Self Direction Services for Kids with Special Needs in New York: What You Need to Know // By Dana Greenberg
Self-Direction Services (SDS) offers parents of kids with special needs funding for services of their own choosing. Self-Direction Services (SDS) is a New York State-funded program for children with special needs. Children who qualify for this program will benefit from it in so many ways. CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
My son works so hard each week in his karate class. Not only do they work on keeping him focused and following directions but it is also great exercise and he really enjoys it!
Those of us who've been through it before are very aware how stressful and unpredictable IEP meetings can be. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, which is the plan created for every child eligible for special-needs services from his or her public school specifying how the school will meet your child’s specific educational needs. CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
The holidays can be fun, exciting, and filled with lots of activities, especially right here in New York City. Some of those can be loud and crowded, too. When you have a child with special needs, this time of year can be challenging. While I want my son to be part of it, not everything works for him and his needs. CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
Going out to dinner with a child who has autism can be very stressful, and I know you parents out there know exactly what I mean. Will they sit? Will they eat? Will I be able to eat? How much time will we have before we need to leave? My son is 13 years old and over the years I have learned a few things to make the experience manageable and sometimes even enjoyable now. CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE
Taking a Child with Autism to the Movies: 5 Tips From a Mom Who's Been There // by Dana Greenberg
My son has autism and, at age 13, recently saw a movie in a theater for the first time. It is not something I thought would work for him--until now. When we walked past the movie theater and he said he wanted to go see a movie, I got so excited. It was time to plan for this event. Challenges I knew we would face included the darkness, the loud sounds, sitting still, and staying quiet. This is what I did to prepare him and what I’d advise any parent of a child with autism to do to get your child ready to see a movie in the theater: CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
Moving to a new school for most typical children is filled with excitement and anticipation. The thought of making new friends, getting to know a new teacher, checking out a new building, all sounds very appealing for the most part. But for children with special needs and their parents, the emotions are quite the opposite. There is the fear of the unknown, the question of who you can trust, just the all around anxiety of the process. As my son gets ready to start at a new school this fall, I have thought a lot about how I can best help him transition. CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
A New Activity // by Dana Greenberg
Yesterday my son did a trial class at SNACK. SNACK is a Special Needs Activity Center for Kids located in Midtown Manhattan. What an awesome place! After meeting their team, who is pretty amazing, I felt very comfortable dropping him off for two hours. Most importantly, he loved it too. SNACK has so much to offer the kids from various sports like basketball, soccer and swimming to music and yoga. I can not wait to sign him! Check them out at http://www.snacknyc.com/ and follow them at https://twitter.com/SNACKnyc.
The day my daughter left for sleep away camp, her twin brother, who has autism, asked me how many days until she is home. Once I told him, he took a sheet of paper and, completely un prompted, made his own calendar to keep track of the days! These are the moments that really make me smile and remind me that all the hard work is worth it!
Last night I attended the preview screening of the first episode in The A Word series. If you have someone with autism in your family or know someone who does, you will not want to miss this! It is realistic, witty and hits home in so many ways.
The story in the words of SundanceTV "Captures an authentic portrait of a contemporary family after their young son is diagnosed with autism." The show premiers in a few weeks on July 13th 10P Eastern time. Here is a LINK to PREVIEW the trailer.
Celebrating my Twins' Birthdays is Extra Challenging Because One has Autism // by Dana Greenberg @SheKnows
Every year as my twins' birthdays approach, I feel in many ways the same as most parents do: A mixture of both happiness and sadness. This year they're turning 13. They are getting older and things are changing in many ways, but it's different for them because my son has autism. CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
Five Great Extracurricular Activities in New York for Kids with Autism // by Dana Greenberg @TimeOutKids
My son has autism, so finding after school and weekend activities for him to do in New York is not always easy. I try to focus on finding things that he can enjoy, which can sometimes be tricky. He is 13 now, and over the years we have tried a variety of activities. Some have worked well; others not at all. There's been a lot of trial and error, but here are five great extracurricular activities for kids with autism in New York that we've tried (and love)! CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
How does your child handle haircuts? Has it changed over time? Maybe they don't love it, but have just gotten used to it, as a part of their life. My son, whose hair I keep very short, got his first haircut at 1 years old, he is now 13. Back when he was little, it was so very tough for him, and for me as his mom to watch and listen to. There were so many things that bothered him about the process. The sitting still, wearing a cape, the fallen hair itching his skin, the sound of the buzzer so close to his ears. All very understandable things. I wondered if it would ever get easier. A simple thing like a haircut......SO tough to get through!
Over the years the progress was slow. At times I wanted to pull my own hair out, but we kept at it. Every four weeks, almost to the day, he would have his appointment, and.....it DID get easier! As he got older, I noticed him getting a little more tolerant. I no longer have to bring a change of clothes, he wears a cape! While I can tell that the fallen hair and the buzzer still make him feel a little uncomfortable, he has learned to deal with it.
I think in our case, consistency was a major factor in him becoming more tolerant. This was not something that was going away, it was part of his life. I tell him the day he has an appointment so he can start thinking about it. I also promise him a small reward, something small, maybe a special snack that he doesn't get to have often. This is very motivating for him. Probably the most important thing you can do, is find the right person to give the haircut. You may have to try out a few people or places until you find someone who clicks with your child. It will be worth it in the end. We have been lucky to have the same wonderful person, Diane, all these years, yup, from 1 to 13! If she moves to a new shop, we go with her. Currently she work at Doodle Doo's on Christopher Street. Her patience and understanding have no doubt contributed to the the changes we have witnessed. Diane counts with him, sings with him, whatever it takes!
Haircuts for us have gone from 40 minutes of crying and moving around to 15 minutes of quietly sitting still. Again, not overnight, but over years. If your child struggles, I promise you, it can get better. I know how very stressful, as a parent, haircuts can be. We just want it to be over. My suggestions are to be consistent, find a motivational reward and find the right person, and as always, try to stay calm.
How To Choose a Babysitter for Your Child with Special Needs // by Dana Greenberg @NYMetroParents
My son has autism, so when I need to leave him with a babysitter, I am extremely picky about who that person is going to be. There are so many things that go through my head as a parent of a child with special needs. Who can I trust with him, especially since he has limited verbal skills? Will his babysitter understand his wants and needs? Will he be happy and engaged while I am gone? Over the years, I have come up with a system for choosing a babysitter that has worked well for us. This is how I do it. CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE
Our Trip to the Discovery Museum Time Square... // by Dana Greenberg @Discovery Times Square
My son and I and some friends were invited to check out the awesome exhibits at The Discovery Museum Time Square in New York City. The museum is located on West 42nd Street right in the heart of Time Square. Since my son has autism museums can be tricky for us. I have to be prepared for the unexpected. I went online to their website discoverytsx.com to prepare him for the visit the best I could.
They currently have three different exhibits going on, Star Wars and the Power of Costume, The Vikings Exhibition and Gunther Von Hagens' Body Worlds. We talked a little bit about each one and I showed him some pictures. This really helps him understand what he is going to be seeing. Each exhibit starts with a short film, which was very important for me to know in advance. When lights go out and things get loud he tends to have some anxiety, so knowing this in advance was very helpful for us.
When we arrived at the museum he seemed very excited and ready to start. As we started in The Star Wars exhibit, he seemed very intrigued by the life size costumes in all the interesting colors. He really enjoyed being able to touch the different sample fabrics that were on display. He recognized some of the characters and even made some verbal comments, which is always great! If your child is a Star Wars fan they will absolutely love this! You can even take their picture (without a flash) in front of their favorites!
Our next exhibit was The Vikings. If this is something your child is studying in school, or if your child is a fan of the movie How to Train Your Dragon, which took place in a mythical Viking world, they will surely find some familiar things here. The boats, the artifacts, the interactive activities, all were very appealing to my son. He especially loved the digital boat making activity. It really held his attention and would not move on until he completed the entire task. It was great to see him so focused!
The final exhibit was the very fascinating Body Worlds. There were definitely things in here that grabbed my son's attention right away. Since he is very familiar and somewhat intrigued with the human body it was easy to get him to comment on things in here. I pointed out specific things to him and we would have a little back and fourth, which is always great. When he saw the large intestine, he said "It looks like a snake."
It took us about an hour to go through all three exhibits, and overall I think it went really well. We went in the afternoon on a weekday which is much less crowded then other times might be. There were no lines at all, however, to avoid lines in general, you can go online and purchase tickets in advance. The museum is multi-level but there is an elevator should your child need one. All the exhibits have benches in case a taking a break is necessary. There is also a DC Cupcakes Cafe located in the museum if you want to get a yummy snack.
I know that for my special needs child museums trips can be unpredictable, even sometimes with the best prep I can do. The Discovery Museum is the perfect size and was very accommodating. The exhibits change about every 6-9 months so I will definitely be keeping my eyes open to see when we can plan our next trip back there!
For information on buying tickets click HERE
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My son has autism, which means I have to educate my daughter's friends // by Dana Greenberg @SheKnows
My son has autism, so my daughter, his twin sister, gets a little anxious when she is having a new friend over for the first time. She was in second grade the first time it happened, about five years ago. On the walk to school one morning, she asked me if we could explain autism to her new friend Stella, who was coming over after school.
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CentralPark.com provides extensive information about Central Park and all its happenings, as well as resources for activities and attractions around New York City. Check them out and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you @NYCRobyn for making this happen!
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Top things to do in Central Park with my son with Autism // by Dana Greenberg @TimeOutKids
My thirteen-year-old son has autism, and we live in the greatest city in the world—New York City! The one thing we do not have is a backyard, so anything I can find to do with him outside is wonderful. I am always looking for fun places to take him where there are things that he will be able to do and enjoy. In Central Park, there are a variety of things that work really well for him. Here are some of my favorites.
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Touring a School for a Child with Special Needs // by Dana Greenberg @NYMetroParents
My son, who has autism, is almost 13 years old. That means over the years I have toured many potential schools for him. Most of the time I have walked out of crying. At some I have walked out saying, "OK, I don’t hate it." And at a few, I have walked out of the school saying, "This could work." I always made sure to take really good notes and go in with my list of questions at the ready. That is how I came up with what I feel are the most important things to look for when touring a school for your special needs child.
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My gym is my happy place and there are many reasons I love it there. The people, the workouts, the music and just the all around vibe. You are probably wondering why I am posting this here....well, there is another reason I love my gym.....
My gym has teenage boys with autism (along with their aides) from a local school come in and work! Yup, my gym! This makes me so happy! They stock the shelves with clean towels and they pack up the used ones for laundry pick-up. They are there 5 days a week, working so hard.
The first day that I noticed this going on I went up to the front desk to inquire. I asked Henry at the desk what was going on. He told me that the school had contacted the gym and asked if this situation would be possible and they gym said yes!
At the moment, being a mom of an almost teenage son with autism, I got a tear in my eye. There is nothing more important then getting the kids out in the community, around people and doing meaningful things.
Everyday now when I am at the gym I make it a point to go over and say hello to the boys and tell them they are doing a great job. I not only love my gym but I am proud to be a member there.
What to Look for When Touring A School for Your Special Needs Child // by Dana Greenberg
My son, who has Autism, is almost 13 years old. That means over the years I have toured MANY schools as possibilities for him. Most I have walked out of crying, some I have walked out of saying "OK, I don t hate it," and a few I have walked out of saying " This could work". I always made sure to take really good notes and go in with my list of questions ready to be answered. That is how I came up with what I feel are the most important things to look for when touring a school for your special needs child.
1. SAFETY--This is definitely a priority to me! Will I feel like he is going to be safe there? How large is the building and what type of security do they have at ALL doors? Is there a security guard on duty at ALL times? Are guests buzzed in and out and is there a written log kept of who enters the building? Are there cameras at ALL doors? These are questions we as parents have every right to have answered.
2. STUDENTS--As you tour the classrooms (which you should absolutely be allowed to do) look at the children. Are they engaged in activities? Academics? A social component? What are they doing? Are they working in groups or 1:1? Do you see children that look like they may interact with your child on some level? Ask if they have the same classification as your child. You want to make sure a school is not just putting random kids in a classroom together to fill up a room. You want there to be some type of reasoning as to why these children were put together.
3. CLASSROOMS/FACILITY--How large or small ore the classrooms? Will the size work for your child? What is the student to adult ratio in the room? Do they have the supplies needed to properly teach? How are the rooms decorated, is there too much or too little stimulation for your child's needs? Will they be distracted? Since many special needs children have 12 month IEP's you will want to make sure there is air conditioning---that works---and WILL be used. Are the floors clean? This will be very important if your child puts things in their mouth.
Related service rooms, the gym and the lunch room also fall under this category. Be sure to check them all out. You will want the related service rooms to be a place where your child will be able to stay focused during a therapy session. You will want lots of padding in the gym and as for the lunch room....well, fingers crossed it looks clean.
4. STAFF--Have they been answering all of your questions? Have they shown you EVERYTHING you have asked to see? There should be nothing to hide. What type of interactions have you seen between the staff and the students? Do these seem like people you can picture working with your child and regularly communicating with you? And how will that communication take place, email, phone calls, a notebook? And how often?
5. TEACHING METHOD--You will find that some schools have a specific teaching method that they use. Those schools will tell you exactly what it is and how it works. Other schools will. To be able to give you a definitive answer for this question. Over the years I have heard things like "we teach however necessary" or "it depends on the child" or "we have a few different ways." It is going to be up to you to know what you are looking for for your child and to decide what answer you feel comfortable with. Different things definitely work for different children, I just want this to be a question on your list!
A school should also have a full time nurse and an adaptive physical education teacher for special needs children.
These are some of the things that I have come up with over my many years of touring both public and private school programs for my son. I not found a perfect school so it is still always really important to ask all questions and make a pros and cons list. Once you figure out which things are most important for your child, you will be able to make the best decision that you possibly can!
My Music Man // by Dana Greenberg
For many of us, music is a part of our lives. Whether we play an instrument, enjoy concerts or just like to listen at home. For many kids on the autism spectrum, this is also the case, my son being one of them. He loves music! We often find him listening to classical music by different composers, or asking us to spell the names of certain performers that he likes to google and check out. This is why we felt it important to try to include music a regular part of his life. Lucky for us, we found a wonderful music teacher named Stacey at innovativemusictherapy.com.
Twice a week he has "Music With Stacey" as he likes to call it. One of those days is a group of three children with Stacey and another adult. They play with instruments, have sing alongs and play games. Not only is music therapeutic for many kids on the spectrum, but there is so much that can be learned. This group puts him in a wonderful social atmosphere where important life skills can be worked on. Waiting, turn taking and verbal skills are just a few.
The second day, he does a 1:1 session with Stacey. On this day the focus is the piano and the drums, the latter of which seems to be his favorite....no surprise there. Here he also works on some really great and important skills such as listening, staying focused, imitating, and lengthening his attention span.
Did you ever realize how much there is that can be worked on for our kids during music? If you think your child might be interested in music at all, I highly recommend giving it a shot....you never know what kind of a response you may get. Seeing my sons excited face as he goes in with Stacey each time reminds me that the benefits of this will clearly outweigh the sound of the drums!
Top Things to Do in NYC for Kids with Autism // by Dana Greenberg @NYMetroParents
I am a New York City mom of 13-year-old twins--one son, one daughter. My son has autism. Since we live in Manhattan, people always assume there is so much to do, so many options, and so many opportunities. They are right--if they are talking about my daughter: shows, restaurants, concerts, sporting events, tons of extracurricular activities. You name it, it is here for her.
For my son, it is not the same. While there are a few places they can enjoy together, I have to work much harder to find options and opportunities for him. I need places without long lines or extremely loud noises, places he can truly enjoy himself and where people will understand him. I am on a perpetual mission to find these places for him. Here are some of my top picks for things to do in NYC with a child who has autism.
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Mother s Day means different things to different people. To me it means finding something that we can all do together. Carefully planning and thinking through what they day will look like. Something that won t be too boring for my typical daughter but something my son can enjoy too. I think I did it.....!!
Since I had already taken him to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, I knew it was an activity that worked well for him. My daughter had done that walk on a 2nd grade trip so I was going to have to spice it up a little for her. I decided we would have lunch in Brooklyn, in DUMBO. Since I don t know the area, and I need to be prepared, I contacted a friend who lives there. He gave me a variety of restaurants and exactly how to get to them. I must admit, great planning on my part!
Now, for getting back to Manhattan, there are options. Walking back over the bridge, taking the subway or taking a ferry. We thought, let s try the ferry, none of us had done it before, it could be fun. When I first heard it was a 40 minute ride I was a little hesitant. Could he sit that long and be quiet? Encouraged by my husband and daughter I decided we would try it. What a great idea! He walked on, sat down next to a window, put on his headphones and truly enjoyed the ride!! I was relieved, happy and proud of him! Mission accomplished for a great Mother s Day had by all!
I am a New York City mom of 13 year old twins, one son, one daughter, and my son has Autism. Living in Manhattan people always assume there is so much to do, so many options and so many opportunities.
They are right....if they are talking about for my daughter. There are shows, restaurants, concerts, sporting events, tons of extracurricular activities....you name it, it is here for her.
For my son, it is not quite the same. While there are a few places that they can both enjoy together, I have to work much harder at finding options and opportunities for him.
I need places without long lines, and extremely loud noises, places he can truly get to enjoy where people will understand him. I am always on a mission to find these for him, I have searched high and low and here are some of my top picks....
Atlas for Autism is a private school for kids on the spectrum. The wonderful ladies who run it are kind enough to open their facility, 4 times a month, for free, to families with kids on the spectrum. The kids can play and the parents can chat which makes it all around great. My son lets out some energy in the big gym with all the cool equipment while I get to share share information with other parents!
The Friendship Circle is a wonderful program I feel lucky to have found. Twice a month, I drop my son off for two hours and he is paired up with a typical teenage to "hang out with." They have snacks, games and activities, and it is very affordable price wise! All the typical kids who work there are volunteers which I find amazing.
Kicking the Spectrum is a karate program geared towards kids with special needs. I am so excited about this program for my son! The classes take place in a Dojo and the kids will wear the traditional karate uniform during class. The instructor is very patient, he knows exactly how to talk to the children, the words, the tone, all of it. I am always proud of my son but now he will have something that he can be proud of.
Another activity I love to do with my son is take him to any Apple Store. They have computers and iPads that he can play on, the staff is always very nice and never rush you out.
We recently discovered walking over The Brooklyn Bridge! A great, free, physical activity to do. It can get a little crowded but there are benches along the way if a break is needed. Once you get into Brooklyn you can either walk back, take a subway or take a ferry back across!
The Central Park Zoo is another favorite! It is the perfect size zoo for a child like mine! You can feed some animals or just watch if you prefer, and of course the Sea Lion show always holds my son's attention. Bathrooms are easy to find and plenty of benches around for breaks!
We all walk past them all the time, but may not realize how much there actually is to do in Barnes and Noble! We love spending time in there, especially on a rainy day. What is great is that the kids do not have to be "quiet" like in a library. My son will spend time looking through books, DVD's or putting on a show with the stuffed animals. If he needs to take a break we head in to their cafe for a snack and a drink, and best of all, they have bathrooms!
Something new that we recently did that was a big hit, was take a Ferry from Brooklyn back to Manhattan. What a fun ride! It took about 40 minutes and was very reasonably priced at $6.00 per person on a Sunday. My son walked on without hesitation, took a seat next to a window, put his headphones on, and enjoyed the trip! I would recommend checking the schedule in advance if waiting too long could be a problem.
Another great outdoor space we love is The East River Esplanade. There are a variety of entrances for easy access. It can be a very entertaining place for my son. He can watch helicopters take off and land or watch boats of all sizes go by. We often bring his scooter and he will just ride and ride. There are plenty of benches along the way too, so I can bring a snack and we can always stop if a break is needed. He is having fun and letting out some energy!
These are some of my favorite things to do with my son. Having Autism makes it a challenge to find things that he can handle and enjoy. I will continue to search for options and opportunities for him. He deserves to enjoy experiences while living in this city just as much as every other kid!
An Advocate for Anyone with Autism or for Anyone That Knows Someone with Autism