The Value of Contributing This December


This month you will view many videos, read a number of articles and scroll past endless advertisements all pointing in the direction of the same destination. A common goal; to raise money for additional funding in 2017. We are aware … Continue reading

Shema Kolainu Reaches out to Support Autism Parents

chani katz shema kolainu

Yesterday’s Shema Kolainu workshop at Hotel Pennsylvania, hosted by Educational 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. Continue reading

Home Depot Offers Free Crafting Workshops for Children With Autism

Home Depot

A well-known home goods giant is helping to provide a welcoming environment for autistic children to create meaningful art. Home Depot stores in certain locations offer free monthly workshops for child and family crafting. The first of these workshops in … Continue reading

IMPROV Can Be A Great Resource for Autistic Students

Jen Olenizcak, founder of “The Engaging Educator” recently lead a program over the course of two weeks where six students on the autism spectrum and their families took a one hour class on the Neustadt Collection at Queens Museum, which is a collection of Tiffany lamps, windows, metal-work, flat and pressed-glass “jewels” and much more. What she noticed was that there were many individual successes but also the areas of empathy, eye contact, and imaginative play saw improvements through the whole group.

The students she worked with really liked her exercise in empathy. She would pair people up and while one person’s eyes are closed, their partner connects their fingertips and leads the “blind” person around using only the touch of their fingers. Children with ASD tend to have trouble with empathy, but for this activity, they carefully guided their parents around the gallery space and by week two  were guiding their peers around.

After the end of week one, the group ended with an activity called “Pass the Clap”.  It starts with the first person turning to the person next to them, makes eye contact and then they both try to clap their hands at the same time while maintaining eye contact. The next person then turns to the person next to them, continuing around in a circle to “pass the clap”. Eye contact is something that people on the spectrum in general tend to have a difficult time doing and some student had to be reminded to “see what color eyes” the person next to them had. However, they continued this for a period of time and it was a largely successful activity.

The group also engaged in imaginative activities where they had to try to embody different emotions like “happy” or “sad.” They also tried posing like the people they saw in the photos in the gallery and created their own stories about the plants and flowers design that they observed on the Tiffany lamps. For example Jen Olenizcak’s student partner told her that she was the tulip and then proceeded to act out a story about the wind, a bee getting pollen, and snowflakes falling on the tulip.

She was very excited with the level of engagement from the students and their families and though the results of this very short study was only tried this one time she is hopeful that perhaps if the program could be extended to more than two weeks, more than one class session so that perhaps we can see something really inspiring happen. “Would the empathy move beyond the class and contribute to a better understanding of emotions? Could the eye contact in “Pass the Clap” transfer to everyday life”? We don’t know the answers, but we would sure like to find out.

We will be talking about some emerging and innovative therapeutic practices as well as issues of empathy, specifically on Day 2 of our upcoming International Autism Conference. For more information and ticket registration, CLICK HERE!

Hear Our Voices Holds Socialization Workshop

Shema-Kolainu-Hear Our Voices hosted a play and socialization skills workshop this morning, November 21. Our 60 attendees came to the school to learn how to properly teach children with autism how to play with toys and integrate with their peers.

Play is important for all developing children because it teaches language, social interaction, motor skills and more. For children with autism, play can be difficult due to their tendencies to isolate themselves or interact with adults rather than other children.

Part of the goal of the workshop was to combat these tendencies with positive reinforcement. For instance, when playing, pick a toy that is related to the child’s interests and strengths. It’s important to note that once play becomes more natural and unprompted, the reinforcement should slowly decrease and more neutral toys should be integrated.

Parents can also pair toys as means of positive reinforcement. For example, give the child a boat while they are taking a bath or play music when they are coloring.

Keeping play fun and not rushing a child who is not ready to interact with peers was also discussed. If you force a child to share too early on, or if they don’t have the proper verbal skills for interaction, the experience of play can be soured. Parents should also keep in mind that their presence should fade as play becomes less forced and peers enter the picture.

If you’re interested in more information or attending a future workshop please visit our website at A certificate is available upon completion.

Learning How to Converse

A 14-week program is offered through the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus, where high-functioning teenagers with autism learn the social skills they may struggle with.

Social interaction and social skills is something many diagnosed with autism struggle with, and thus require a different type of learning how to make and maintain healthy friendships and relationships. The instructors use unique methods to teach their students, and have been quite successful in teaching basic social skills.

Assistant director of the program, Ali Cunningham, explains,

“It’s not a skill that comes natural to teens on the autism spectrum… don’t learn this just by watching other teens and then acquiring the skills, they actually have to be taught the skill. Most of them may have difficulty initiating friendships where they have very few or almost no friends, others are really good at the initiation part but then that maintenance part where people have to stand you for a long time gets a little tricky.”[i]

We at Shema Kolainu understand the value of teaching social skills for those who may struggle with the necessary skill-set. We offer an excellent workshop series, including “Teaching Play to Children with Autism,” to be held November 21st. Please email if you are interested in attending this workshop, or learning about the other workshops available.

[i] “News Channel 5” FAU autism center provides instruction for teens in social and conversational skills. 29 Oct 2013. Web. <>

New Online Course For Parents of Children With Autism Designed by Medical & Educational Experts






The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center has launched an online course designed to help parents of children with autism better understand behavioral intervention, advocate for their child’s needs in school programs, and navigate the legal rights of disabled persons. The course is divided into ten-modules, allowing parents to set the pace, and is intended for use as early as diagnosis. The lessons follow six families of children with autism spectrum disorder through common scenarios to guide parents in the implementation of Behavioral Intervention strategies. The program manager, Maura Buckley, a mother of two young teenagers with autism, used her experience navigating the various systems of care and education to form this parental guide. Buckley notes having felt uninvolved and uninformed about her children’s daily lives while in school and therapy. She asserts the benefits of the new program saying, “Being able to interact with the professionals who are helping my child, and being able to advocate for what they need is so important.”[i] Seminars can be difficult to coordinate attending, especially for a parent of a child with autism, so an online program allows accessibility to up-to-date information on intervention strategies and educational approaches, bridging the gap between specialists and parents. Additionally, equipping parents with the knowledge of behavioral intervention will allow parents to reinforce their children’s progress from school and therapy programs, providing the most comprehensive care for individuals on the autism spectrum. Parents who take the course will know what and how to inform specialists of behavior at home as well as how to best respond in particular circumstances. The course is available for monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription The experts responsible for the course are in the process of creating an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) course for paraprofessionals, to be released this summer.

[i] Meindersma, Sandy. “Medical School Launches Online Course for Parents of Children with Autism.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette. N.p., 26 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. <>.

Tu Bishvat Celebration – NYC Council Speaker Quinn

At a special Tu BiShvat seder organized by Ezra and Gabriella Friedlander in their home in the heart of Borough Park, New York City Council Speaker and Mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn was warmly welcomed this past Sunday by a small but highly influential group of Boro Park Leaders.

Also participating in the Seder were NYC Councilman Brad Lander, President of the City Council in Yonkers Charles Lesnick, Assemblyman David Weprin, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, of the NY Board of Rabbis, Abe Eisner, Yeruchim Silber of the BPJCC, Alexsander Rapaport of Masbia, Dr. David Moskovits, Leon Goldenberg, Moshe Friedman of Community First, Meir Laufer, founder of New York Wheel, Isaac Sofer – Central UTA Satmar, Ari Weiss, Shomrim, Naftali Reiner of Bobov ,Jonathan and Cynthia of the QJCC, Esther Henny Jaroslawicz, Boro Park Bikur Cholim, Zev Brenner of Talkline Communications, were among many other local community leaders and activists attending.

Guests were treated to all the traditional fruits of the holiday. In addition about a dozen readings from the Torah Sages were distributed and read by different participants. The topics discussed ranged from the importance of conservation to the unity and responsibilities of the local community people. The attendees were able to exchange candid and thought provoking ideas.

“Sharing our traditions with elected officials allows us to get to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and having Council Speaker Quinn join us demonstrated her sensitivity to our community” said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group.

Web-based study program for families of children with Autism

The early years of life are critical to a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. Identifying Autism early is one of the most important ways you can help your child reach his full potential. It is not always easy to interpret the early warning signs, especially when there are so many variables for parents to research when they are first faced with the idea that their child has learning difficulties. The internet can be a daunting place to find accurate and meaningful information. One additional resource that is available to families and health care practitioners, at no cost, is a web-based education system on the CDC’s website known as the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program.  It aims to improve early identification of children with autism and other developmental disabilities so children and families can get the services and support they need.

Part of the Act early program is the “Autism Case Training (ACT): A Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Curriculum” which is designed to educate future pediatricians on fundamental components of identifying, diagnosing, and managing autism spectrum disorders through real life scenarios. It was developed in collaboration with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Fellowship Training Programs and has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.  It consists of seven cases, each with a Facilitator’s Guide and optional supporting presentation and videos.

Besides the curriculum, there are many additional resources, such as milestone checklists also available in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Arabic. Though this course was designed for educators and pediatricians, but can be accessed by anyone wishing to know more about early developmental stages of Autism. There are also many other videos and training materials available for immediate download, including children’s books and related resources on  positive parenting tips.