May 11, 2013

Walk-a-thon for Someone Special Needs You

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:33 am by autismmommytherapist

Easter 2013 005

Zach distracts me for a moment, clamoring for me to appreciate his Easter masterpiece. As I turn to give his creation its proper due I see a basket of eggs teeter precariously from its perch near Justin’s elbow, and I lunge to save them.

The fact that they’re not real seems to have escapted my primal instincts for the moment, and I have to laugh at myself.

I secure the errant basket in the middle of the table this time, and my eldest gives me a look as if to say “What’s your problem, Mom?”, a query to which I could give a variety of responses. Instead, I make a concerted effort to lower my heartrate while making sure to keep Justin’s curious hands away from the glue gun that’s apparently become very enticing to him.

It’s just another Friday night at Someone Special Needs You.

SSNY was founded by Vince Scanelli, a parent of an adult child with autism who wanted to provide his son with both a social outlet, and an activity-based evening that didn’t center solely on his family. One Friday night a month (except for January and the summer months) children and adults with a variety of disabilities gather behind the Colts Neck Reformed Church to partake in crafts and events, while simultaneously being assisted by neurotypical teenagers from the Colts Neck school district.

It’s a lovely program, an opportunity for individuals with special needs both to get out and to have a “friend” for an evening, and an equally important opportunity for a number of teen-agers to have a glimpse into the world of difference and disability.

A win-win for all.

I began bringing Justin, then later Zach, to SSNY six years ago, when Justin was only three, and Zach had not yet graced us with his presence. I still remember seeing the flyer in the depths of his backpack and being elated to discover what I felt would be a fun opportunity for my boy, one for whom many traditional childhood activities are decidedly not fun.

I knew he liked crafts, and loved activities like trick-or-treating, bouncy houses, and Easter egg hunts, so I figured this would be a great event for him. With a few rare exceptions (most notably the time my aunt and I had to carry him out to the car after a tantrum of such magnificent proportions I knew he’d set an all-time record), he’s enjoyed every minute there these last six years, as has his mom.

One of the best parts is, it’s also free.

SSNY is always looking for new families to participate, and I’m writing today in part to encourage any of you with special needs children to give it a try, and in part because the organization is holding its very first walk on June 1st  in Spring Lake.

The boardwalk will not be ready so we will be walking around the Spring Lake lake. The walk starts at 9:00 AM and ends at noon. Parking is available in the train station at Warren and Railroad Avenues, and the walk start point is at 5th Avenue and Warren (look for the blue tent).

In addition to offering a once a month alternative to a typical Friday night at home, Vince is also attempting to create a group home in central Jersey at Overbrook Farms in Colts Neck. The home is the inspiration for the walk.Vince will require a significant amount of funding to bring the establishment to life.

If he’s successful the group home will consist of ten beds for as many adults with disabilities, as well as the chance for said adults to participate in a working farm.

In many instances adults with disabilities have been marginalized in the workplace, and this farm would grant the opportunity for ten people to contribute to, and ultimately hopefully work with, members of the Colts Neck community. For many parents of children with special needs (this one included), a place to reside and a meaningful workplace would be dreams come true.

I know we are all besieged by requests to donate these days (I swear, I’m hit up at least a half dozen times a week between autism and the Girl Scouts), and I know money’s tight for us all. So, if you’d just prefer to come out and cheer on SSNY on June 1st, or give the evening activity a try, we’d love to see you.

I’ll leave you the website below, and if you care to join us in any fashion, we’d love your support. Thank you!  (forms for the walk are available here)

September 14, 2011

Someone Special Needs You (SSNY)

Posted in Fun Stuff, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:14 am by autismmommytherapist

When my family returned to New Jersey from Washington five years ago, I knew our daily lives would be taking a very different turn.  We traded the Smithsonians for the beach, the monuments for proximity to family, and although at times I truly miss our former existence, there is no doubt in my mind it was the best choice for Justin.  For one thing, although the school system where we once lived is nationally recognized, my eldest would never have merited an aide during the early days of his education.  I truly believe that having this one-on-one experience in his first years as a student in New Jersey was absolutely integral to his development, and instrumental in the creation of the happy boy I call my son today.

Our family has also benefited greatly from our experience with the DDD (Department of Developmental Disabilities), an agency which affords us the gift of thirty hours of respite care a month, providing me with an extra pair of hands that often enables me to leave the house with both of my kids in tow.  There have been other benefits from our relocation as well, including far greater access to social opportunities for the boys through several different organizations, specifically POAC (Parents of Autistic Children), and SSNY (Someone Special Needs You).

I’ve written before about our participation in SSNY, from Easter Egg hunts to Halloween activities, as well as visits from Santa, and carnivals.  Vince Scanelli and his wife Gina are the co-founders, and their mission is twofold.  First, they provide a monthly arena where children of all ages and disabilities can convene to do crafts and various activities with high school buddies. These teens are carefully selected to pair with the children, and provide them with a wonderful opportunity for friendship.  Justin has absolutely reveled in the experience over the four years we’ve been attending the meetings, changing from a child who wanted nothing to do with crafts or teen-agers, to a boy who can’t wait to assemble a leprechaun and hug a pretty girl.  He’s grown to love these nights, and in keeping with family tradition, I’ve begun to bring Zachary too.

The second part of their mission includes the creation of a group home on a farm, a topic near and dear to my heart.  SSNY has been afforded the gift of twelve acres of land in Colts Neck, and as soon as the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” are crossed, construction will begin.  It will be a working farm for adults with autism, and will include several green-houses as well.  Vince wants to have sheep, chickens and alpaca in abundance (I admit, I had to google the latter, I need to brush up on my farm vocabulary), and hopes to provide a safe and productive atmosphere within which a number of fortunate adults with autism can live and thrive, together.

Amen to that.

SSNY is always on the look-out for new participants for their monthly sessions, and they meet the third Thursday of the month at the Colts Neck Reformed Church, from 6:30 to 7:30 in the evening.  They also greatly appreciate donations of any sort toward the creation of the group home.  Trust me, it is a daunting task to bring this kind of wide-scale dream to fruition.  As Vince and his wife are two of the kindest, most generous parents I have encountered on my New Jersey autism journey, I truly hope they succeed in reaching their goal.

If you’re either interested in attending the crafts sessions or volunteering/donating to the creation of the group home, please click on the SSNY website, and I thank you for your time.  The first get-together is this Thursday, 9/15, and all families are more than welcome to attend.  Hope to see you there!

Colts Neck Reformed Church

72 County Road 537 West

Colts Neck, NJ 07722

6:30 to 7:30

Third Thursday of the month

Someone Special Needs You

Colts Neck Journal article (information on the group home, pages 37 and 38)