Tag Archives: Autism

East Elmhurst boy runs again to raise money for autism programs


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Larry Sillen

One East Elmhurst boy is getting his running shoes ready once again to help make a difference.

Max Moore, 10, will be participating in the June 29 Achilles International Hope and Possibility 5 Mile Race in Central Park for a third time.

“We are super thrilled to see Max enjoy running and to see that he is eager to run each year,” said Max’s mother Jacqueline Moore.

This year will be Max’s second time running to raise money and bring awareness for the Queens Museum’s ArtAccess Autism Initiatives. Last year the youth raised $1,279 in funds online, surpassing his goal of $1,000.

“For us it’s a huge honor, it really moves us. It’s inspirational to us. He’s our hero,” said Michelle Lopez, manager of ArtAccess and Autism Initiatives at the Queens Museum. “It feels really good to know that he is doing this, this is his activity of choice. He chose to run again, to run for us.”

The 10-year-old, who is autistic himself, has been part of the ArtAccess Autism Initiatives together with his family. This past year they have been involved in the museum’s new project called emPOWER Parents, a partnership between the Queens Museum and Museo ICO and its cultural partner, Hablarenarte, in Madrid, Spain.

According to Lopez, the funds raised by Max last year helped contribute to the program.

The partnership uses the arts, art therapy and technology to create and put into effect crucial programming for families of children with autism. It also creates an international network and “digital bridge” where the families can share their experiences.

Max’s mother said the program has allowed him to connect with new friends in Spain who share the same interests.

Max has been preparing for Sunday’s race for the past three months with Achilles Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides training and racing opportunities for children with disabilities. He has been with the group for about four years and in the past few months has been training in Central Park and also participating in several other 5K races.

“I think the Achilles Kids Family is quite an exceptional group of kids, parents, staff and volunteers,” Moore said. “One big family that gets larger and larger every year.”

This year Max will again be running alongside Marissa Fong, a guide provided by Achilles, and his dad, John. Although his mom said John will try to keep up with Max, he might not be able to; last year, Max left him at the three mile mark and went on to finish the race in less than one hour.

“What is wonderful is that running can be something he can enjoy in the future,” Moore said. “That is all we can ask for as parents, that we help him to find his joys and passion in life. We hope Max will continue to run further distances when he gets older and maybe one day accomplish a triathlon.”

To make a donation click here.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

New Whitestone barbershop focuses on cuts for special needs kids


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

The new Utopia Barbershop in Whitestone is a special place.

The shop at 20-06 Utopia Parkway is split in two. The left side looks like a typical barbershop, but the right side looks like a mini-Toys“R”Us, replete with bright colors, murals of cartoon characters and video game consoles.

That part of the shop is designed to make it easier to cut the hair of special needs children, such as kids with autism, who usually fuss while getting trimmed, owner Radik “Ray” Khaimov said. With specially trained barbers and calming features, he hopes his barbershop will become a utopia where parents can take their kids without any worries.

“When they look around they’ll feel like it’s a friendly place,” Khaimov said. “Barbershops should be a friendly place. When they walk in, they have to feel at home.”

Khaimov, a Russian immigrant, comes from a family of barbers. His grandfather, father, and uncle were all barbers in Russia, and his older brothers are continuing the family trade in New York City as well.

A 15-year hair cutting veteran, Khaimov wanted to do something different when he decided to open his own shop, because “all barbershops are the same,” he said. His wife, who teaches special needs children, advised him about cutting their hair, and he expanded on the idea for his shop.

There is an airplane and black cab barber chair for kids. Cables, scissors and other equipment are hidden, and customized clippers make almost no sound. The lights are dimmed on the right side, because Khaimov said it could bother the children’s eyes. And while the kids wait for their haircuts, there are Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3 video games and an arcade system that they can play for free. Soon, Khaimov said, iPads will be added for children to watch movies and surf the Internet as well.

Khaimov said three of his six licensed barbers are trained to work with special needs kids and the others are learning. During the cuts, these barbers try to calm the children down by conversing with them, singing songs or counting. Also, the barbers work fast. Haircuts last just seven to 15 minutes so the kids don’t get upset.

“The point is to let them feel comfortable, and let them feel we are friends,” barber Meny Yoshevayev said. “I love to do it, because I feel that I’m helping parents who don’t know where to go. It makes my day.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Bills introduced to City Council to help individuals with developmental disorders


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

A package of bills was introduced to the City Council Friday with the hope of preventing a tragedy similar to the disappearance of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo.

The 14-year-old was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River in October, when he ran out, past school security. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

The City Council’s Mental Health and Public Safety Committee held a joint hearing Friday where the four proposals, all aimed to avoid dangers to individuals with autism and other developmental disorders, were presented.

“We’ve had several tragedies in the last couple of years in New York City, so it’s always heartwretching when we do legislation that reacts to tragedy, but on one hand it helps us to make sure these tragedies never happen again,” said Councilman Ruben Wills, who spearheaded the group of bills in the City Council together with Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.

One of the bills calls upon the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to include the use of GPS tracking devices as a covered service.

The package also includes legislation that would create a voluntary registry for people with special needs. The database, including names, addresses, phone numbers, medical conditions and more, would allow parents or guardians to register their children with the NYPD at local police precincts.

The other two bills call for the city’s silver alert program to include missing people with developmental disorders and for the U.S. Department of Justice to fund any projects that would help protect and locate missing people with autism.

“We know that [Avonte’s death] was an unspeakable tragedy and certainly we are here as a collective to prevent anything like that from occurring across our city,” Gibson said.

For Lauren Thierry, Avonte’s disappearance hit close to home because her 16-year-old autistic son, Liam, attends the New York Child Learning Institute in College Point.

The past two years, Thierry has been creating a clothing line, called Independence Day Wearable Tech, which makes clothes that include internal pockets to fit GPS devices. Customers get a free GPS device when they purchase an item.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Tuesday: Sunny to partly cloudy. High 56. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Tuesday night: A few clouds. Low 39. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Samuel Field Y Fundraiser Dinner at Bourbon Street to Support Programs for Children with Autism

The Samuel Field Y invites you to show your support of our programs for children with autism by having dinner at Bourbon Street Cafe on Tuesday, April 1, between 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.. A generous portion of your bill will be donated back to the Samuel Field Y and used towards funding for programs for children with autism. Make your reservations today by calling (718) 224-2200. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

New York legislature passes $140 billion budget

The New York Legislature has passed a $140 billion election-year budget that expands pre-kindergarten statewide and provides tax relief to homeowners and corporations. Read more: ABC New York

Students suspensions in city up in 2013: report

Student suspensions in the city’s public schools shot up 26 percent in the latter part of 2013, according to statistics released Monday. Read more: New York Post

Not one home fully rebuilt under city-run Sandy program: officials

New York City politicians and victims of Sandy are attacking a city-run program that’s supposed to rebuild homes destroyed by the storm but that officials admit has yet to complete a single project. Read more: NBC New York

Legislation would transform NYC’s alternate-side parking rules

Alternate side of the street parking is so important to New York City drivers that when you call 311 it’s the first information delivered. Read more: Fox New York

Legislation could mean more speed cameras for NYC, Long Island

If you speed in a school zone, it will likely cost you big in the future. Read more: CBS New York

Avonte Oquendo’s brother shares family’s experience, thanks volunteers in blog post


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

One of Avonte Oquendo’s older brothers is sharing what his family went through in the four months during the 14-year-old’s disappearance.

“Every minute we spent in the dark about the whereabouts felt like years of torture,” wrote Daniel Oquendo Jr. in a March 21 blog post for the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

He recounted the fear and pain his family felt as they tried to find Avonte, who was autistic and could not verbally communicate. He described how during the first few days the family did not sleep, barely ate and felt as if they had nowhere to turn.

The teen was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City across the street from the East River last October. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

According to Oquendo, Avonte entered a frightened and panic state after running out of his school and possibly jumped into the East River and drowned. The medical examiner has ruled the cause and manner of Avonte’s death as undetermined.

Oquendo wrote that as his family was “overcome with grief and hopelessness,” they turned to the people of New York City to work together and gather volunteers to search for Avonte. As word began to spread, they encountered help through New Yorkers and out of state volunteers, who he thanked for all their dedication and prayers.

“It turns out that before it was all said and done Avonte did indeed become the beloved son of the city,” Oquendo wrote.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-ed: Let’s be their voice


| oped@queenscourier.com

U.S. SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER

The heartbreak and agony that Avonte  Oquendo’s family has had to endure is one that I can’t even begin to imagine. Over the course of the past few months, Avonte became more than just a face on a missing poster. New Yorkers came together to search for Avonte and pray for his safe return; we felt like he was a child we knew personally. While we cannot change the past, we must take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening again—and that’s why I am introducing “Avonte’s Law.”

Avonte’s running away was not an isolated incident; running away or wandering among children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder is more common than one may think. In fact, nearly half of children with autism over the age of four have attempted to wander. Often times, these children wander due to being over-stimulated by loud noises or bright lights – something that is a particular challenge for children with autism in New York City.

I recently met with Vanessa Fontaine and Doris McCoy, Avonte’s mother and grandmother, as well as Michael Rosen, the Executive Vice President of Autism Speaks. Mr. Rosen shared personal stories about his son, Nicky, who has autism and is nonverbal. He spoke about Nicky’s experience with wandering. I listened intently when Mr. Rosen said that Nicky once ran out of the house and made his way into the neighbor’s living room to watch Disney movies—a fascination of Nicky’s. Thankfully, Nicky was found safe.

Our children are too precious for us to wait another day when life-saving technology and precautionary measures are right at our fingertips. Technology such as GPS or Radio Frequency(RF) tracking is on the market now, and they allow parents, schools and law enforcement to locate a child if he or she wanders or goes missing. The Department of Justice runs a very successful program that provides tracking devices to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who have similar wandering tendencies. So, after Avonte went missing, I urged the Department of Justice to use their existing grant funds to allow children with autism access to these life-saving tracking devices – this past week, they did just that.

The program would be completely voluntary for parents, but it would be a major stress reliever for the thousands of parents of children with autism. Most importantly, though, this technology has the power to save lives.

That is why when the world learned of the tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo, I drafted legislation that will create a permanent program with dedicated federal funding to provide tracking devices for children with autism, as well as training and education for parents and communities. The legislation, “Avonte’s Law,” will allow Avonte’s memory to live on while helping to prevent any more children with autism from going missing.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will allow existing DOJ grant funds to be used for children with autism. This is terrific news, as it means that localities can soon put federal funds towards these life-saving tracking devices as well as education for law enforcement that deal with this issue on a daily basis. This is a major step in the right direction, and I will continue to work on this very important issue until “Avonte’s Law” is passed, which would provide a more solid stream of funding to help children across New York and the rest of the country.

We must be the voice of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Schumer was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998. Following the elections of 2006, Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed him to serve as Vice Chair of the Democratic Conference, the number three position on the Democratic Leadership team and a position he continues to hold. In 2009, Schumer was selected as the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees federal elections, voting rights, campaign finance, and the operation of the Senate complex. He also sits on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Judiciary Committee, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security; the Joint Economic Committee, where he is the Vice Chairman; and the Joint Committee on the Library.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Parents ‘grateful’ after missing autistic Rego Park 12-year-old found safe


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Updated 4:50 p.m.

An autistic 12-year-old boy who sprinted out of his Rego Park home Thursday was found safe in Brooklyn after a terrifying four hour search, police and family said.

Brandon Betancourt jetted out of his apartment complex on 66th Road near 67th Avenue about 7 a.m., police said.

“He just ran out,” said his father, Joe Betancourt. “He’s very fast. It’s hard to catch him. I’m just grateful he’s home.”

Police brought him to safety about 11 a.m., after a guidance counselor spotted him on the J train platform at the Broadway Junction subway station in Cypress Hills, about an hour journey from his home.

Brandon, who is incredibly smart, functions at a high level and knows his way around the city’s subway system, his father and neighbors said.

The boy also loves trains and has taken off a handful of times in the past, Joe and the building’s superintendent said.

“When I saw cops outside, I knew immediately,” the super said. “I told them to go to the subways.”

Joe said he fears his son does not understand the dangers of running away, even after the remains of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic 14-year-old who went missing in October, were found washed up in College Point two weeks ago.

“We try to tell him not to do this, especially after what happened to Avonte,” Joe said.

Avonte and Brandon are both from Rego Park. They were former classmates, though not at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City, where Avonte was last seen leaving, Joe said.

“For parents of autistic kids, I want them to know they are runners. I don’t know what it is about that, but they tend to run,” Joe said. “Always be on alert.”

Though frightening, the situation is common, said Michelle López, who manages autism initiatives at Queens Museum. Similar scenarios are likely to increase as more families push for inclusion, she said. 

“We’re going to see more of these types of situations, where there will be a missing child with autism and people don’t know how to interact, when they see a wandering child who doesn’t respond to them,” she said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to be aware now.”

Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy organization, urges parents to secure homes with battery-operated door alarms, alert neighbors and consider identification bracelets or tracking devices.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer wants the Department of Justice to create and fund a program that would provide voluntary trackers for children with autism or other development disorders.

Councilmember Paul Vallone is drafting a bill, calling for a similar citywide program.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Autism expert says there’s still hope Avonte Oquendo will be found


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Close to six weeks have passed and although Avonte Oquendo’s whereabouts are still unknown, the search continues as hope in finding the autistic teen remains strong.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

The NYPD and volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, whose family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls.

The command center for volunteers and family searching for the boy is now operating out of an RV located on the side of The Riverview School on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard.

According to Andrew Baumann, president and CEO of New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC), this is not an isolated case. Children with autism are prone to running and throughout the country there have been many cases of children disappearing, he said.

“I don’t believe that anyone should give up hope on finding Avonte alive and in good condition,” Baumann said. “I don’t believe in giving up, these kids are really resilient.”

Baumann also said the teen’s family had no control over what happened because they trusted the school to take responsibility. He believes school security agents should hold back any child attempting to leave and report the incident to the principal.

“I don’t care how old the child is, no child should ever be allowed to walk out of the school during the school day,” Baumann said.

Last week Senator Charles Schumer called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both create and fund a program which would provide voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other developmental disorders.

According to Baumann, these devices would and do work great, but there should be ways to make sure they are 100 percent effective and cannot be removed if the child were to take off their clothes.

“Now we need people to take action, if they see him they should stay with him until the police come,” said Baumann. “The reward is nothing. It shouldn’t be about the money and the reward, it should be about doing the right thing.”

If anyone sees Avonte, they should follow him and keep him within eye contact and call 9-1-1, said Baumann.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Fishing raises funds for autism programs


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A Middle Village-based autism advocacy group hosted a fundraising fishing tournament and raffle that reeled in more than $350.

Play4Autism, which seeks to engage children with autism in various sports activities, organized the tournament together with Pat’s Sports Bar on August 4, to fund events through the year for kids with the disorder.

“Everybody had fun and understood what the program is about,” said Greg Vasicek, founder of the organization. “The whole object is to bring the community together and to help the children.”

The tournament was held on a boat named The Captains’ Lady, which traveled from the Sheepshead Bay Piers in Brooklyn to the Atlantic Ocean. There the competitors fished for fluke, sea bass and porgies.

The event had 18 competitors from Middle Village, who caught more than 75 fish combined. Adam Gellerstein, who caught the first fish, and Bill Bornhoeft, who snagged the longest fish– a fluke at 22 inches—received $50 cash rewards.

Following the fishing tournament, Pat’s Sports Bar in Middle Village hosted the raffle, which featured a new Coors Light Mountain Bike.

Adam also caught a baby shark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About one in 88 children is affected by autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder impairs a person’s ability to communicate and form relationships and so far there is no known cure.

Throughout the year Play4Autism creates activities such as street hockey, basketball and even Tiger Schulmann’s Karate lessons so they can interact and make friends. The group also sponsors music lessons and arts and craft activities, and is seeking to add acting and science lessons as well.

Play4Autism’s events are mostly funded through donations and fundraisers such as the fishing tournament and other sports events. “People relate to recreational activities,” Vasicek said. “They understand that and everybody enjoys themselves.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Middle Village darts tournament raises money for autism


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A darts tournament in Middle Village was a bull’s-eye for children with autism.

Play4Austim, a nonprofit that provides sports and activities for children with the disorder, raised nearly $450 to support new programs at the event on July 13 at Pat’s Sports Bar on Metropolitan Avenue.

“Everyone is coming in to have fun at the darts tournament, but at the same time to raise awareness for the foundation,” said founder Greg Vasicek. “It spreads awareness for people who are not aware of autism and for the families, it brings a closer niche-type community.”

A dozen participants competed in the tournament for $10 each. The winner, Marty Mueller, received $60 while the remaining funds were donated to the organization. Mueller also decided to give his winnings to charity.

“I’ll keep the trophy, but the money is for the kids,” he said.

Following the tournament, there was a raffle for gift baskets that raised an additional $320 for the foundation.

The sports Play4Austim encourages among autistic children throughout the year include street hockey, basketball, t-ball, soccer and even Tiger Schulmann’s Karate lessons. It also sponsors music lessons and arts and craft activities, and is seeking to add acting and science lessons as well.

The organization’s events are mostly funded through donations and fundraisers such as the darts tournament, which Pat’s immediately signed up for when asked.

“It’s a neighborhood bar, you’re supposed to give back,” said owner Pat Grillo. “The idea is about them. It’s not about us.”

About one in 88 children are affected by autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism is a neurological disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate and form relationships. So far, there is no known cure.

Vasicek has a personal connection with the condition because his nephews have autism. Since he played ice hockey professionally in Europe for 15 years, Vasicek wanted to help children with autism through sports.

“I pray every day there will be” a cure, he said. “But my dream is that these kids could integrate into society.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

Op-Ed: Ensure services are there


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY PETER SMERGUT

The word “autism” conjures up many images and emotions. We have all witnessed the pandemic growth of this disability and it is hard to keep track of the incidents among newborn. Whether you subscribe to the 1/88 births or the more recent 1/50 births, the facts are clear, this is an extraordinary event. As we celebrate Autism Awareness month it comes to mind that we are grappling with a phenomenon for which we have no current solution. The rate among newborn infants dwarfs comparison to any other disability grouping. What has brought us to this point is of great conjecture and much is being done in the way of research and education. But as this population works its way to maturity, one wonders what supports they will have when they leave the comfort and security of the school system where services are mandated and supports are readily available.

The adult sector poses a whole new set of unique challenges and Gov. Cuomo’s most recent budget priorities gives us some indication of future public policy. New York State has a long proud history of providing support for people with all types of needs. The traditional group home model for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism will however no longer be available. The future will require a different partnership between government and families to ensure that adequate supports are in place as parents age and the needs of their children become more challenging.

In these tumultuous economic times agencies such as Life’s WORC and its sister organizations have long been asked to do more with less and quite frankly, most of us have gotten very good at it. It has become self evident that the old ways of doing business are gone and that we will have to adapt to a new fiscal environment. Most organizations who support individuals with disabilities embrace this challenge but we encourage those in power to realize that the services currently provided did not emerge overnight. It is our hope that as we partner with governmental agencies the dismantling and redesign of this system will be given ample time to develop new alternatives consistent with the needs of each individual’s level of support. Clearly there are different ways to provide supports and it is our intention to take advantage of whatever opportunities exist in this new philosophy.

Given the extraordinary growth in the number of individuals that will need to be served over the next few decades our lawmakers face a significant ethical and moral dilemma. What will the role of government be in helping to support thousands of families as they confront this personal crisis?  Whatever new systems are planned will need the full attention and cooperation of families, individuals requiring support, voluntary providers, lawmakers and governmental agencies. We must embrace the best models of support available while concurrently acknowledging the extraordinary system that was created over the last four decades.

Willowbrook did not occur overnight– it was a lack of governmental will and poorly managed public policy that eventually led to its demise.

Peter Smergut is CEO of Life’s WORC, whose mission is to provide services that facilitate an independent and productive life experience for individuals with
developmental disabilities and autism.

 

 

New York Families for Autistic Children opens center after Sandy setback


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Ribboncutting

BY LIAM LA GUERRE

Richard Henry moved to New York City two months ago in search of a new autism facility for his daughter.

Fortunately, he won’t have to look any further.

After a six-month delay following Sandy, about 200 parents, children, staff members and politicians attended the grand opening of the $5.9 million New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) center in Howard Beach on April 7.

Henry, an Ozone Park resident, is only 10 minutes away from the center by car.

“My daughter will be really happy coming to a place like this, because she doesn’t have to travel long distance,” Henry, 62, said.

Last October, Sandy flooded the first floor of the facility, destroying walls, furniture and electrical equipment. It forced the center to close its doors about two weeks before it was even set to open.

The post-storm renovation cost a little more than $200,000, mostly to repair damages, but also to replace appliances, according to NYFAC president Andrew Baumann.

Baumann was able to pay for the damages by borrowing money from New York Community Bank. The building now has flood insurance, he said, which it did not before Sandy.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Baumann said. “It’s been a long, hard road.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder secured $100,000 in the state budget to help cover the cost of rebuilding the center. He believes the facility represents the community’s rebuilding as a whole.

“We’re not done here, there is a lot of work to do,” Goldfeder said. “But it’s just a tremendous symbol for the community of strength, unity, stability and that we’re going to come back.”

The entire building is self-sufficient and environmentally friendly, running only on energy from giant solar panels on the roof.

On the first floor, there are rooms for meetings, video and board games, showers, first aid, an instrument-filled music room and a fully-loaded kitchen.

The second floor has administrative offices, a 16-seat conference room, a training room, an evaluation room and a television studio, so the center can create its own shows.

“This is going to be a wonderful resource for the families affected by autism,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich. “It’s going to be a one-stop shop for people to get support, to get the services they need … and to get help.”

The next step for the center is to build a gym above the parking lot. The $2 million project will include fitness machines, a basketball court inside and a volleyball court on the roof outside, Baumann said.

But for now the center is focused on providing services to people with autism.

“It was important that they opened their doors to those children and families in need of assistance,” said Senator Joseph Addabbo. “It was never a question of if it was going to open, it was when.”

Check out more photos from the NYFAC grand opening here

 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

Experts say Asperger’s syndrome has no ties to violence


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome had no link to shooting suspect Adam Lanza’s decision to kill in cold blood, experts said.

“The eyes of the world are on this wrenching tragedy,” said Dr. Valerie Paradiz, director of Autistic Global Initiative. “With 1 in 88 now diagnosed, misinformation could easily trigger increased prejudice and misunderstanding.”

Lanza had been reportedly diagnosed with Asperger’s, a high functioning form of autism that is characterized by well-above average intelligence and social awkwardness.

While individuals with Asperger’s may have trouble reading social cues, experts said the condition has no ties to violence and should not be used to explain why the troubled teen chose to massacre 26 children and adults at the Connecticut elementary school last week.

“A typical person with Asperger’s wouldn’t have the tendency to pick up a gun and shoot anyone, let alone go to ongoing target practice, which this individual did,” said Gary Maffei, executive director of Quality Services for the Autism Community.

Professionals in the field warned the public not to point to the lifelong brain disorder as a scapegoat.

“Autism is no excuse or explanation [for] evil,” said Autism Rights Watch, a nonprofit group. “Being ‘autistic,’ ‘odd,’ ‘awkward,’ ‘camera shy,’ a ‘nerd’ and ‘uncomfortable with others’ does not cause a person to become a mass murderer.”

Instead, the organization said Lanza’s easy access to weapons in the household is “the most solid contributing factor” for his murderous rampage.

The 20-year-old also likely suffered from other mental health issues, whether he was diagnosed or not, experts said.

NYFAC car wash most successful ever


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

NYFAC CAR WASH 03w

It was a win-win for anyone looking to get his car washed last weekend in Howard Beach.

The Sixth Annual New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) Car Wash raised money to go toward programs that help people with autism and to educate parents and relatives.

For just $10 apiece, volunteers, including children with autism, their family members and friends, scrubbed hundreds of cars.

Andrew Baumann, CEO of NYFAC, said at the middle of the day he had seen close to 150 cars — the most since the fundraiser was started.

“It’s the best we’ve ever had,” he said.

To lend a hand, the All American Car Club and East Coast Car Association held a car show across the street, with a $20 entry fee for each vehicle.

Local politicians visited throughout the day to show their support of the community’s efforts, including Assemblymember Philip Goldfeder.

“The car wash is just another way for the community to work together with NYFAC and support a great organization and its cause,” Goldfeder said.

NYFAC is expected to open a new facility this September, which will have programs in art, music and speech therapy, along with parent training and support groups.

Group home for individuals with autism coming to Bayside


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A proposed group home in Bayside that will house eight individuals with autism was unanimously approved by Community Board 11 last week.

Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a non-profit organization, is set to purchase the home at 78-42 Springfield Boulevard. QSAC — which has 21 facilities in Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Nassau County — provides educational, residential, therapeutic and family support services to more than 2,700 people each year, officials said.

“The individuals that will be moving into this community all live in Queens,” said Cory Polshansky, the organization’s deputy executive director and CEO. “We’ve been searching for a house for a very long time. The house and the location were consistent with the needs of the individuals moving in.”

Polshansky said QSAC had first projected the home to be in Bellerose — but the proposal, he said, was shut down by Community Board 13.

“Rather than fight the community board, we decided to look for another house,” he said.

According to Polshansky, the Bayside facility will have 24-hour supervision. He said the eight residents — who have already been selected and range in ages between 20 and 22 — will be assisted with activities. Staff members, he said, will also teach them independent living skills. Polshansky said they have not yet closed on the contract, but the organization expects to shell out an estimated couple hundred thousand dollars in renovations.