Rising Tide U - 7 Ways Autism Makes a Business Better


Rising Tide U - 7 Ways Autism Makes a Business Better

Molly Sebastian of Invictus Enterprises seems to know everything and everyone in the Autism employment universe. Molly introduced me to Rising Tide U, which came out of the now famous (in the Autism world) Rising Tide Car Wash in Florida. They have created “7 Ways Autism Makes a Business Better”, and they have an online course. The advantages they list from their experience at the Rising Tide Car Wash are:

  1. Following Processes and Rules;

  2. Safety;

  3. Eye for detail;

  4. Turnover;

  5. Culture of Service;

  6. Media and Word of Mouth; and

  7. Loyal Customers.

Cornell University’s Yang and Tan Institute is also working on these same issues:

The Yang-Tan Institute advances equal opportunity for people with disabilities in partnership with federal and state government and philanthropic organizations.

In addition, in NY State, there are these Tax Credits and Benefits to employers. 

Rising Tide is a scalable conveyorized car wash dedicated to the empowerment of individuals with autism. Each Rising Tide location will have high exposure in the community and provide employment for people with autism through easy to learn, process driven labor. Rising Tide will have strong enough profitability to support a community of people with autism through living wages, career advancement opportunities and independent living skills and self-advocacy training.
— Rising Tide Car Wash


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


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:

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.


Jobs: New York State Tax Incentives for Businesses - New York Department of Labor


Jobs: New York State Tax Incentives for Businesses - New York Department of Labor

I am learning more and more ways that our population can CONTRIBUTE to society, and this is very tangible asset they they can bring to employers. From the New York State Department of Labor.

If you have specific knowledge on these programs, please reach out. Many thanks to Martha Jackson of NYC.gov Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities who identified this information last week at a meeting.

Mike Sweeney

Lower Your Labor Costs

Employers that do business in New York State can trim their labor costs through several workforce and economic development programs. Employment-based tax credits may save your business money by cutting federal or state tax liability.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offers employers up to $2,400 in federal tax savings for hiring individuals with barriers to employment. Qualified individuals must complete at least 120 hours of work to qualify for the partial WOTC credit of $1,500, and over 400 hours for the full $2,400 credit. To qualify businesses for the credit, individuals must be verified as members of a targeted group. The groups include:

  • People who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

  • Veterans who:

    • –  receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or

    • –  have a service-related disability

    • –  have been unemployed for
      at least 4 weeks in the previous calendar year

  • Ex-felons

  • People (age 18-39) who live in a federal empowerment zone or rural county

  • Disabled persons receiving rehabilitation services

  • Youth (age 16-17) who live in a federal empowerment zone (summer employment only)

  • People (age 18-39) who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits

  • People who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

  • People who receive Long-Term Family Assistance

  • Long Term Unemployment Recipients (LTUR)

Workers Employment Tax Credit (WETC)

Businesses that employ people with disabilities who currently receive vocational rehabilitation services (or people who received them up to two years prior to hire) may earn $2,100 more in state tax credits. You get the credit during the second year of employment and can combine it with the WOTC credit.

Workers with Disabilities Tax Credit (WDTC)

For-profit businesses and organizations that hire individuals with developmental disabilities may earn up to $5,000 for full-time employment (30 hours or more per week), and up to $2,500 for part-time employment (between 8 hours and 30 hours per week). The period of employment must be no less than six months. If the amount of the credit exceeds the entity’s tax liability, then the tax credit may be carried over for the following three years. Note: Businesses cannot claim this tax credit for an individual they hire if they are already claiming another tax credit for that individual.

New York Youth Jobs Program

The New York Youth Jobs Program helps young people entering the world of work have a successful start. The program encourages the hire of unemployed, disadvantaged youth. Businesses may earn tax credits of up to $7,500 per youth for full-time employment, and up to $3,750 per youth for part-time employment. To qualify, both businesses and youth must be certified by the New York State Department of Labor. Businesses may be eligible for certification if they are in good legal standing, and have a physical location in New York State. Youth may be eligible who are unemployed, between ages 16 to 24, live New York State and meet one of the designated risk factors.

Hire-a-Vet Credit

The Hire-a-Vet Credit encourages the hire of qualified veterans. Businesses must employ a qualified veteran for no less than 35 hours per week for one full year. A qualified veteran is someone who served on active duty in the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Reserves, National Guard, New York Guard or New York Naval Militia, and was released from active duty by general or honorable discharge after September 11, 2001. Qualified veterans must attest that they were not employed for 35 or more hours in the previous 180 days. Businesses may earn up to $5,000 for hiring a qualified veteran and up to $15,000 for hiring one who is disabled.

Minimum Wage Reimbursement Credit

The Minimum Wage Reimbursement Credit helps businesses adjust to the rise in the minimum wage rate of pay. Businesses may earn a credit of $1.35 per hour for all hours worked by an eligible employee. An eligible employee is a student who is 16 to 19 years of age at the time of employment at the minimum wage rate.

Work For Success

The Work for Success Program helps businesses earn up to $2,400 in federal tax credits (WOTC) for each formerly incarcerated person they hire. This helps to reduce recidivism, promote economic development and improve public safety throughout New York State. Work for Success sends businesses only the most qualified and appropriately trained applicants for open jobs.

How to Apply for Credits

Call the New York State Labor Department at 1-888-4-NYSDOL or go to www.labor.ny.gov.


The Brielle on Staten Island - Seniors + Adult Children with Disabilities


The Brielle on Staten Island - Seniors + Adult Children with Disabilities

A number of people reached out to me last week about “The Brielle at Seaview”, an assisted living facility that wants to pilot a co-living program for seniors who are living with and taking care of their adult children with disabilities. “The Brielle has companion suites – two separate bedrooms that have a common dining and kitchen area, as well as a bathroom -- could house spouses, siblings, or parents and children.”

Here is the full story at Staten Island Live and Disability Scoop.

Diane Campione, special needs program coordinator for the New York Public Library, and Diana Thompson, lifestyle and engagement director at The Brielle, hope to get a pilot program off the ground that would ease the burden for seniors who are caring for a loved one with a disability. Campione is the parent of a 22-year-old son with high-functioning autism.

The Brielle, an assisted living facility which has a capacity of 188 that currently operates at 96, is looking to start co-habitating seniors who are caring for an adult child with disabilities in the facility.

“This would be a unique option to keep families together and it has not been available before,” Campione said.
— Disability Scoop
the brielle si.jpg

Needless to say, there will be complications with anything new, but I personally think this is a great idea. From a friend on Staten Island, “Yes I have spoken to Diane, who is mentioned in the article. This could be an option for a parent who requires assisted living care and her developmentally disabled adult child to live with supports. The senior living costs would be over $7000.00 per month (and could be higher depending on variables); and for the adult disabled child they may give a half price deal. I don't think that OPWDD funding could be used at all the way things are designed currently.”

Let’s see where this goes, but it is a great idea.


Is the Otto Specht/Threefold Community the 'Integrated' Model We Have Been Looking For?


Is the Otto Specht/Threefold Community the 'Integrated' Model We Have Been Looking For?

November 2018 Update:

We are now taking inquiries for the two residential homes that are owned by Otto Specht parents. There is one female home, and one male home. For more information, please email me.

Over the past few years, the Developmentally Disabled community has heard chatter from Albany and Washington stressing 'Community Inclusion' and 'Integration'. The intent is to enable the Developmentally Disabled to live in an integrated environment rather than an isolated or 'intentional' community. There are two key benefits to an 'integrated model':

  1. It is better for a majority of the Developmentally Disabled population (recognizing, though, not all will be able to integrate);

  2. It is a less expensive model for New York State taxpayers.

But what is integration, and how do we implement it without it being forced on but rather welcomed by society in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship? The reality is, nobody really knows. NYS OPWDD presents a broad and very generic outline on their Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Counsel (MISCC) page

With thanks to our friend and Self-Direction Broker Ken Siri, we recently visited the Otto Specht School and the larger Threefold Community in Chestnut Ridge, NY (Rockland County), situated on a 200-acre campus just a few miles west of the Palisades Mall. 

The mission of the Otto Specht School is to make possible a self-sufficient and positive future for children with developmental delays, learning challenges and sensory imbalances who do not thrive in a typical classroom setting. To this end we provide innovative educational programming, based on the methods of Waldorf education, in a safe environment where therapeutic, social, and academic needs are addressed.
— Otto Specht website
otto specht 7.jpg
Jeanette Rodriguez - Program Director of Otto Specht School

Jeanette Rodriguez - Program Director of Otto Specht School

Programs at Otto Specht include:

  1. Early Childhood

  2. Grades 1-12

  3. Vocational Arts Program (grades 9-12)

  4. Transitional Life Skills Program - offered for students who have completed High School and require a post-secondary program to build the practical, vocational, and social skills needed to successfully navigate their path towards independent living.

The Transitional Life Skills Program is growing, a reflection of obvious demand. Two Otto Specht families have purchased homes on the periphery of the campus for their adult children to potentially share with other adult residents. Other housing models are also being discussed. 

The task of Threefold Educational Foundation is to support and maintain a living community of practical work inspired by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. The Foundation provides the spiritual basis for work arising from anthroposophy in the Threefold community.
— Threefold Foundation website

There are a many programs at the Threefold Educational Foundation, listed here

felloeship community.jpg

One potential key to solving the 'integration question' for our Developmentally Disabled community is The Fellowship Community, a 501c3 separate from Otto Specht and Threefold. The Fellowship Community consists of "150 elderly persons, children and coworkers [that] live in a rural setting of farm, woods and orchards. Working and learning together in service to others and in caring for the earth is the central motif of the community life. The Fellowship Community operates the Duryea farm, a mixed vegetable production which also includes an apple orchard, dairy herd and on-farm dairy."

Eureka!! We have finally found a truly integrated community where elderly, neuro-typical, and developmentally disabled embrace the opportunity to live and thrive together in an established working community less that 40 miles from New York City. Now, how do we expand and replicate this model and its mission?

Fundraising for New Building at Otto Specht School & Community

Otto Specht's existing classrooms are temporary, rented spaces within the Threefold and Fellowship Communities. They have started a $16.7 million fundraising plan for a new building on the campus:

otto specht school.jpg
otto specht 5.jpg

From the Otto Specht website, "The building's two wings embrace the landscape and invite the beauty of the surrounding region into the building, while simultaneously bringing the inside "out" through frequent opportunities for engagement with the outdoors. A central lobby connects the two wings on the first and second levels, welcoming students, parents, and visitors to a light-filled community space at the heart of the building. The building will be located at the junction of a natural landscape, a biodynamic farm, and our therapeutic herb garden. The buildings' forms are attenuated, stretching voluminously over the landscape, as though they were pulled and twisted into being - infusing the environment with kinetic energy."

For additional information on the school building project, please see the Otto Specht fundraising page

For additional information on Threefold, see their website and their annual report below: 


SDNYC Facebook Group and Meeting on November 7, 2018 at SNACK


SDNYC Facebook Group and Meeting on November 7, 2018 at SNACK

In case you have not seen or heard, I help moderate SDNYC Facebook Group, and our “real world meetings are typically hosted by Jackie Ceonzo at SNACK - 316 E 53rd St, New York, NY 10022-5265.

SDNYC = Self-Direction New York City (area)

This is Self-Direction NYC (SDNYC), which is the “Circle Of Support” group for individuals in the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. If you live in the NYC area or support individuals in the NYC area, please join us.
— SDNYC Facebook Group


New York Alliance: "What Happens When I Die?"


New York Alliance: "What Happens When I Die?"


Reality #1 - We are in a new world for the Developmentally Disabled in New York, and this is a first attempt to answer complex questions.

Reality #2 - Parents will be the ones who come up with creative solutions.

This is a good overview by John Maltby and Carol Napierski of New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation, but this is not a roadmap. Many questions are just starting to be asked.

Support Systems for people with I/DD that were based in congregate care and sheltered work may no longer be desirable or sustainable, however, in some ways they were predictable. As these systems evolve to become more person-centered, families have expressed concern for how to ensure future health, safety and a fulfilled life for their son or daughter in a new world of risk. Our goal in this work is to help people with I/DD and their families understand current systems and think about ways to create “safety networks” addressing changing risks, as options for support become more diffuse and in some ways more challenging. We hope that this work adds to the toolkit available to people with I/DD and their families, and we welcome your feedback.
— John Maltby and Carol Napierski of New York Alliance for Inclusion & Innovation

New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation, is an “Agency of Agencies” in New York State, and it serves as a catalyst for positive change and a leading resource for individuals with disabilities, their families, and the organizations supporting them. They do this through: 

  • Advocacy 

  • Education & Training 

  • Technical Assistance & Practice Improvement 

  • Advancing Sound Public Policy