spectrum. Foran particularly likes the Xbox Kinect because it encourages full body motion. Also, it doesn’t require any handheld controller, which is good for autistic people who may have limited fine motor control or coordination.

Foran explains that video games can also help build autistic people’s social interaction skills if the games are played with a partner. Therefore, families should encourage them to play with siblings or peers. Foran points out that many people on the autism spectrum are already skilled at playing video games, so this may provide them with the opportunity to act as the expert.

When asked about any concerns for the competitiveness that naturally is part of video games, Foran states that it’s not face-to-face competition. They are looking at a screen, which makes the competitiveness less threatening.

Foran drives home her point by explaining that people with autism desire to engage socially, but they might not have the underlying skills to do so. Or perhaps their sensory and language differences create challenges in communication. Technology like video games can help to make this communication somewhat more comfortable for those with autism.

“People just blossom when they’re playing,” Foran says.

To listen to the interview go to:

By Rachel Schranck

Missing Teen With Autism Found

A week after he was declared missing by New Jersey police, Michael Karwan, a high-functioning autistic teenager, has been found in Cleveland, Ohio. Currently, the boy remains with the police, who have confirmed that he was found safe.

Michael had left his home late last Tuesday night, and various leads had placed him in Penn Station in New York City Monday morning. Reports also claimed Michael was at the Port Authority station last Wednesday, though neither of these sightings were verified to be true. It remains undetermined as to why or how Michael ended up in Cleveland. The investigation is still ongoing.

According to New York Congressman Michael Grimm, the teen had tried checking into an Ohio hotel with his ID. Once the hotel had found out the boy was missing, they notified police.

“This is truly a Thanksgiving blessing,” Grimm said in a statement to the public. “Thanks to the efforts of concerned citizens, countless volunteers, media coverage and prayers from the community, Michael Karwan has been located and will be reunited with his family just in time for the holidays. I am very proud of Michael’s father, Walter Karwan, for his strength, faith, and perseverance throughout this trying time.”



Hear Our Voices Holds Chanukah Fundraiser

Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices is holding a Chanukah fundraiser to support children with autism. People who donate over $100 or more will receive a $25 gift certificate for Michal Negrin Jewelry.

With the tagline, “Help Light Up a Child’s Life,” this fundraiser allows donors to offer any amount they can to help support children diagnosed with autism. On each day of Chanukah, donors have the option to support a child and donate to their therapies.

If you’re interested in more information on sponsoring a child for Chanukah, follow the link here:

Hear Our Voices is a non-profit school that works in collaboration with ICare4Autism. For more information about ICare4Autism, their initiatives, and ways you can donate and get involved, follow the link here:

Autistic Teen in Marlboro, NJ Goes Missing

Michael Karwan, a 19-year-old high functioning autistic teenager, has been declared missing by Marlboro, NJ police after he voluntarily left his home late Tuesday night.

Michael was last seen in the area of School Road West, after trying to check into Freehold hotel Tuesday night. He was turned away due to lack of proper identification.

Police believe that the teen is traveling by foot. The initial K-9 search produced no results, so police have expanded their search area.

When a child or teen with autism goes missing, it can be particularly dangerous due to lack of verbal skills. In New York, Senator Chuck Schumer has even proposed funding tracking devices through the Department of Justice for children with ASD, given the recent disappearance of 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo.

“Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among children with autism spectrum disorders,” Schumer said while promoting this initiative.

Michael, a Brookdale Community College student, is about 220 lbs at about 6 ft. tall. He has brown eyes and hair, and was last seen wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and green sneakers.

According to his parents, Michael has a strong interest in comic books and movies, so he may gravitate towards locations offering these things. If you see him please contact the Marlboro Township Police Department at 732-536-0100.

Sources: Asbury Park Press-

Marlboro-Colts Neck Patch-

The Verge-

KOTRA Comes to Shema Kolainu

KOTRA, Korean Trade & Investment Promotion Agency, is a South Korean government based organization, dedicated to promoting trade and direct investment in various Korean industries. Their representatives reached out to introduce Goodis, a Korean company that promotes collaborations with special needs art students, to develop commercial designs from their original works of art.

This morning, the representatives joined our students at Shema Kolainu for what turned out to be a wonderful and meaningful experience. The students took part in an art session, created beautiful projects with markers and pastels. Both parties enjoyed watching our children learn about different shapes and colors. Each student received a gift bag filled with art materials to continue their art education at home.

Art has been proven to be an effective intervention for children with autism because they are visually centered in their learning. This means they understand what they see better than what they hear. Art can also enhance their communication skills, improve cognitive and motor skills, and helps improve their sensory integration.

The staff was extremely happy to take part in such an experience, as everyone at Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices is dedicated to promoting art education.