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NYU Silver Partners with Tech Kids Unlimited + Dustin "Tech Dude" Sweeney

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NYU Silver Partners with Tech Kids Unlimited + Dustin "Tech Dude" Sweeney

I am not sure how it took me so long to discover Beth Rosenberg and her program at TechKids Unlimited:

Tech Kids Unlimited is a not-for-profit technology-based educational organization for kids ages 7 to 21 with special needs. Our program was created specifically to work with students with IEPs and 504 plans.


In part with funding from the NYU Community Fund, the organization now serves over 350 young people with autism spectrum disorder, learning and emotional disabilities, and processing challenges. It offers distinct programming for kids ages 7-13 and teens ages 14-21, with the former focused on learning computer science principles and developing bonds with like-minded peers and the latter focused on applying their knowledge through work-based learning experiences to gain job skills. More.


Dustin Sweeney @ Tech Kids

Dustin Sweeney has attended two classes at Tech Kids:

As I get deeper into the programming and jobs for the 21+ Autism/DD population, I am amazed at Dustin’s interest and abilities. As the father of a “Low-Verbal Autistic”, my expectations were low for these two classes. Dustin loves YouTube, but I was not sure he wanted to try programming and development. Wrong Again! Dustin was clearly engaged and Beth and her staff gave Dustin as much attention as he needed, and they gave us leeway to shadow Dustin at the two classes.

It is an awesome atmosphere at NYU. Director of Operations Cristina Ulerio and the Tech Kids staff are great with our population. They find that delicate line of support, engagement, and discipline to focus the students on the task at hand. For two days of his life, it felt like Dustin was at college:


What’s Next?

So I started the conversation of 21+ Programming and Jobs for our population with Beth, and with a 20 year old son in her house, Beth and the Board of TKU are looking at ways to expand TKU Digital Agency. How and when (not if!!), so stay tuned. Beth is just a natural at the “Integration Model”, as she just blends in herself:

Beth Rosenberg (front right) and the TK Hackathon Team

Beth Rosenberg (front right) and the TK Hackathon Team

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Podcast with Journey Skills: "Possibilities with Mike Sweeney of Carousel 51"

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Podcast with Journey Skills: "Possibilities with Mike Sweeney of Carousel 51"

I met Debra Caldow of Journey Skills via Alison Berkley of Invictus Enterprises, and Alison did a Podcast with Debra here.

Debra is based on the Southeast coast of England in Kent, and they position their Podcast and Blog as:

“We have a vision for our daughter, and we want to provide a central hub for like-minded parents and carers – a place to find resources that will help develop skills around purpose, relationships and daily living skills. Young people with additional needs can achieve many great things, and we want to help them on their path to greater independence.  We aim to provide practical resources to parents and carers to make the journey a bit easier.”

It’s interesting to hear the comparisons and contrast of USA and England for Autism services, and here is my first Podcast (22 minutes):

Podcast Episode 52. Rather than waiting until we have to act the better option is to start exploring what is already out there and start actively working towards creating solutions. This is exactly what this week’s podcast guest Mike Sweeney is doing.

Mike talks about the various projects that he has become involved in as he looks towards finding a community for his son Dustin to live in when he is ready for independent living.

Mike talks about how he has moved from thinking of housing as being the most important focus of his efforts to the realization that work would as he puts it “changes peoples perspective”.

He also discusses how the system in the USA is changing towards young people with additional needs being given more control over their own futures through what is known as self-direction. Mike also reminds us how important integration is in terms of ensuring that our young person with additional needs can have an independent future even when we are no longer around.

Although Mike’s journey is not a unique one, there is much to learn from the way he is navigating his way through the challenges. Listening to Mike’s story will help you as you plan ahead for your own son or daughter’s future independence.
— Debra Caldow of Journey Skills - Kent, England

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Application for ArchCare @ Saint Teresa on Staten Island Part II: Community-based, Family-governed Self-Direction Community

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Application for ArchCare @ Saint Teresa on Staten Island Part II: Community-based, Family-governed Self-Direction Community

Press and Community Event - ArchCare @ Saint Teresa, Staten Island, New York

Yesterday, we invited the Press and Staten Island Community to take a tour of ArchCare @ Staten Island. It was a great day and here are some highlights and updates.


From the Parents Committee:

“One Perfect Day 24/7/365”

Danielle and Izzy Paskowitz in San Diego

Danielle and Izzy Paskowitz in San Diego

When I started down this housing and community path for the Autism/DD community, I always pulled inspiration from our friends at Surfers Healing who create “one perfect day” of surfing for the Autism community. My goal was to create a community that took that surfing spirit into a lifelong community for our Autism and Developmentally Disabled population. The Founders of Surfers Healing have broken ground on a facility in San Diego, California area that will extend their ocean spirit to the Campus of Life.

As Parents, we were all very very excited yesterday about the commitment from ArchCare, Saint Teresa Parish, and the entire Staten Island community to reach in, reach out and truly support this community. There were so many new ideas presented to us about how to make ArchCare @ Saint Teresa work. It was an inspiring day, and we hope and expect ArchCare @ Saint Teresa to be a model for other projects.

Jackie Ceonzo, Susan George, Donna Maxon, and Mike Sweeney


From ArchCare @ Saint Teresa:

Offering housing for young adults with Autism 21 years of age and over, transitioning to independent living, ArchCare at St. Teresa will be located at 139 Windsor Road, Staten Island on the campus of Saint Teresa of the Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church. The housing is projected to be available in late summer, 2019. It will feature separate apartments with a combined living/dining/sleeping area, a bathroom and a small kitchen with a stove, refrigerator and microwave. A recreation area, community room, teaching kitchen, lounge and laundry will be shared by the residents. The building and apartments will have fire, smoke and emergency response alarms. The building will be fully sprinklered and will have a key fob access system. Residents must be able to live independently. No support services will be provided, but it is anticipated residents may receive services through self-directed funding and from Circles of Support.

A live-in project manager will be responsible of assuring the cleaning and upkeep of the building and will respond to emergencies when he is present in the building. It is anticipated that the Circles of Support will help develop and run group activities. Residents may also have individual staff support through self-directed funding.

ArchCare at St. Teresa will not have 24 hour supervision, but residents can arrange extended supervision through self-directed funding, other resources or by their Circles of Support. Families will be able to work together to develop support systems.


CBS New York Report - Thursday January 18, 2019


Question and Answer from ArchCare:

Why is there a need for special housing for young adults with autism?

The number of young adults with autism among our local parish families and across Staten Island continues to grow, and many worry that they will have no place to go or people to live with as their parents and siblings age. Prompted by concern for these young people and their families, Cardinal Timothy Dolan challenged ArchCare, the non-profit healthcare ministry of the Archdiocese of New York, to identify creative ways to help. When told of the opportunity to repurpose an unused convent building at St. Teresa’s to create individual apartments for young adults with autism, he immediately gave his blessing to the project. 

Why are St. Teresa’s and ArchCare doing this?

It is a way for St. Teresa’s and the archdiocese to put an unused Church property to good use in the way Jesus would want us to – to help members of our community who need and deserve our help, compassion and support.

What is ArchCare?

ArchCare is the non-profit healthcare ministry of the Archdiocese of New York. ArchCare cares for more than 9,000 people of all faiths every day across the archdiocese in their homes, in the community and in its skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers. On Staten Island, ArchCare provides skilled nursing care and rehabilitation at ArchCare at Carmel Richmond Nursing Home, comprehensive home health services, and a PACE program that helps hundreds of people, many with intellectual and other disabilities, continue to live safely and independently in the community instead of in institutions. 

Who will be living at St. Teresa’s?

The residents will be young adults with autism who have “aged out” of programs in their early 20s and are capable of living safely and successfully with the level of independence the residence will require. Some will likely have jobs in the community, while others may leave to attend classes or other programs during the day. Their families will continue to be involved in their daily lives and, together with the residents, will be responsible for arranging for any services they might need, such as transportation personal assistance. While the focus is on young people with autism, those with other developmental disabilities who are capable of living safely with the degree of independence the residence will require may also be considered.

Where will the residents be from?

The initial goal is for half of the residents to come from within Saint Teresa’s Parish and 50% from elsewhere. Typically, they will have been living at home with their families and will be living in the community for the first time. As a condition of residency, their families will agree to continue to be active in their lives and commit to serving as members of a family council, who will work together to ensure that residents are successful and address any issues that may arise. That’s why ArchCare is referring to this as community-based, family-governed housing.

How will residents be selected?

Residents will be selected by a panel of autism advocates and other experts with experience working with young adults with autism. Residents will have to meet specific criteria, including: 

  • Residents must capable of living safely with the degree of independence the residence will offer;

  • Residents’ families must agree to continue to be involved in their lives and their care for the foreseeable future and serve as members of a family council who will work together to represent their loved ones’ interests as necessary;

  • The residence must be an environment in which residents can continue to thrive socially, emotionally and intellectually.


Is the building being enlarged or changed in any way?

The building is not being enlarged, and the “footprint” will remain exactly the same. The renovation will mainly be taking place inside to bring the building up to code and create the individual apartments and common living spaces. 


How much will this cost St. Teresa’s Parish?

Absolutely nothing. The estimated $2.5-3.5 million cost of construction will be covered by ArchCare and other funding sources. ArchCare will lease the building from the parish under a long-term lease and assume responsibility for all maintenance and repairs. St. Teresa’s will receive a regular stream of income in the form of fair market rent for the property, and will no longer face the risks and costs of maintaining an unused building or finding other tenants. 


Is ArchCare looking to create similar residences elsewhere?

Not immediately. The hope is that St. Teresa’s will serve as a model that can be replicated not just by other parishes but also by others in the community with space to offer and the desire to help. 

What is the timeline for the project?

ArchCare announced the project in mid-2017 and construction began in early 2018. Current projections call for the renovations to be completed in July 2019 and for residents to be able to begin moving in by September. Applications are currently being accepted, and resident selection will take place in May. 

Do residents have to be Catholic? 

The residence will be open to people of all faiths. Of course, residents who would like to attend Mass will always be welcome at St. Teresa’s.

Will any residents be coming from institutions?

The residence was conceived and is being designed as transitional housing to help individuals with autism who have been cared for at home live away from their loved ones for the first time. The goal is to provide a comfortable, homelike environment in which they can develop the skills and relationships they need, and perhaps be able to live in an even more independent setting in the future. 

Will there be a caretaker or other staff on-site?

There will be a full-time project manager who will be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the building and will respond to emergencies when present.

What kind care and other services will ArchCare be providing? 

This is a residence, not a care facility. ArchCare’s role will be that of a landlord. Some residents and families may choose to obtain services from ArchCare programs, but that would be up to them and is not required to live at St. Teresa’s. 


Update: Spectrum News NY1 - “Adults With Autism Can Soon Call Former Staten Island Convent Home”


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ArchCare @ Saint Teresa - Former Convent to be Special Needs Community - #Self-Direction

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ArchCare @ Saint Teresa - Former Convent to be Special Needs Community - #Self-Direction

Update December, 2018:

Below are some updated photos from Eric Feldmann from our Work Group - ArchCare @ Saint Teresa. The construction is going well, and sheet rock is now onsite:

IMG_1918.jpg
IMG_1833.jpg
The Garden (future)

The Garden (future)


The project is now gaining some financial attention too with support from:

  • The Staten Island Foundation has given $50,000,

  • An unnamed $25,000 grant from a foundation contact of an ArchCare board member, and

  • The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York awarded the project $243,000, through its Affordable Housing Program. 

Other foundations are now being contacted.


December 2018 Updated Parameters for ArchCare @ Saint Teresa

Offering housing for young adults with autism 21 years of age and over, transitioning to independent living, ArchCare at St. Teresa will be located at 139 Windsor Road, Staten Island on the campus of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church.

The housing is projected to be available in late summer, 2019. It will feature separate apartments with a combined living/dining/sleeping area, a bathroom and a small kitchen with a stove, refrigerator and microwave. A recreation area, community room, teaching kitchen, lounge and laundry will be shared by the residents. The building and apartments will have fire, smoke and emergency response alarms. The building will be fully sprinklered and will have a key fob access system.

Residents must be able to live independently. No support services will be provided, but it is anticipated residents may receive services through self-directed funding and from Circles of Support.

A live-in project manager will be responsible of assuring the cleaning and upkeep of the building and will respond to emergencies when he is present in the building.

It is anticipated that the Circles of Support will help develop and run group activities. Residents may also have individual staff support through self-directed funding.

ArchCare at St. Teresa will not have 24 hour supervision, but residents can arrange extended supervision through self-directed funding, other resources or by their Circles of Support. Families will be able to work together to develop support systems.
— ArchCare at Saint Teresa

Updated May 3, 2018

  • The name is now "ArchCare at Saint Teresa";

  • Asbestos removal has begun on the building;

  • New move in date is summer of 2019;

  • This would be a “non-certified setting” in the OPWDD system;

  • ArchCare at Saint Teresa will have a booth at the JCC of Staten Island Special Needs Resource Fair on May 11, 2018. Thanks to Senator Andrew Lanza for the support to our community;

  • Applications to ArchCare at Saint Teresa will begin this summer of 2018 at the Autism Housing @ ArchCare website. Offline applications will be accepted too.


Original Story:

Saint Teresa's Convent, Staten Island, NY - Summer 2017 - The "Before"

Saint Teresa's Convent, Staten Island, NY - Summer 2017 - The "Before"

Saint Teresa's Gym - separate building from The Convent

Saint Teresa's Gym - separate building from The Convent

Saint Teresa's Church

Saint Teresa's Church

Monsignor William Belford - Saint Teresa's Parish

Monsignor William Belford - Saint Teresa's Parish

How do you implement "Self-Direction in the OPWDD System"in a residential community, and how do you make it great? ArchCare, The Continuing Care Community of the Archdiocese of New York, is converting a beautiful building at Saint Teresa Parish on Staten Island for our Special Needs population. 

For those that are not familiar, "Self-Direction" is a big shift for the Developmentally Disabled community in New York State and the USA. Many parents and many agencies are concerned about these shifts of empowering individuals over institutions:

self direction.png

Based on personal experience from our son's after-school programs, we are big fans of "Self-Diection". We also realize that it will not be a fit for everyone, but our friends at ArchCare are giving the Self-Direction population a huge head start on Staten Island.*

ArchCare cares for people of all ages and faiths where they are most comfortable and best able to receive it – at home, and in the community. As the Continuing Care Community of the Archdiocese of New York, we see enhancing the lives of our elders and others who need extra help to stay healthy and live life to its fullest as more than just a job. To us, it’s a privilege and our calling.

It is still early in the process, and I am on the a Parent's Committee working with ArchCare and Saint Teresa Parish. This community has real potential to serve as a model for our Self-Direction community. Watch the NY 1 report from this summer:

The initial game plan is for:

  • 10 studio apartments, each with their own kitchen and bathroom.

  • There will be 2 apartments for staff and 8 for residents.

  • There is an existing beautiful kitchen and dining area where residents can invite parishioners, neighbors, and friends into OUR community and we will serve them meals and entertainment!!

  • The building has common areas for community events and employment programs.

  • Outside independent programs and employment for residents are supported.

  • Our goal is to have collaboration with GrowNYC and similar groups to have "farms" on Staten Island. :) Yes farms on Staten Island!! Ok, it is more like a small garden, but we want our population to live the "farm to table" lifestyle.

  • Saint Teresa's also has a school, gym, huge common area, and the church that our population can integrate with.

  • ArchCare is contributing $2.5 million in capital improvements to the former Saint Teresa's Convent building, and they are taking below market rents on a 40 year lease to match OPWDD rates.

  • Target move-in date - Summer 2019.

This will be complicated, fun, and it will fill OUR lives with purpose. I am very excited by the commitment from ArchCare and the Parent's Committee, and thanks to Jackie Ceonzo of SNACK NYC for inviting me to this group. I believe that ArchCare @ Saint Teresa will be a catalyst for additional facilities in NYC and Upstate in the ArchCare system. More to follow in the coming months, and I am genuinely grateful to ArchCare's CEO Scott LaRueCardinal Dolan, and Monsignor William Belford of Saint Teresa's Parish

* Dustin Sweeney will not be a resident of ArchCare at Saint Teresa, but I am very motivated to make this work for benefit of the population as it will be an excellent model to build on for future projects.

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Katie and Dustin Sweeney: CO/LAB Theater Group and the NYC Marathon

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Katie and Dustin Sweeney: CO/LAB Theater Group and the NYC Marathon

I normally shy away from talking about Dustin directly on here, but he is why I am here and this was a great film by Katie and Dusty for the benefit of our friends at CO/LAB. Many of you have not heard Dustin speak before, so consider this his world premier (he is a good reader).


Dear Friends and Family:

On November 4, I will be running the NYC Marathon for the 4th time. This journey will be different, as I am committing my run this year to benefit CO/LAB, the amazing theater group that Dusty ACTS — yes acts — with and I am proud to serve as a Board Member of. I have never run a marathon in support of a non-profit before — a lot more pressure — but CO/LAB has become too important to us not to take the opportunity and ask for your support as I undertake this oh so daunting journey.

CO/LAB (Creative Opportunities without Limits And Boundaries) provides individuals with developmental disabilities a creative and social outlet through theatre arts. Dusty has participated in their Musical Theatre Ensemble class, performed in his first show, With Words, and is learning about Physical Theater in CO/LAB’s newest class. For many years, Dusty has enjoyed Broadway as a member of the audience…thanks to CO/LAB he now gets to experience the joy of expression and creation and perform on the stage!. Please enjoy this short (2:20) film of Dusty’s CO/LAB journey:

At this year's autism friendly performance of The Lion King, something truly amazing happened during Simba’s second act solo, Endless Night. Dusty was singing along, and suddenly got an anguished look on his face and clenched his fists. I braced myself for a melt down. The song built and Dusty’s look became even more anguished and his knuckles turned white, they were squeezed so hard. And then….wait for it….the song ended, Dusty relaxed his hands, and he smiled. In that moment, Dusty had become Simba. Dusty was Acting. That’s the power of theater. That’s the power of CO/LAB.

CO/LAB has created a truly inclusive and judgement-free environment that encourages Dusty to discover and express his voice through acting.  Please consider supporting my marathon journey this year through my #Imwithcolab Crowdrise campaign:*

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/imwithcolab/katiesweeney  

CO/LAB’s core programming is offered at no cost to its Actors; thus any donation of any size is greatly needed and genuinely appreciated.  A lot of people giving a little adds up to a lot. 

There once was a day as many of you know when Dusty got thrown out of a theater — a Broadway theater in fact. Now, thanks to CO/LAB, he is theater! Moments of despair. Moments of glory. Much like the Drama masks. Much like a marathon.  Much like life.

Our love and gratitude,

Katie, Mike, Dylan and Dusty

*If you prefer, you can mail your gift to me, made out to CO/LAB Theater Group (see address below) and I will be honored to hand deliver it to Becky Leifman, our wonderful co-founder and Executive Director.

The Sweeney Family

1619 3rd Avenue, Apt. 21K

New York, NY 10128


co:lab theater lincoln.jpg

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Our friend Oscar Segal is looking for a roommate in NYC (he found one!)

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Our friend Oscar Segal is looking for a roommate in NYC (he found one!)

November 28, 2018 Update: Mission accomplished as Oscar is now living with a co-worker at Shake Shack on the Upper East Side. Oscar’s new roommate is going to school for acting and he is originally from Alabama.


Many people in the NYC DD community know Oscar Segal as he is a very hard working young adult. In case you don’t know Oscar, here is a great video of his work at Invictus:

Here are the details via Oscar’s family:

  • Support Independent Young Adult on Autism Spectrum in Exchange 4 Rm & Bd (Bronx), Near Yankee Stadium, 20 minutes to Midtown  

  • Free Room and Board in Exchange for being overnight emergency staff 3 - 4 nights per wk + $17 per hour for doing skills training and support in evenings.

  • Spirited, highly independent 23-year-old man on the autistic spectrum needs live-in support staff for large 3-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment in the Bronx. 

  • 3 blocks from Yankee Stadium and #4, B and D Trains. 6 blocks to #2 and #5. 20 minutes ride to mid-town Manhattan, 10 minute bus ride to Upper Manhattan.

  • Requires mature, patient individual with experience living, working, teaching, or caregiving to young adults on the autistic spectrum. Must be legally able to work in the U.S., pass drug test and background check.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Staffer must be available to meet client at home 3 to 4 nights a week.  Client typically returns home between 7 PM and 10 PM.

  • Home must be staffer's primary residence. Expected to be staying in the apartment most nights. Part of the job is to provide fellowship and sense of continuity. 

  • Mentor client / room-mate on skills promoting independence, including (but not limited to):

    • Preparation of lists and shopping with client.

    • Dinner preparation working with client (3 – 4 nights per week on average.) 

    • Establishing routines with client to keep apartment clean and organized.

    • Support positive decision-making and social skills appropriate for an adult of his age. 

    • Model behavior around hygiene, healthy eating and exercise. 

Other responsibilities include: 

  • Keep regular notes on client's progress towards goals and challenges to be shared with other members of his support team. 

  • Become an active member of client's support team and be available for occasional team meetings. 

  • Work with 2nd staff support staffer to prepare rotation schedule for evening responsibilities including meal preparation, cleaning up, socializing with client, and being the on-call overnight staff. 

COMPENSATION:

  • Room (own private bedroom, 2 shared bathrooms) and board (food, utilities, Internet) fully covered.

  • $17.00 an hour for any time working on supportive skills building before 11 PM and on weekends.

TO APPLY: 

Write short email to parents summarizing your experience working, living with or teaching young adults with autism or other cognitive disabilities. Send it to rsegal64@gmail.com 

  • Please do NOT respond if your only experience is in childcare.

  • Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.

  • Please NOT contact us with unsolicited services or offers.

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2018 NYC Surfers Healing Barbecue and Fundraiser - Monday September 9, 2018

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2018 NYC Surfers Healing Barbecue and Fundraiser - Monday September 9, 2018

This is the annual New York City fundraiser for Surfers Healing. Our friend Izzy Paskowitz is a legendary Professional Surfer who now uses his surfing talents to teach thousands of Autistic children per year to surf in Australia, Hawaii, California, Puerto Rico and the East Coast of the United States. We barbeque steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs at the Paul O. Colliton Studio, and we drink healthy amounts of water, beer, and wine. Our Surf DJ is Stephen Popkin for the evening. With this view of Chelsea, and the entertainment from the Surfers, our $75 suggested donation is THE BEST FUNDRAISER IN MANHATTAN! Please join us, it really is a great cause, group, location, and event.


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