Posts Tagged ‘special needs family NYC’

Monday Minute: Holiday Hangover

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

After a packed holiday weekend, I was surprised when James joined me in the kitchen Monday morning at 5:45am, dressed and ready.

Or so I thought.

Read more…

New stories on the Water Cooler

September 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Make sure to entertain yourself (at my expense) by occasionally clicking on the Water Cooler tab.

Monday Minute: Peanuts in my pocket

As moving day nears we’ve been going out to dinner a lot more than usual. One of the kids’ favorite things at Five Guys are the vats of peanuts you can snack on while waiting for your food. Though James had consumed an entire cheeseburger and bucket of fries (unusually large amount of food for him) he wanted to bring more peanuts with him for the walk home. I gave him a small handful, immediately regretting this move because of the distraction they were sure to become. Trying to remedy the situation I took the peanuts back and said, “Here James, let’s keep them in your shirt pocket so you can snack and walk safely down the street.” Peanuts in James’s pocket? Obviously only a crazed, stressed-out pregnant woman would make a move like that.


James is in italics, my responses are in bold.

Hey, hold the door open – pay attention!

Mom, it’s dangerous to have peanuts in my pocket.


It’s too dangerous.

Look ahead while you’re walking – that’s crazy talk.

It’s not good to have them in this pocket – get them out.

Use your manners, it’s not a big deal.

It’s not valid.


It’s not appropriate to put peanuts there.

Fine. (I take the 5 peanuts out of his pocket and hand them to him.)

5 minutes later, still walking home

Hey mom, want to play?

Play what?

I planned out a peanut matching game. Want to play?


Okay, question 1: Which one would an elephant eat?

How is that matching? Okay, how about that big one?

All of them. Question 2, which one has an opening?

That one.

Good job. Question 3 – which one is the saltiest?

How am I supposed to know?

You can lick each one.

No thanks. How about that one?

See the salt on this one? Okay, next question – which ones match? Look carefully.

Those two.

Right. Since you got a point, you win this invisible bag of money. 

Wow, really? I’ll use it to pay for my invisible new wardrobe.

Walking into the house several minutes later

Okay, here – since you played the game you can have these peanuts for a prize.


But I need that bag of money back.

Special Needs Events in NYC – May 2012

Seminars, concerts, workouts, conferences, even yoga sessions – don’t say you were bored this month! Sorry for the last minute posting on some of these – it took forever to combine all of the May event emails (which is kind of a good thing).


Ongoing, every Sunday in May (and June): WSLL, Challenger’s division. Special needs baseball at Riverside Park. Late registration available – email me for details.


Tuesday, May 8, 6:30PM

Managing Your Child’s Behavior: Tools and Strategies for Parents, with Dominick Auciello, PsyD, Child Mind Institute

PS 163 Auditorium, 163 W. 97th St. (Amsterdam/Columbus)
Dominick Auciello, PsyD, is a leading neuropsychologist with extensive expertise providing neuropsychological assessments to children, teens, and young adults with learning and psychiatric issues. He is widely respected for his knowledge of how neuropsychological evaluations relate to a child’s school and home environments.  Among Dr. Auciello areas of expertise are dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental language disorders, and concussions.
To attend, you must RSVP to Andi Velasquez by stopping by the P.S. 163 main office, calling (212) 678-2854, ext. 0, or emailing Spots will be given on a first come, first serve basis.


Dr. Ravitz, “Raising Resilient Children” in partnership with Tuesday’s Children @ The Conference Center, 130 East 59th Street  New York, NY 10022, 6-8pm in NYC



Dr. Dickstein, “Raising Healthy Children in a Digital World” @ 92nd Street Y: 6:30 – 8pm


FRIDAY MAY 11, 12:00-1:00PM

Live Speak Up for Kids Facebook Event: Dr.Fernandez, “Managing Problem Behavior: Strategies for Parents and Educators”, 


May 12 in Central Park, Achilles Kids Workout – call 212-354-0300. ext. 305 for more info.



May 15th
10AM – 1PM
Understanding the New IEP Lori Podvesker, M.S. Ed., Family and Community Educator, Resources for Children with Special Needs
  • Pre-registration is required by calling YAI LINK at 212-273-6182.
  • Parents and caregivers only! No children please.
  • Location: 460 West 34th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10001
  • Structure: 1st half (Presentation), 2nd half (Support)
  • Fee: None!


May 18, 9:00AM at PS 163 (W. 97th and Amsterdam) – final meeting of The Foorce, “Special Needs Summer Activities and Programs”


May 19 at JCC – Achilles Kids Workout – call 212-354-0300. ext. 305 for more info.


May 20

DMF Spring Concert – “We Will Rock You – A Musical Celebration.” It will be a high energy performance and will have you singing, dancing and “rockin out” in your seats with performances like – I Love Rock N Roll, Aquarius, This Love, a song medley from Elvis, Born To Be Wild, Bohemian Rhapsody, among many others!

The Dalton School
108 East 89th St. (between Lexington and Park Ave.)
1:00PM-2:30PM and/or 4:00PM-5:30PM.

Please RSVP if you will be able to attend by using Eventbrite – or if you prefer, contact us at or 212-289-8912.


Wednesday, May 23

Resources for Children With Special Needs presents: Friendship, Dating, & Sexuality: A Free Symposium for Parents and Professionals

Where: Credit Suisse , 11 Madison Avenue (24th Street) Entrance on Park Avenue South at 24th Street


Dr. Michelle S. Ballan, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Columbia University, Leading researcher, writer, professor, mentor, and advocate, disability studies and sexuality; recipient of numerous awards, including the Columbia University Presidential Teaching Award, Services for Students with Disabilities Faculty Award, Association on Higher Education and Disability Recognition Award, and others.

Dr. Chris Rosa, PhD, Dean of Students at CUNY, Serves on several local and national committees on disabilities, is a published disability studies scholar, and a faculty member at CUNY’s MA program in Disabilitiy Studies. A product of New York City public education, Chris was born, raised in, and presently resides in Flushing, Queens.  

Brian Schwanwede, Student, Sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson University (Honors List), English Major, Film Studies Minor, FDU Equinox Newspaper, National Society of Leadership and Success, The National Society of Collegiate ScholarsCOMPASS:  College-based Support for Students with Asperger Syndrome

5pm Coffee Reception with Panelists, 5:30pm Program

Please do not hesitate to call RCSN with any questions: 212-677-4650


May 24th
10AM – 12:30PM
Yoga and Relaxation Laura Mitchell, LMSW, LMT, YAI LINK, Certified Kripalu Yoga Instructor
  • Pre-registration is required by calling YAI LINK at 212-273-6182.
  • Parents and caregivers only! No children please.
  • Location: 460 West 34th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10001
  • Structure: 1st half (Presentation), 2nd half (Support)
  • Fee: None!


May 26 at JCC – Achilles Kids Workout – call 212-354-0300. ext. 305 for more info.


May 31st
10AM – 12:30PM
“Hey! Get Back Here!” Learning to Manage Wandering and Elopement in the Community Lana Small, MSW, Coordinator, Project A.S.S.I.S.T.

Mary Downing, BA, Senior Supervisor, Project A.S.S.I.S.T.

  • Pre-registration is required by calling YAI LINK at 212-273-6182.
  • Parents and caregivers only! No children please.
  • Location: 460 West 34th Street, 11th floor, New York, NY 10001
  • Structure: 1st half (Presentation), 2nd half (Support)
  • Fee: None!


June 2 – Central Park Challenge – CLICK HERE TO JOIN The Foorce!!


Feel free to email me if you need more information or if there are typos regarding any of the above events. Or, you can add your own events in the comments section below. I’m also collecting event emails for June now through the last week of May so keep them coming!

This Friday, April 27th – Special Needs Summer Activities and Resources (Final Meeting of the 2011-2012 School Year)!

April 23, 2012 3 comments

I can’t believe it, but this Friday, April 27th, is our final meeting at PS 163 of The Foorce.

Because I sadly have had to cancel Lydia (insufficient funding, trying to reschedule), the meeting this week will be all about providing resources for summer activities and camps – I’ve collected more than a few over the last couple months of camp fairs and conferences and I’m looking to share. This meeting will also offer an opportunity to find out about and sign up for the casual social group that has met weekly for the last 3 summers – absolutely free and a great social outlet if your child isn’t booked up for the summer.

Anyone and everyone with a special needs friend or loved one is invited to join us – the meeting will be from 9:00am until everyone leaves and small children are welcome (I’m bringing 2!). As usual, the meeting will be held at PS 163 (corner of W. 97th and Amsterdam) and will be in the cafeteria or auditorium depending on availability.

Hope to see you on Friday!

5 hours til dawn; 4 more gifts to wrap, 3 tired kids, 2 are still awake, and the organ was playing too loud: how we feel gratitude this holiday season

December 7, 2011 1 comment

**Updated on 12/7/11**

Christmas in NYC has been one of my favorite things about moving to the city – the light displays, the skating rinks, the sidewalk tree stands. But with small children even the best of holiday intentions can turn into chaos. Add a special needs child to the mix and the spiked eggnog becomes more necessity than festivity. So it will come as no surprise that with two toddlers and a disabled preteen many of our family efforts at tradition have only been successful in creating stories that will be retold for years to come.

Something as simple and beautiful as Christmas mass can be a nightmare for a child with autism or sensory issues. There are lights and decorations everywhere, extra people (lots), noise and music, even strange smells. And the holiday services are much longer than usual. Much, much longer. By the end of the evening (or well before), James has his hands over his ears, a coat over his head, or is asking “is it almost over?” in his not-so-subtle worried voice. The organ is too loud, the music is too “sad,” the incense is too smelly, it is too hot, a baby is crying too much. And God forbid there is a brass quartet or a Christmas pageant. Add to that not one, but two toddlers climbing seats, rolling on the floor, screeching, whining, spilling fruit snacks and grapes underneath the pew, fighting over books, and a beloved family tradition begins to resemble  anything but tidings of joy.

Then there have been the unforgettables – the Christmas Eve that James, thinking he had discovered a secret chocolate stash, inhaled an entire bar of ex-lax. Or the children’s mass that invited kids up for a front row view of the pageant – I don’t think they envisioned my 2 yr old gleefully riding another child around the altar as part of the play. Or my personal favorite, the Christmas Eve toilet explosions (yes, plural). Among James’s special needs is a plethora of medical issues, one being megacolon (even worse than it sounds). As we found out the hard way, megacolon and prewar plumbing don’t mix.

Despite it all, wrapping presents at 3am on Christmas Eve is always special, even though we are dead tired. There’s something magical about turning around as we finally head to bed and taking one last look at the gifts spilling out from the glow of our Christmas tree – the tree that we excitedly picked out at W. 99th and Broadway and spent hours decorating. There’s even something endearing about being woken up 2 hours later by our ridiculously delighted children. And there is nothing quite so cozy and heartwarming as staying in all day, watching the children open presents, preparing and enjoying a big feast and watching Christmas movies replay on TV, all in our pajamas, and all together as a family.

We consider ourselves very, very lucky. We want our kids to know that there is no amount of tears, ex-lax, altar rodeos, plumbing crises or spilled fruit snacks that will change how amazingly blessed we feel to be their parents, and how simply happy we are to be in this family.

The best way we can think to pass this feeling of gratitude on to our children is to show them the joy of giving. And what better season to demonstrate this tradition? Though our children are still young we have started in small ways – participating in toy drives with scouts, baking holiday treats to pass out to the homeless in our area (and tucking a little $ into the box), organizing Christmas caroling and inviting neighbors to join us for hot chocolate and cookies afterward.

This year we’re kicking it up a notch. On December 16th we are collecting non-perishable food items, household goods, and wrapping gifts for families in need at a local shelter. Many families at this shelter have been touched by domestic violence and have children with special needs. One particular family is a mother with three children, ages 14, 11 and 8, all of whom have some kind of mental health, medical and educational needs. However, the more items we collect the more families and children we can provide for at this city shelter – consider that a challenge!

My day-to-day struggles pale in comparison to having special needs children (or any children) without a home, financial and emotional security, a loving family, even a warm holiday meal. It is my deepest wish that my own children grow up experiencing the pure, simple joy that comes from helping others in need, and some of my proudest moments as a parent come from observing how naturally James shares with others already.

So, do you want to help make someone’s holiday a little bit more merry, a little more worry-free? Please consider bringing a donation to the next meeting of The Foorce (see below for ideas and specific requests by the children). Or if you prefer, you can provide a treat for the volunteers to enjoy, help wrap gifts, or make a card to send along with the care package. The meeting is on December 16th at 9:00AM in the cafeteria of PS 163 (163 W. 97th Street). Can’t make the meeting but still want to help? Email me and I will let you know where you can send donations and gifts.

It is my sincere wish that the gift of giving touches you and your family this season and that you have a happy, magical holiday!


Gift/Donation Ideas (this list will be updated as I find out more details about the family so check back often):

Canned goods (vegetables, tomato sauce, soups)

Dry baking mixes (breads, cakes, cookies, pancakes)

Uncooked Pasta, all kinds


Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, other toiletries

Hats, scarves, gloves (can be new or gently used, clean and in good condition)

Clothing: for children ages infant through 16 years old. Some specific sizes requested are Misses size 7, Boys size 16 and Girls sizes 14/16, but all children’s clothing is needed. **Clothing can be new or gently used (clean and in good condition only, please).

Gift cards (one of the most versatile donations for families): local grocery stores (for perishable goods), drug stores, barber shops (everyone needs a haircut!), Target, Barnes and Noble (specifically requested), movie theaters, Toys R Us

Family gifts: PG movies, board or card games for ages 5-14 (email me if you need ideas), arts and crafts supplies

Electronic Copy of Special Needs Sports and Extracurricular Activities

October 26, 2011 2 comments

I sincerely enjoy receiving email comments and questions, and pride myself on replying personally to every last one when possible, even if it takes a week (sorry!). But, I have finally acknowledged that responding to every request for this handout since Friday’s meeting, while not impossible, is a much larger time commitment than anticipated. 5 long days, 1 fiercely dramatic 2 yr old and an equally unpleasant teething 12 month old later, I have officially given up.

So, here is the aforementioned handout, online for your bulk viewing pleasure! If you got an email from me saying “visit for the handout,” you have arrived at the right post.

CLICK HERE to open Special Needs Sports and Extracurricular Activities in the NYC Area. FYI, this is an electronic version of the main handout distributed at each meeting (see Upcoming Events for future meeting dates). This handout was edited in October 2011 – I usually update the document 3-4 times per year, adding new programs, resources and events as I find them. Despite the abundance of amazing resources here in the city, I try to limit this handout to 10 pages or less, keeping it manageable.

If you see an error, are looking for information not listed, or don’t see a program/event/activity you think should be included, email me or leave a comment below.

A Birthday Surprise

September 17, 2011 1 comment

So yesterday when I came to pick James up from school I was met by his para, Ms. T, before the class came outside. “Did James have a fun day?” I asked. Her eyes were wide. “The whole cafeteria sang happy birthday to him,” she announced. “The minute I saw what was happening I ran over as fast as I could, but it was too late.”

Let’s pause here. For those of you who know James, you are probably reading this knowing what kind of catastrophe I just told you about. For the rest, here is a little background. Since James’s very first birthday, he has been terrified of the birthday song. I actually have a photo of him on his first birthday – in his highchair with a chocolate cake in front of him while relatives sing Happy Birthday. He’s sobbing, which only looks more pathetic with a glob of chocolate frosting on your cheek.

It’s not quite like his phobia of balloons (there’s really nothing out there that matches that) but it’s significant enough to bring him to tears every time someone sings the song to him, especially groups of people. It’s also significant enough that we can’t drop him off at a birthday party, just in case, making it hard for him to attend very many. All the way through his school career, when a classmate has a birthday he asks to leave the room and “get a drink of water” while they sing “Happy Birthday.” Thankfully the teachers have all been very supportive of this practice.

Over the last year or so we have seen improvement in certain situations – for example, if “the song” is sung to someone else while there is a lot of background noise, or if it sung to another family member in our house. We even sang it to James as a family last year in a very understated, casual way that did not reduce him to tears (we asked him first if it would be okay).

But back to yesterday. I’m pretty sure that when Ms. T told me about the cafeteria incident my eyes bugged out of my head like a cartoon character. “Is he okay?” I asked. She replied, “Well, when they started singing he stood up, and I ran over there. He stood on the table while the whole cafeteria sang and saluted. He told me he was a birthday soldier.” “Was he crying?” I asked. It still hadn’t occurred to me that any of this story took place without a boatload of tears. “No,” Ms. T said. “He stood on the table like he has seen all of the other kids do on their birthdays and told me he was being saluted on his birthday.”

I can’t appropriately convey to you how huge this is, what an amazing milestone this is. And of course, like the ferris wheel over the summer, nobody I’ve told so far has reacted in the insanely excited way I think appropriate for the situation (totally not expecting anyone to). But to me this is so much bigger than finally going on the ferris wheel or even swimming in the ocean. There are plenty of children, and adults, who are fearful of ferris wheels and big waves, but there are very few who cry during the birthday song. For James to be able to participate in and enjoy something so “normal,” something that has excluded him from his peers for so long, is a giant step toward James being able to function in the world without us one day. And even more wonderful than being able to function, being able to relax and enjoy the fun things like birthday songs.

On the way home I casually said, “So I heard the kids sang to you in the cafeteria today. That sounds pretty cool.” James replied, “Yeah, they all saluted me. It was really awesome.”

But just because James was on his best behavior for his birthday doesn’t mean my other kids were cooperating. Ordering Chinese that evening with the babies in full gear took 3 phone calls. I’m pretty sure the restaurant thought I was crank-calling them with my huge order and all of the noise in the background, not to mention two hang ups (third time’s a charm!). However, I didn’t think that explaining I dropped the first call because I had bad cell reception with my back pressed against the door of my bedroom while trying to order and blockade the noise of my screaming children, and the second time had to hang up really quick because while blockading the door my 11 month old started putting clean laundry into the toilet would even sound realistic. Calling back a third time and shouting my Mastercard numbers into the phone over two crying children seemed to be evidence enough.

Needless to say I was incredibly grateful that James decided he really wanted to order in (instead of our usual birthday dinner out), because I couldn’t imagine taking that caravan out to dinner last night. But for the record, I would’ve taken him in a second had he wanted to, just to see how many more people I could get to sing “happy birthday” to James and witness the miracle for myself.

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