Category Archives: SKHOV News

Director of Autism Asperger Initiative Visits Shema Kolainu

skhov

Shema Kolainu CEO Dr. Joshua Weinstein (center) poses with AIM Director Bradley McGarry (right) along with his graduate assistants, brother, and Educational Director Gili Rechany (far left).

 

On Friday, Shema Kolainu received some special attention from faculty at the Autism/Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst University.

The program’s director Bradley McGarry works with college-bound seniors on the autism spectrum to prepare them for academic and social success. Working as a bridge between grade and school and higher education, the AIM helps the young adults during the summer before their freshman year by developing their social skills and setting up individualized education planning and accommodations. They even go the extra mile by offering support groups, mentoring, and behavioral plans.

McGarry paid a visit to Shema Kolainu for a tour of our facilities. Along with his brother and two graduate assistants, he was given an inside look at our classrooms and shown what makes the school so special. Children at the school receive highly individualized attention in the classroom since each class is capped at 6 students. Shema Kolainu also prepares students for adulthood through specialized behavioral assistance and life skill training provided by programs such as the Daily Living Skills Center.

The goal AIM is to build on such life skills so crucial for the independence and success of young adults on the autism spectrum. By collaborating with organizations like Shema Kolainu and ICare4Autism, McGarry hopes to share resources and expand upon the impact that AIM can offer.

In summation, the objective of the Autism/Asperger Initiative at Mercyhurst University can best be characterized by their mission statement:

“The true definition and character of a person is their ABILITIES, not disabilities.”



Dr. Shore Speaks About Successful Transition to Adulthood

Stephen Shore on transitioning to adulthood

Professor Shore has been able to remedy his sensitivity to overhead lights by wearing a baseball cap during his lectures.

Dr. Stephen Shore is no stranger to awkward situations. Through his lecture “Promoting Successful Transition to Adulthood for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum” presented on Friday at Hotel Pennsylvania, Dr. Shore hopes that his experiences navigating through life with Asperger’s Syndrome are instructive for young adults on the autistic spectrum.

A successful transition to adulthood often revolves around choosing the right career. Dr. Shore spoke about his fascination with mechanical watches as a child, and how he was able to parlay this strength into a college job repairing bicycles.

It is an unfortunate truth that the unemployment rate among adults with autism remains high today. The majority of young adults affected by asd struggle to achieve full-time employment- some estimates suggest over 90%. While teens on the spectrum vary widely in their degree of functioning (high/low), there are steps that may be taken to improve their likelihood of achieving independence.

Anyone on the autistic spectrum has their own set of strengths and interests. A child may love putting items in the correct order, for example. It may be ideal for this individual to take a job stocking shelves. This could parlay into a career in inventory management.

There are various professions that benefit from the skill set exhibited by some people with ASD. We have seen several companies, such as engineering firms, that actually have programs designed to place bright young adults on the autistic spectrum with jobs that utilize their math skills and minimal socialization. Employers sometimes praise these workers for their lack of idle chatter during a productive work day.

But proper employment is not the only challenge on the path toward adulthood. Learning to build social and relationship skills is usually a challenge for someone with ASD. Dr. Shore suggests that we ask for what he calls “reasonable accommodations” in order to successfully integrate into social groups.

For example, Dr. Shore typically presents his lectures wearing a baseball cap. Although this may seem unusual, his reasoning has nothing to do with making a style statement. He explained how the overhead LED lighting in lecture halls bothers him more than it would the average person, who may not even be affected. Asking for reasonable accommodations like this can help a person with autism fit in with others. The key, as always, is awareness- if the adults around him understand what his needs are, they may be more likely to feel comfortable with his differences.

Children with autism are poorly prepared for their adult lives, according to Dr. Shore, which is something that caregivers, therapists, and teachers need to change. It is typical to begin preparing a child for their adult lives at 16.

“This is about ten years too late,” said Dr. Shore, in response to that idea.

ICare4Autism is in the process of creating a Global Workforce Initiative vocational training program that will help teens develop their skills and translate them into a career. It is estimated that this year alone, around 50,000 18 year olds with autism will enter the workforce or choose to continue their education.



Dr. Shore’s Music and Autism Lecture Resonates

Shema Kolainu hosted another successful community workshop with Dr. Stephen Shore on Tuesday. Entitled “Including Children on the Autism Spectrum in the Music Curriculum,” the presentation struck a chord with those in attendance.

The workshop held at Hotel Pennsylvania covered several topics that addressed involvement of special needs children in musical education. Currently a Special Education Professor at Adelphi University, Dr. Shore’s undergraduate work focused on music education. His teachings are influenced by his own experiences taking music lessons as a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Dr. Shore covered the benefits of introducing a child to a music curriculum. One of these benefits is that the students engage in social activity with their teacher and other students. There are many social rules to learn and practice when taking lessons in your teacher’s house, for example. It helps the child to be reminded that they should be courteous and say “hello” when arriving at the house and “thank you” once the lesson is over.

Dr. Shore displayed a numbered instruction sheet that one of his former students used:

autism music task list

 

In addition to helping the children with social cues, Dr. Shore has also come up with many methods that have been effective to teach them music. Sometimes charts can be helpful when teaching notation because children on the spectrum love structure. His students responded well when they had the letter names of notes placed on a piano.

Dr. Shore’s lecture also addressed how to adjust traditional classroom instruction within a school environment. Since there is rarely enough time to address each student individually, he suggests asking other students to instruct a child who is struggling. This also will help the “student instructor” obtain an even better grasp on the material as they mentor.

Often in a classroom environment, lessons have not been planned with a special needs child in mind. For a child on the autistic spectrum, these lessons can be adapted to suit their alternative learning styles. This is called a “substitute curriculum.” One avenue to take is to reach out for extra help from a paraprofessional. The teacher’s aide can work with a child separately until he or she is up to speed on the material. Once the part is mastered, the child can perform with the ensemble.

A musical education can improve the lives of young people in a number of ways, both for typical and atypical learners. When introduced before adolescence, musical literacy can improve a child’s motor coordination in regards to finger movement. The areas of the brain responsible for touch perception are more developed in people who learned to play music at a young age.



Shema Kolainu Reaches out to Support Autism Parents

 

chani katz shema kolainu

Family time is crucial for building confidence in a child’s life. For parents of a special needs child, the everyday challenges for managing behavior and raising a self-sufficient child are magnified.

Yesterday’s Shema Kolainu workshop at Hotel Pennsylvania, hosted by IEP Coordinator Chani Katz, MA, BCBA, gave support for parents who have an autistic child. Ms. Katz presented strategies for parents to cope with routine issues, ranging from sibling relationships to toilet training.

Whether public or private, parenting a child with autism can feel stressful and even lonely. Others around will be quick to judge a parent’s methods before they have ever tried to walk in their shoes. Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices strives to not only provide top-notch education for our students, but also to help give parents the tools for success.

“It definitely brings a lot of lessons to the family when everyone is able to become more nurturing and empathetic,” Ms. Katz said when addressing the crowd.

Milestone’s in a young child’s life such as sleeping through the night or using the toilet properly can put them outside of their comfort zone. For an autistic child, creating a training schedule can prove quite helpful since they love structure. Other tips that have proven effective are to use positive reinforcement of good behaviors and to create a calming environment for activities the child may feel overwhelmed by.

When parenting a special needs child, it is important to remember that each sibling deserves just as much love. The other children may feel jealous and lonely when they feel that their sibling gets priority and extra attention. Some things that parents may do to combat this is to involve themselves daily in their children’s hobbies. Even if they only have a few minutes to devote to a child at the end of the day when they are drawing pictures, for instance, it makes them feel special.

It also helps to reach out for support when tasks become too overbearing for parents. Behavioral intervention services from a professional are often quite important for a child’s development. Parents may also choose to seek out support groups of other children like them to share wisdom. Sometimes, the help of a housekeeper can ease stress.

Above all, educating the public about autism seems to be the most effective way to minimize negativity from other. Katz suggests helping more “atypical” siblings through difficult situations by encouraging them to talk about it, and also to be open with others in the community about a child’s special needs.



Intellectual Diversity in the Workplace

SuccessThis past week, Shema Kolainu- Hear our Voices curated a presentation by Dr. Stephen Shore, member of ICare4Autsim’s advisory council and an Adelphi University professor who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome, on the topic of career success with autism spectrum disorder. As Dr. Shore pointed out, the success of a candidate depends on how well their strengths are matched to their occupation.

Intellectual differences are becoming a more familiar subject across the world, and now employers are beginning to recognize the importance of understanding all kinds of minds. Advocacy is increasing for those with developmental disorders as it becomes apparent how many people have struggled with coping alone.

Currently, a number of companies actively recruit workers who are on the autistic spectrum for tasks suited to their mental abilities. These include Freddie Mac, ULTRA Testing, and software company SAP AG. These strengths include attention to detail, vast knowledge of specific subjects, and tendencies to not over-socialize during work hours.

In some ways similar to affirmative action for minorities, workers with intellectual disabilities including autism spectrum disorder and ADHD are striving to be recognized and given a fair chance to succeed like everyone else. With estimates ranging from 1 in 68 to as many as 1 in 50, the issue is generating more buzz as autism diagnoses continue to become more prevalent.

Freddie Mac has created an internship program for those with autism spectrum disorder that places interns into paid positions within the fields of information technology, enterprise risk management, and the mortgage loan business. The company has placed several interns into permanent full time positions over the past four years, and praise these students for they analytical skills. Some of Freddie Mac’s managers have even realized after working with the interns that they themselves may have autism spectrum disorder.

An intellectual disability is usually not as obvious as a difference in race, gender, or physical handicap, so it has been an arduous process to achieve special recognition for those with brain differences. Many colleges and workplaces have actively worked for many years to include women and minorities in order to promote diversity, for example, but the application process is far more vague when it comes to mental diversity. Fortune refers to this struggle as “the next civil rights movement.”

Regular employment has been shown to improve the lives of adults with autism. According to a study at Vanderbilt University, adults on the autistic spectrum who were engaged in work demonstrated improvements in their behavior and daily living skills.

Integration into the workplace presents special challenges for those on the autistic spectrum, so they themselves must be up to the task. They must be aware of their own mental differences and work to interact with their colleagues and supervisors in the best possible way while managing their tasks efficiently. This includes choosing when and how to disclose their disorders to managers and co-workers.

Employers also face the challenge of how to recruit candidates with the right skills, without excluding individuals with neurological disorders who may function quite well when given the right framework. An autistic person who averts their eyes during an interview, for example, could be overlooked for an IT position that they could excel at despite being shy.

Just like physical diversity, a rainbow of different mental abilities are found in all people. If these are embraced and actively included in our society, it will not only improve the lives of those with developmental disabilities, organizations will often benefit from the contributions of those who see the world from a different perspective.



Shema Kolainu Presents Guest Speaker Advocating for “Success with Autism” at United Nations

Dr. Shore Presents

Dr. Shore speaks to audience at United Nations about success as an autistic individual

Due to demand, the Shema Kolainu Autism workshops, which have continued to draw larger crowds of people, have relocated presentations to the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City.                                         

On Thursday, December 11, Shema Kolainu presented speaker Dr. Stephen Shore, a professor at Adelphi University. Dr. Shore’s lecture entitled “Success with Autism: Using our Strengths for Achieving a Fulfilling and Productive Life (Just Like Everyone Else)” presented some of his findings from his academic research, which focuses on matching people on the spectrum with the ideal occupation.

Dr. Shore spoke in a room at the United Nations following a highly attended presentation at Hotel Pennsylvania. Speaking about his own experience with autism, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child, he views having the disorder simply as a different frame of mind rather than seeing it as a handicap. There are different “kinds of minds”- with particular characteristics, interests, and abilities that are actually valuable in the workforce if applied to the right field.

Giving the hypothetical example of a man with asd named Robert, Dr. Shore described how this man’s autistic personality traits were suited to his job at an information desk at Penn Station. His communication skills were factual, detailed, honest, data-driven, and repetitive. Social interaction for Robert is limited and predictable. Because of his restricted interests, he is able to memorize information that his co-workers cannot remember without references. Because of his autism, he is actually more productive than most of the other employees.

After devoting so much of his life to researching asd in addition to his personal knowledge, he can often recognize the signs. Revealing a photo of himself as a baby, he described the “autism stare” which he and others with the disorder seem to exhibit.

“They study everything, like a scientist,” said Dr. Shore.

Something Dr. Shore felt was important to emphasize was that it is important to make autistic children feel like their interests have validity and to nurture that. For instance, if an autistic person enjoys stocking shelves because they love to put items in order, this should be looked at as a meaningful use of their time. When a person with asd is good at something, Shore says, they tend to really excel at it.

So instead of feeling despair when a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Dr. Shore hopes that parents and teachers will recognize their strengths and teach them to translate these qualities into meaningful, productive work. The ultimate goal is to mentor youth affected by the disorder to become independent, educated, self-aware individuals who are determined to succeed.

A list of upcoming workshops like this one can be found here. Reserve your spot today and receive a certificate of participation.



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.