Bronx/Riverdale Family - April 2024

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April 2024




100+ C A MPS . 20+ LOC AT IONS . A LL 5 BOROUGHS .

Registration is now open for all YMCA Summer Day Camps at dozens of convenient locations throughout all five boroughs. We’ve got camps for every child, including traditional camp and specialty camps offering everything from sports to STEAM! Swimming is available at most camps, and we’ll work with each camper to strengthen their swimming ability during their time at camp.


• Talented and experienced staff

• Amazing and uplifting camp spirit

• Make new friends and build self-esteem

• Instructional swim lessons

All branches that host summer day camp are hosting open houses from 10 AM – 12 PM on APRIL 20 and MAY 11.



6 | i n the n ews

What IVF in New York looks like

10 | Tech

Social media & kids safety: an appby-app breakdown

26 | cover

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn

SToRiES & colUmn


4 | editor’s letter

14 | family fun

Where to see cherry blossoms

30 | family Day o ut

The Morgan Libary takes a closer look at the beloved children’s author Beatrix Potter Th

18 | Special child

If you think your child is on the autism spectrum

20 | Special child

ADHD causes, symptoms and treatment

22 | Special child

Tips from an expert on dyslexia and early intervention

25 | Bios

Your special needs community

FA mily FU n

28 | c alendar

All the fun activities for April

d i RE c To R i ES

25 | Special n eeds listings

on The cover

Photo: Yumi Matsuo |

Hair & Makeup: Buffy Saint Marie Hernandez |

Cover Story: Mia Salas & Donna Duarte- Ladd

Produced by: Donna Duarte- Ladd

Shot on location at: The Soft Space by Mama Glow

Florals: Pic and Petal

April 2024 | Bronx/Riverdale Family 3 April 2024 contents
pg. pg.
E S pE ci A l c hild

Cue Spring

April is the month of renewal!

This month, we have resources to assist parents and guardians in their Special Needs journey. Check out our helpful Tips on Dyslexia (page 22), the next steps if you think your Child is Autistic (page 18), and ADHD in children (page 20), as well as our Special Needs Resource list (page 25).

Speaking of journeys, we are in the digital generation, and it is vital to understand what kids are doing on their phones and tablets. Our Social Media & Kids App-by-App Breakdown (page 10) is a guide that breaks down kids’ popular apps and how parents/ guardians can prompt safety features to navigate these platforms.

Black Maternal Health Week is honored from April 11–17 this month. It is also National Minority Health Month. April’s

cover mom, Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (page 26), is a strong advocate for maternal health for Black mothers who, through loss, got the “Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law” passed. Rodneyse shares about her path to politics, raising her toddler, and being thankful for her strong support system.

Lastly, there are instances when many of us, tired of the cold weather, the multiple coat layers -when spring (finally!) hits us, and we go, oh -hey, and all that stomping around in the frosty weather is forgotten. For some, that oh-hey moment is when exquisite, delicate buds from Cherry Blossoms bloom throughout the city. Check out where to see these beauties (page 14)!

Share your feedback and ideas about family life in New York!

Email us at and tag us at #newyorkfamily

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4 | April 2024
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The Future of IVF in New York

As many now know – in yet another shock to families and women’s rights since the reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022, last month Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that embryos are considered children, a move that put many IVF (in vitro fertilization) services on hold throughout the state. While state bills protecting IVF treatments were rushed into proposal following the ruling, what could this entire legal process mean for the future of fertility treatment, especially in New York? Here’s what New York women and families need to know.

What is IVF, what is the Alabama ruling and how did it come to be?

IVF is a type of reproductive treatment that many couples use when they are having trouble conceiving.

The Alabama ruling making headlines recently stems from a court case involving couples who had children via IVF at a fertility clinic within the state. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health gives a summary of the case.

In short, the couples’ additional embryos were being cryo-preserved but were destroyed

during an incident at the clinic. The couples initiated lawsuits, with one claim brought under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. Ultimately, the state’s Supreme Court said the embryos were, in fact, people.

The push to protect IVF in New York and across the country

IVF is currently protected in New York State. It is even covered by health insurance in many cases.

Joanne Rosen, JD, MA, an expert at reproductive law and co-director, Center for Law and the Public’s Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that it is unlikely that New York would halt IVF.

In fact, following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, New York has taken several steps to protect and expand abortion access. For example, the state has enacted “shield laws” to protect healthcare providers here who perform abortions from criminal prosecutions by states that ban abortion.

“New York has also placed a constitutional amendment on the 2024 election ballot that would guarantee equal treatment with respect to reproductive healthcare and autonomy,” Rosen said. “In

light of these strong protections for abortion access and reproductive autonomy, I think it is highly unlikely that New York state, either through court decision or legislation, would treat in vitro embryos as ‘persons’ for the purposes of wrongful death or criminal homicide laws.”

But even in a protected state like New York, lawmakers are concerned about the future IVF.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, is taking precautionary action, calling for the passage of the Access to Family Building Act, legislation that would protect access to IVF and other fertility treatments.

Gillibrand called the Alabama court’s ruling “dangerous” with the potential to limit IVF across the country.

“This ruling could have extreme implications nationwide, including in New York,” the senator said. “It will make it harder for women to access infertility treatments, put doctors at risk of legal action and establish a dangerous precedent that may be used by conservative courts to issue similar rulings in other states.”

If put into law, the Access to Family Building Act would establish access to IVF

6 | April 2024
in the news
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and other fertility treatments as a federally protected right.

“Women deserve to start or grow their families without government interference, and I’m committed to making sure they can,” Gillibrand said.

Elected officials from other states agree. Democratic senators from across the country, including states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida, support the Access to Family Building Act.

Many Republicans are in agreement with Democrats on the issue, too. The Alabama bills protecting IVF clinics from prosecution and civil lawsuits advanced with bipartisan support, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma, discussed his and his wife’s fertility issues on CNN last weekend, saying about the Alabama ruling, “This is not the position of the Republican party.”

He added that he’s hopeful the state legislature in Alabama “will resolve this issue” but will also support federal action if needed.

“This ruling ... will make it harder for women to access infertility treatments, put doctors at risk of legal action and establish a dangerous precedent that may be used by conservative courts to issue similar rulings in other states.”

What are New York women saying?

Upper East Side residents, Ashley Gildin Spitzer and her husband Jon, used IVF to conceive their ‘twiblings.’ After a daunting, multi-year process, Ashley finally became pregnant with her daughter while a surrogate gave birth four months later to her son. The couple’s daughter will be 3 in July, and their son will be 3 in November.

Spitzer said she was saddened when she heard about the Alabama ruling last month, describing it as “another thing to worry about” when it comes to women’s rights.

“This is science, and it’s helping so many families,” Spitzer said. “Fertility patients go through so much to get to IVF that they shouldn’t have to fear making decisions and the repercussions to start or grow their families.”

Kathy Shamoun, a New York-based acupuncturist, sees many patients at her practice who want to reduce their stress levels, including women who are undergoing IVF. She said she was “chilled” when she heard about the Alabama ruling.

“It’s chilling news for me because I am so staunchly an advocate of reproductive rights, and so staunchly an advocate for abortion as healthcare,” she said. “Removing abortion is endangering women’s lives.”

Shamoun also offered her thoughts on the economic side of limiting IVF in states such as Alabama.

“You better believe that IVF clinics in protected states where there are no restrictive abortion laws are welcoming with open arms the influx of money that people in Alabama can pay,” she said.

8 | April 2024
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Social Media & Kids Safety

An app-by-app breakdown

Social media is constantly in the news, as well as the safety of kids and how they use it. Here in New York City, Mayor Adams is currently one of the leading voice on the effects of social media on young people’s mental health.

Last year, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory stating that “More research is needed to fully understand the impact of social media; however, the current body of evidence indicates that while social media may have benefits for some children and adolescents, there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

Yet, our kids, for the most part, will have social media in their lives even if they do not own a phone or are on an app. For us parents who allow our kids to be on certain apps know that social media opens up their children to new ideas and experiences, but it can also be scary. As parents, we want to ensure our kids are staying safe. Yet this can be tricky when we don’t know what content they’re seeing on their phones or tablets.

That’s why we put together an easy guide on kids’ safety on this age group’s favorite social media platforms. We’ll cover what controls the platforms offer to ensure content is right for a young audience.

While some platforms offer a “kids” version of the app, others have a strict 13+ age restriction. So it’s super important that you see which apps your kids download and make sure they’re entering their birthday right.

Read on to learn more about privacy, messaging, and parental controls for kids on social media.

Instagram safety measures

Privacy: In our opinion, Instagram is one of the leaders in safety initiatives in social apps. If you’re under 16, your account is set to private by default. This means anyone who wants to follow your kids will have to send them a request. Strangers won’t be able to see or comment on

their posts unless they accept the request.

Messaging : Instagram restricts people over 19 from sending private messages to teens who don’t follow them. If an adult tries to message your child (and they don’t already follow that adult), the adult will get a notification that DM’ing them isn’t allowed.

Other protections : There are several other safety measures in place for teens on Instagram. For example, the content they post won’t be shown to suspicious adults in Explore, Reels of “Accounts Suggested for You.” Adults flagged as suspicious also won’t be able to see teen accounts in follower and following lists, see who likes posts, or see comments from teens on other posts.

Tools for parents : Instagram’s Family Center is helpful for it guides parents and guardians on managing their teens’ activity on the platform. It includes tools such as setting time limits, managing who can message their teen, viewing their activity, and controlling who can see their teen’s posts. This aims to provide parents with greater supervision and management over their teen’s Instagram experience, promoting safer and more responsible usage. Several controls are available to parents to help monitor your child’s activity on Instagram. Parental Supervision lets you set time limits, schedule breaks, see their time spent on Instagram, see their followers and who they follow, shared connections, who they’ve blocked or reported, and see their privacy setting selections.

Something worth knowing : Instagram will also allow you to request your child’s photo removed from an account.

YouTube and YouTube Kids safety measures

In total transparency, we have teenagers, and there is no way that our tweens and teens want anything but YouTube, not YouTube kids. YouTube kids are for the younger set still in the sweet phase and will not go the sneaky path and search for content they know 100 percent would not be okay for the devoted adult who cares about their mental and social growth.

For instance, at home, this editor uses trust in what our teenagers search for, and so far, it is going well. However, every tween/teen experience is different. If you wish to have some management over your child’s YouTube experience, you can set up a supervised YouTube Account. You can place some firewalls; however, they are not impenetrable, and inappropriate content can find its way in.

YouTube Kids : YouTube has an entirely secure experience for kids with YouTube Kids. It’s a family-friendly version of YouTube that uses automated filters to ensure the content shown is appropriate for kids.

Tool for Parents : Parents have full access to YouTube Kids, making it easy to know what your kids are watching. You can create individual profiles for each of your kids, decide what content to make available for your kids, set a timer to limit screen time, see recent videos your kids have been watching, and more.

Something worth knowing : If content that isn’t family-friendly shows up on YouTube Kids, you always flag it for removal from the app or block the account entirely.

There’s also a built-in timer to help limit

10 | April 2024


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your kid’s screen time. It can stop the app when their time is up so you don’t have to do it yourself!

TikTok safety measures

This is the tough one, as kids are obsessed with this app. While guiding younger kids on watching TikTok is more manageable, the older kids can be a different story. Many reports have deemed this particular app as dangerous.

Privacy : TikTok offers “Family Pairing,” which pairs your account with your kid’s account. This gives you access to more privacy, content, and well-being settings and helps you see what your kids are watching. You can even turn searching on and off within the app if you don’t want your kids to search for things independently.

Other protections : TikTok offers granular controls to manage what your child can do and see on the app. These include filtering comments, blocking accounts, setting screen time limits, and disabling video downloads.

You can also set a daily screen time limit so your kids don’t spend too much time scrolling.

Our kids will have social media in their lives even if they do not own a phone or are on an app.

Something Worth Knowing : Beyond Family Pairing, you can also turn on Restricted Mode. This hides content that might not be appropriate for kids and teens.

Snapchat safety measures

Privacy : Snapchat has several controls in place to give you peace of mind that your kids are using the app appropriately. First, contact settings for teens are set to friends and contacts only by default. This means adult strangers can reach out to them. They can also only share their location with friends on Snap Map. Teens often get reminders to review and update their privacy settings and security, ensuring they don’t get hacked.

Messaging : Only friends can communicate one-on-one on Snapchat for teens. So unless they are friends on the app or they have

their contact already in their phone, the adult wouldn’t be able to contact your child. Teens also don’t show up in search results, which is intentional so their accounts are less discoverable to adults. If at any point your kids feel uncomfortable talking to someone, they can block the account so they’re not able to reach out again.

Other protections : Snapchat actively reviews and recognizes severe harms, and they’ll disable those accounts causing them. They make it difficult for bad actors to rejoin Snapchat, therefore keeping the app a safe place. Their Global Trust & Safety Team works 24/7 so they can act quickly on inappropriate behavior.

Tools for parents : Parents can set stricter content limits beyond the ones already in place. Snapchat’s Family Center allows parents to monitor who teens are talking to on Snapchat and set Content Controls.

Something Worth Knowing : Snapchat also does its best to show age-appropriate content to teens via Stories and Spotlight. They’ve developed accurate detection tools to find and prevent harmful public accounts from showing their content to teens.

12 | April 2024
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Where to See Cherry Blossoms in NYC

Cherry Blossoms are popping up throughout the city. Winter was pretty all over the place, weather wise, this year, so cherry blossom season seems to be popping up early. There are probably places where you might be able to catch some blooms right now!

Start planning your cherry blossom viewings now! We’ve rounded up some of the best spots in NYC to see the cherry blossoms.

Riverside Park

This waterfront park is a beautiful spot for a stroll that the kids will love. The park has a four-mile-long path along the Hudson River that’s perfect for admiring the cherry blossoms.

You can find Kwanzan Cherry trees and Crabapple trees blooming side by side and it’s truly a beautiful sight right in our city!

Washington Square Park

Spring is the perfect time to visit this busy but memorable park. They have beautiful

Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry blossom trees that are perfect to sit under and admire the view and atmosphere that comes with the comfort of the park.

Take a nice stroll under the blooming petals, or take some time for yourself on a park bench, either way, the family is sure to have a great time at this iconic park.

Sakura Park

Located in Manhattan, this park is named for the 2,000 cherry trees that were delivered to parks in NYC from Japan back in 1912.

Sakura actually means “cherry blossom” in Japanese which is fitting for the many cherry trees on display at this location. The park is on a smaller scale but during the spring season, the Yoshino trees make this place a must-see!

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Don’t forget the comfy shoes as there are a ton of activities offered at this park. Of course the Cherry Blossom trees are a must-see!

The park draws in visitors with the long

and winding trails that are shadowed by these beautiful trees. Celebrate the season by visiting the park in peak bloom, and enjoy the beauty surrounding you!

Union Square Park

Union Square is yet another park that has a beautiful display of cherry blossom trees. They have several Kwanzan cherry trees and plenty of park benches for you to sit under the colorful petals and enjoy their bloom!

While it does tend to get busy on the weekends, the breathtaking colors and space are totally worth it

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

With the spring season comes the bloom of multiple different flowers and trees! The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the most important spots to visit the Cherry Blossom trees.

BBG has an array of different Cherry Blossoms such as the ‘Akebono’, ‘Rosy Cloud’, ‘Snow Goose’ and much more, that are currently blooming!

14 | April 2024

Keep an eye on the Cherrywatch on their website to see when the blooms start and when they hit peak bloom!

Queens Botanical Garden

It’s amazing to see how much the Queens Botanical Garden has evolved since 1939 when it was just a five-acre garden. Now, they have varied displays of all kinds of flowers and beautiful cherry blossoms.

Located in Flushing, take your family or bring a friend and walk through the gardens that are worth so much admiration!

Take a look at their website to see a map of where all their different flowers and gardens are located, especially the Cherry circle where their cherry blossoms can be found!

Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden

This is not just a park, but a place with history, architecture, agriculture, arts, gardens and so much more!

Visit the New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden that was uniquely made to mirror an authentic classical outdoor Chinese garden.

They have beautiful structures, trails and art to admire as well as cherry blossoms that add to the beauty of the area.

Randall's Island Park

A great place to see Cherry Blossoms, Randall's Island holds an annual festival where people get to participate in activities like paper flower making, kit flying, crafts, origami and much more!

This is the perfect place to admire the beauty of the cherry blossom trees while spending a memorable day with friends and family! The date for the 2024 Festival hasn’t been determined yet, but be sure to check it out when it rolls around.

New York Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden is a great location to admire cherry trees as they have more than 200 of them planted across their landscape.

Walk along the path in the Cherry Collection to enjoy these cherry trees in peak bloom. You can go online to track their cherry trees and see which ones are in peak

bloom and which are approaching this state. Check out their website to see their Bloom Trackers where you can track the progress of the cherry blossom season that’s updated every day!

Central Park

Each year, hundreds of people come to Central Park to see the Cherry Blossoms in peak bloom. As the season is short-lived, it’s important to catch them before the delicate petals fall to the ground.

Central Park houses the Kwanzan Cherry, also known as the Japanese Cherry, commonly seen in Japan, Korea and China, and the hybrid Yoshino Cherry Trees which can grow 35 to 45 feet. Both are worth the trip to the park!

Green-Wood Cemetery

This span of 478 acres houses the highest concentration of cherry blossoms which make this a beautiful place to admire and appreciate the trees’ beauty. Stroll down the paths to see Green-Wood’s colorful and varied collection of cherry blossoms!

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Steps to take if you think your child is on the spectrum

Many parents have that ‘a-ha’ moment when they realize their child may have a more profound challenge than previously expectant. Unlike your friend’s kid at the same age, your child has trouble maintaining friendships, struggles to communicate, or demonstrates repetitive body movements. Perhaps they have difficulty relating to the world around them and seems inflexible with their thoughts and behaviors. If you notice these characteristics, don’t ignore them. While your child could be delayed, it may be wise to seek a professional opinion and check if your child may be on the autism spectrum.

Learn the Milestones

Many children with autism show developmental delays early on and don’t meet typical milestones. For instance, by 6-9 months, most babies can sit up without support, babble sounds, and respond to their name. By 9-12 months, babies typically grab objects and toys, crawl, and stand independently. Most children can walk independently between ages 1-3, climb stairs, jump, stack objects, speak in short sentences, and follow basic directions. Between ages 3-5, children can typically toss a ball overhand, get dressed independently, and draw a full person with all features. Children ages 6-12 generally have developed strong friendships with peers and are usually independent in completing their school work. If you notice delays or regression in any of these milestones and your instincts tell you something is off, your child may be at risk for autism.

Identifying Autism

If you think your child has autism, take action. The sooner you identify and address autism, the better it will be for your family. Speak to your child’s doctor; he or she may inquire as to whether all developmental milestones have been met and may recommend an autism screening. This screening typically consists of a series of yes or no questions regarding symptoms. If your doctor suspects

that your child may have autism, your child may need to have a full diagnostic evaluation by an ASD specialist. Typically, the evaluator will observe your child, ask you as the parent a series of questions, fill out questionnaires, and administer a series of tests to your child. These factors will allow the evaluator to identify whether or not your child may have autism so you can take appropriate action for a concrete diagnosis.

Your Child Receives an ASD Diagnosis — Next Step

First off, don’t panic. There are many resources and a great deal of support available for children with autism, and your child is certainly not alone! However, the earlier you intervene and seek your child’s services, the more gains you will see. Once you receive the diagnosis, which typically includes a full report, read it thoroughly and review the evaluator or doctor’s recommendations. Reach out to your child’s school to let them know about the diagnosis and inquire about creating an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to map out the services your child will receive based on their needs. These services may include special education classroom placement, speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, physical therapy, social

skills groups, etc. Also, learn what you can do at home to help your child, such as creating a set structure and routine and rewarding good behavior. The more you can work as a team with your child’s doctors, educators, and therapists, this will help provide consistent support to your child.

Many children with autism are kind, loving, high-achieving individuals who have countless gifts. With the right support, your child can succeed academically and thrive in life.

Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program that specializes in one-onone home and on-site instruction for students in grades preK-12 in NYC, NJ, and Westchester. She is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a study skills workbooks series emphasizing test taking, note taking, reading comprehension, writing, and executive functioning strategies, and the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series. These books are currently used at schools nationwide. Dr. Levy studied at Brown University and later received her Masters Degree in Special Education and her Doctorate Degree in Education. She has spoken nationwide on research-based methods for teaching students with and without learning disabilities. Dr. Levy is currently the Director of EBL Coaching’s learning centers.

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April 2024 | Bronx/Riverdale Family 19 The Gillen Brewer School The Gillen Brewer School expands possibilities for PreK - 8th Grade students with a broad range of language-based learning disabilities. Contact Admissions Today! Email: Phone: 212-831-3667 (x207) Website: Instagram: @gillenbrewer Since 1992 Are you looking for an authentic school experience that allows your child to enjoy their formative years in a safe, supportive environment? Gillen Brewer is now accepting applications for the 2024-2025 school year including for Middle School, opening this fall! theTogether,WeSee Possibilities. Register for our next virtual info session Tuesday April 19th at 9:00 a.m. or an in-person tour to learn more! STEPPINGSTONE DAY SCHOOL, INC. A Preschool Program for Children With and Without Disabilities Not for Profit — Established in 1983 Queens/Bronx Preschool Programs - CPSE Evaluations Speech/Language, Occupational, Physical Therapy & Counseling Services Family Support Services To find out more about SteppingStone Day School SteppingStone Day School’s Preschool Program is Funded and Regulated By The New York State Department of Education, The New York City Department of Education and Licensed by The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Daycare

ADHD in Children

Symptoms, causes and treatments (other than medication!)

Ithink my 12-year-old daughter has ADHD, but she’s not (yet) been diagnosed. Why? Because when I finally decided to have her evaluated, after years of being on the fence about it, I was advised against “opening that can of worms" as long as none of her teachers had ever recommended it.

Can of worms? Really?

While none of her teachers ever expressly recommended an evaluation, I always heard things like “takes forever to complete classwork” and “has trouble focusing” and “gets distracted easily.”

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is described as a chronic neurological condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and sometimes impulsivity. It is one of the most common mental conditions in children. Around 6 million children ages 3 to 17 have been diagnosed in the U.S. alone, according to the CDC.

Despite the staggering statistics, I think a lot of people - even professionals, apparently - have this stereotypical view of ADHD that it's just an excuse for lazy or bad behavior, one many parents use to medicate their children into being good without even considering whether other treatments are available. That stigma leads a lot of parents (myself included) to assume medication is the only way to treat it, and that the medication will turn their kids to zombies anyway.

But if your child is showing signs of having a developmental disability like ADHD, don't be like me and wait until they are halfway through middle school before you finally decide to take action just because a teacher never told you to. No one knows your child like you do, so if you are concerned, have them evaluated and know there are options beyond medication (and also know that medication might actualy end up being the right choice for your family).

I spoke to Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a board certified cognitive specialist, Brain Wellness Expert, and author of Back on Track: A Practical Guide to Help Kids of All Ages Thrive , which delves into developmental red flags, to learn more about ADHD, why diagnosis seem to be

on the rise and what parents can do if they are concerned.

ADHD Signs & Symptoms in Children

Hyperactivity. According to Dr. Jackson, the “H” in ADHD, as in hyperactive, tends to be more noticeable in younger children. "The older your child is, the less likely you are to note the hyperactivity,” she says. “The hyperactivity component tends to be the piece that draws attention the most. It’s disruptive in the classroom, at the dinner table, on playdates. So oftentimes, the first sign or symptom that parents see is the hyperactivity impulsivity, because of all the disruptions happening.”

Inattentiveness . “What is much more easily missed is the inattentive type of ADHD,” she continues. “And that one becomes more evident the older a child gets, because with that you don’t have the loud disruptive behaviors, but you see heightened challenges with executive functions. This is going to be the child that does the homework and forgets to turn it in. And as a parent, you’re like, ‘Are you kidding me? You already did the hard work!’ You find yourself saying, ‘why didn’t you just…’ all the time. Why didn’t you just remember to bring your lunch with you in the morning? Why didn’t you just turn in your homework?”

Limited Attention Span . We all have a natural window of attention, according to Dr. Jackson, and our attention develops with age and maturity. “A two year old is only going to do a thing for two to four minutes at a time. But by the time they get to kindergarten, a child should be able to sit in the circle and participate for a longer period of time. So as a parent, if you’re not seeing your child’s natural window of attention improving over time, and if everybody else in the class is able to attend to the task long enough to complete it, but your child’s needing redirection or needing to bring it home, that is a red flag.”

Task Switching . Executive functions are our ability to achieve a goal, like turning in homework to get good grades. Individuals with ADHD have a harder time with task switching and with executive functions. “Let’s

say I’m working on a project and my phone dings to tell me I have a text message. I’m going to shift my attention to my text message,” says Dr. Jackson. “Task switching should remind me to go back and finish the project that I started. But with ADHD, it’s harder task switching when the brain is not remembering to go back and finish what it started. Lots of started things don’t get completed.”

Emotional regulation . People with ADHD tend to have difficulty managing frustrations. We all have a point where we get frustrated and upset, or we cry when we’re really angry or we lose our temper. “With ADHD there’s an immaturity in some of those networks and pathways in the brain, and so the upsets can happen more frequently,” Dr. Jackson says. “They can last longer and they can be bigger. And so if you’ve got a daughter that’s really dramatic and always getting super upset with friends, that can be a red flag. Or a boy playing on the playground who gets super upset because people aren’t following directions, that can be a red flag. And again, we all have a threshold of when we lose our temper. But if it’s happening more consistently than peers that are appropriate in their development, that’s a concern.”

Causes of ADHD

So what causes ADHD? That’s the million dollar question, Dr. Jackson says. “There are a lot of different factors that can contribute to ADHD. Both genetics and environmental factors can play a part. If a child experiences trauma, abuse

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or neglect, it can interfere with development.

"But there’s also the times where I meet a parent with two kids, same household, same environment, same genetics, and one child is thriving while the other faces challenges with ADHD.”

Technology & ADHD

I asked Dr. Jackson if the overuse of technology is a factor in developing ADHD. “I’m not going to say that scrolling social media and gaming causes ADHD, but what I am going to say is that the individual with ADHD is going to be even more susceptible,” she says. “When we’re spending large chunks of time, scrolling the Internet, whether we’re watching YouTube videos or Tik Tok, videos or gaming, the type of attention we’re using is heightened attention. And when you’re in that hyper focused mode, you lose awareness of time and of what’s happening around you. It’s why when you go to bed at night and say ‘I’m just going to check my phone for a minute,’ before you know it an hour passes and you’re still scrolling.

“Hyper focus is incredibly fatiguing on the brain. It makes the brain exhausted. Let’s say you’ve got an eight year old who just spent two hours on Tik Tok or watching YouTube videos or gaming. When you ask them to stop, you’re going to get tears, pushback, negative behavior. It’s not just that they don’t want to stop. It’s that we just allowed them to completely fatigue their brain and their resources. And now we’re asking them to be able to regulate their mood and emotions.

“When you watch something that you

like, funny dog videos for example, there’s a dopamine release in the brain.that gives you a burst of energy.

“So when a parent asks why they can game for an hour but they can’t do 20 minutes of math, it’s because gaming is short bursts of attention strung together with a dopamine reward in the brain. When you’re doing math, there’s no dopamine reward in the brain. So our kids are exercising their reward-driven pathways, not sustained attention. The individual with ADHD is starting with a brain that’s already fatigued, so they’re going to fatigue even faster. And that dopamine is hitting them hard and so they’re going to gravitate towards those activities even more. As parents, we don’t want to ban things but be mindful of the balance. So say, ‘sure, you can spend 20 minutes online, but you’re going to get your homework done first. We shouldn’t have you gaming and fatiguing the brain before you do homework. And then we don’t want it in the hour before bed because it can disrupt the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep.”

ADHD Treatment

Speaking of quality of sleep, that’s one of the components to managing ADHD on a daily basis to support the level of function that you currently have. Dr. Jackson recommends making sure kids are getting adequate sleep and eating nutritious foods. “We know that sugar drives inflammation and so does highly processed food. Inflammation is like asking your brain to function with fog. What you eat matters,” she says


To medicate or not medicate, that is the question. There can be many side effects related to ADHD medication, and so naturally parents might be hesitant to try it on their child. Conversely, some parents might think medication is the easy cure-all their child needs to get back on track.

Anytime there’s medication, there’s a trade off, Dr. Jackson explains. “There are pros and cons, risks and benefits that it’s important for parents to understand. We talk to so many families that are getting pressure from teachers or from other adults in their life to medicate their child. But that is a decision solely between the parent and the physician, that should not be based on outside pressure from others.

“I don’t ever want a parent to feel guilty about a decision they make. But there’s this misnomer that we’re going to start medication and all of our problems are going to be solved. It’s difficult figuring out what’s the right medication

for your child, the right dosage and combination. And what works now might not work six months from now. So it’s not always the quick, easy fix that parents think it’s going to be.

“What we know from the research is that there’s an impact on growth and development. A child that has been medicated over time might not grow to their full height. We know within the first several months of taking medication, there’s not always long term change in the grades and learning outcomes. So the studies were mixed in terms of how it helps with academics and learning. A lot of kids experience decreased appetite, so we have kids that already have immaturity and brain development, and our foods that we eat fuels the growth and development of our brains. We’ve got an immature brain and a suppressed appetite, and that worries me for the future development of that brain."

Brain Balance

While medication can help, there are other treatment options that parents might not be aware of. Dr. Jackson is Chief Program Officer for a company called Brain Balance, which is a program that builds and strengthens networks and pathways in the brain through specific stimulation, exercises, and activities. “I always say we exercise the brain the way you use it in real life," she says. "At Brain Balance, we’re engaging multiple different senses while a child is doing coordinated, fast, accurate eye movements with auditory processing, visual processing, body coordination, rhythm and timing, exercising and engaging as many networks and pathways as we can simultaneously. And then we engage those pathways over and over to make them stronger, faster, more efficient.”

A child does not need an official ADHD diagnosis for this kind of non-medicated treatment, either. Nearly 10% of kids in the US right now qualify for that diagnosis, but nearly 17% of kids qualify for what is called a subthreshold diagnosis, meaning they’re falling just shy of the criteria. I think this is really important because the kids can still be struggling to keep up, to pay attention and to regulate mood and emotions. With subthreshold ADHD, there’s immaturity of the brain, but maybe not quite to the extent of full ADHD, so they don’t qualify for a label or a diagnosisand would not be prescribed medication - but that doesn’t mean that they still don’t need help and support.”

To learn more about Brain Balance, go to Dr. Jackson’s book, Back on Track, is available on Amazon.

April 2024 | Bronx/Riverdale Family 21

Early Intervention for Dyslexia

Helpful tips from an expert

Statistics from the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity show that dyslexia affects 20 percent of the population and accounts for 80 to 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities, making it the most common neuro-cognitive disorder.

While dyslexia is a chronic condition that’s rarely cured, early identification and intervention can help build essential skills for reading, writing and comprehension.

Early signs of dyslexia and intervention practices may vary from person to person. We sat down with Dr. Rebecca Mannis, learning specialist and founder of Ivy Prep, about signs of dyslexia that parents can look out for and what intervention may look like.

What are some early signs of dyslexia that parents can watch out for?


• Delayed language development

• Difficulty following multistep directions

• Frustration in communicating – difficulty retrieving words or labels

• Difficulty sitting and retaining the story at circle time

• Meltdowns over communication and transitions

Preschool/primary school

• Difficulty with rhyming (ex: Dr. Seuss books) or appreciate language nuance (ex: getting the joke in Amelia Bedelia books)

• Lack of recall for reading common “sight words” they often see, such as “love” or “taxi”

• Lack of interest in reading or writing

• Contrast between strong interest in hearing stories (being read to) and interest in learning how letters fit together to make words

• Difficulty with segmenting words into sounds (c-a-t) or syllabication (clapping out the syllables in their names “Ga-bri-el”)

• Hesitation about attending school or academic performance

• Difficulty “encoding” or writing short words that can be sounded out or remembering the spelling of “Dolch List,” high

E M D A F X S O ? ? ? Y L I ?

frequency (common) words like “love” or “mother”

• Reversing letters

• Skipping words when read aloud

• Slowness at blending sounds of words or recalling what sight words “say” (lack of fluency/automaticity)

• Dysgraphia, or difficulty in the motor planning of how to hand write letters

What does early intervention for dyslexia look like?

This depends on the individual child’s learning profile and what is being done on-site (or not provided) at the school. Some

children require specialized schools for dyslexic students, where systematic, multisensory approaches are used on a daily basis and across the classes a child has each day.

Other students can thrive with customized support outside school with learning specialists who are trained to interpret test findings and develop an intervention plan that speaks to the specific child and the specific school’s curriculum.

This is where it is particularly important for parents to do their homework. Not all learning specialists have the same training or vantage point about support, and it is big business.

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There are different philosophies and approaches, and sometimes what is presented as “evidence based” is actually a cookie cutter approach – or the wrong pacing and sequence for your child’s particular needs.

For example, if a student needs high repetition of information or to preview information in order to keep up with the class work, then it is important for a learning specialist to design sessions that balance the specific instruction for underdeveloped skills that are not course-related (for example, how to divide long words into syllables) while also using the child’s homework spelling list or the sight words in their science chapter to manage schoolwork and get that real-time reinforcement of reading strategies that speak to the daily experience in the classroom.

Similarly, it is critical for parents to identify professionals who can balance traditional print tools, such as workbooks and games that reinforce the skills, with adaptive technology. This is where parents can feel particularly frustrated, as neuropsychologists are not educators, and educators are not neuropsychologists.

Approximately 80 percent of my clientele and I start with a consultation where I provide a chart review to demystify the test findings to help parents “connect the dots” between their observations, test findings, and working with schools or other stakeholders.

There is a huge element of “caveat emptor,” since so much of this is not licensed and these high stakes serials can overwhelm kids and parents alike.

Even when specialists have licenses, there is wide variability in skill set, how intervention sessions are constructed, and even attitudes about which support is needed.

For example, at times language specialists or occupational therapists will feel there is more work to be done in grade 4 or 5 in shoring up underdeveloped language or fine motor skills, while other specialists may feel that the priority needs to shift toward teaching students how to communicate better in writing or use adaptive tech, dong so with an eye toward ongoing challenges in processing speed, word finding or handwriting.

How can parents and schools support a child with dyslexia?

Support for dyslexic students is equal parts, art, science, and alchemy.

It’s critical for there to be a systematic approach. Sometimes that means using very similar materials in both outside support and

“There are different philosophies and approaches, and sometimes what is presented as ‘evidence based’ is actually a cookie cutter approach – or the wrong pacing and sequence for your child’s needs.”

during the academic day or in reading intervention at school.At other times, it makes more sense to “divide and conquer.”

For example, at school, a teacher may be focusing on how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence, three supporting details, and a conclusion using a “quick outline” that is very structured, streamlined, and predictable.

In remediation, it can be very helpful for the outside specialist to use the same “quick outline” that the teacher uses in history class. And it may be important to work on writing while using the History assignment if the child is fatigued or has other after-school activities that day.

However, the outside learning specialist may also be incorporating instruction in how to use a predictive word processor, or in helping the child with expanding his vocabulary, so that he doesn’t rely on a narrow lexicon of words to communicate his point in the essay.

Similarly, it may be that at school, the teacher is working on a particular spelling curriculum, where the focus is on spelling words with particular prefix patterns.

In outside support, those words can be practiced, but it’s important to use particular methods that are aligned with the child specific type of dyslexia to ensure that appropriate visual cues or phonetic (sound-letter) patterns are reinforced.

The truth is that this takes a great deal of expertise and time in order to identify ways that support can be integrated while also being realistic about what each individual can contribute to this process.

In the absence of this, it can be very time-consuming and confusing, and also frustrating, not only for the children, but for their parents.

In my practice, I am in frequent contact

with other stakeholders, and typically serve as a case manager, who integrates that information, not only to demystify the process, but also to help parents identify signposts that they can be looking for both to monitor their children’s growth, and to determine the best investment of their resources and the child’s time, if they’re not satisfied with the child’s development.

Another element of providing services to the child and family is helping parents truly understand the different philosophies and methodologies that are available to help children with disabilities.

For example, many specialists will encourage a multisensory, phonics based approach that reinforces sound patterns for children since about 60 to 80% of children with dyslexia have difficulty with phonology, or linking letters to sounds.

However, the research on these highly structured methods and their efficacy with children with more spatial difficulties, sometimes called “NVLD,” or nonverbal.

Learning disorders are mixed. In that situation, a child may need a well developed, but more eclectic approach that helps them for example, to memorize and write sight words, words like “though” or “again,” words that cannot be sounded out phonetically.

Similarly, there are some schools that believe strongly that in the lower school grades, adaptive technology should not be used with children, while other outside specialists or schools integrate technology as a literacy tool for children with developmental dyslexia from the get-go.

Because there is such a wide wide range of approaches, and often neuropsychologists don’t know the nuts and bolts of how these programs are implemented for specific curricula, it is important for parents to understand that, just like learning to read is developmental.

In the same way, learning how to line up your ducks in a row to best serve your child at a given time is an extended learning process – and process of collaboration and empowerment – for parents, as well. No one cares about a child more than a parent, so it is critical to take care of yourself so that you can manage the long haul, along with your spouse and child.

What do accommodations typically look like for dyslexia, at home and in the classroom? What would workarounds look like in everyday life?

Accommodations can look different for children, depending on their learning profile, their school, their grade level, and the situa-

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tion in which accommodations are necessary.

For a child with language-based dyslexia in the early grades, accommodations might take the form of an alternate method of assessing a child’s spelling, or having an extra set of workbooks to keep at home for use with the outside specialist. The child may be permitted to write fewer spelling sentences on his exam.

That child might need access to a computer in grade 3 to write his weekly journal so that he can focus on expressing his ideas without being encumbered by dysgraphia, or handwriting difficulty.

At grade 5 or 6, that might take the form of being able to have extended time on a test or to take a standardized test in a room over multiple days. Similarly, the child might require some adaptive technology or access to a textbook website, where the child can find PowerPoint slides to preview key terms or information that they will be studying in science class.

Upper school or college, that might take the form of having an advisor, who is attuned to their learning issues, and who can guide them in managing multiple classrooms and teachers. Similarly, children may require the accommodation of being able to substitute the format of a “computer-delivered” standardized admissions or achievement test, instead taking the test in a traditional booklet format.

That means that the child can write into a test booklet with a proctor. Copying his answers onto a Scantron or “bubble sheet,” rather than needing to visually track the paragraph on a computer monitor.

This is a critical accommodation because many standardized tests are moving toward “computer- adaptive,” or mini computer tests, which are actually constraining for students who have a more gradual learning curve, visual deficits, or a slower processing speed.

Similarly, a dyslexic child who has slow processing speed or working memory difficulty may need extra time to complete certain assignments, or may need assistance with laying out a plan for how to manage school and extracurricular activities in light of their slower processing speed or executive function difficulties.

Students in high school or college may also need approval to tape record lectures, or have access to teacher notes or classmates notes if they’re not able to process as much detail as necessary in real time during the lecture.

This is why it’s critical to identify specialists who can mystify neuropsychic, test findings and help parents and students to work with the school around accommodations,

“Children can develop ‘metacognitive awareness,’ or an understanding of themselves as learners, and why certain approaches can be particularly helpful for them.”

curriculum, and intervention.

Support from parents is important for children with dyslexia. How can parents show their emotional support for their dyslexic children?

Any time that a person‘s own development takes a course that is not “typical,” this places a stressor on the individual and the other people in their life.

Whether it’s learning how to tie your shoes, how to memorize the spelling words, or adapting to college textbooks and lectures as a gifted, “twice exceptional” dyslexic, ultimately developmental, learning problems are a lifelong process of learning, adaptation, and advocacy.

The upshot is that over time, children can develop “metacognitive awareness,” or an understanding of themselves as learners, and why certain approaches can be particularly helpful for them. Over time and significant support and practice, this helps kids learn how to be their own “change agents.” However, this is a gradual process, and developmental learning problems, especially for bright kids, in demanding learning environments, is a gradual experience.

It is important for parents to recognize this, so they can think tactically about how they can support their children while also taking care of themselves.

Whether it’s having sufficient time to work out or finding a sounding board to talk about frustrations while also being there to help your child with extra homework, parents need to plan for the immediate and for the long run.

That may be a matter of doing some careful looking at how you will fund outside support for your child for the long run, or how to give attention to siblings and their needs. This can be a difficult, disheartening, and stressful experience for even the most determined, loving, supportive and capable

of parents.

Aside from taking care of themselves and building a village of outside resources, whom they respect, parents can model for their children along the way.

For example, just as children may require more time in order to research and write a term paper if they are dyslexic, parents can model for their children how they are breaking down the process of updating their resumes or planning of family trips by working in manageable chunks.

In addition, it is important for parents to remember that their job is to be parents and not educators or interventionists. Otherwise, the task and frustration of helping kids manage learning issues for the long run can really interfere with a parent and child relationship and can be disheartening for everybody involved.

Most importantly, parents can help their children, identify factors that contributed to their own success, or what it is that children feel need to be done differently in order for them to have a better experience in a similar situation in the future.

For example, if a child is able to juggle the start of baseball season in his Little League team and preparing for the spelling bee, parents can encourage their children, self reflection, or metacognitive awareness, by asking them some open, ended questions. “What do you think made the difference when you were going to have a busy day of both Little League tryouts and reviewing all three vocabulary lists?”

This opens the door for the child to then reflect and share so that you can plan. For example, he may say, “It was very helpful that my learning specialist and I wrote the words on flashcards last week. This meant that all I needed to do was practice spelling.” Or your child may feel that it was helpful when you and he use Scrabble letters for him to practice the spelling of the words or when you had located a website that let him practice unscrambling words in an app.

It may be that your child felt better having had a quiet day before so that the reduced transitions left him feeling more rested and able to juggle Little League and the preparation for the spelling bee.

The more you help your child self reflect, the more you can help him, celebrate his success, identify what he feels and be his own change agent. It can make the difference, and he will see you as the support and sounding board who is cheering him on through this developmental journey.

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Sp E ci A l nEE d S c omm U ni T y

All parents need resources, information, and guidance. These tools help aid our children with their needs and growth. Special needs parents lean on helpful information and especially count on a community to assist them in their special needs journey. It is those insider tips, those teachers, experts, and schools we need to know about and make a difference in our child’s life.

Here are people who are part of our (and your family’s!) Special Child Community.

rebecca Skinner

Head of School, The Gillen Brewer School

Rebecca joined the Gillen Brewer community as Head of School in July 2021, bringing with her over 18 years of experience building and leading mission-driven independent schools in New York City and Dubai at International School of Brooklyn, Blue School and Dwight School Dubai. Rebecca is happiest when visiting a classroom, engaging in professional development work, or sharing anecdotes about GBS with the community. She holds an M.Ed. in International Education from Endicott College.

The g illen Brewer School

410 East 92nd St. New York, NY 10128 212-831-3667

The Gillen Brewer School offers students pre-K to 8th grade an academictherapeutic approach to special education. Their mission is to educate and support students to become confident, independent, and engaged learners. Their program features a hands-on, language-based curriculum that integrates speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and social groups into each child’s schedule. Children from across NYC are immersed in learning that is developmentally appropriate and socially engaging.

i ntellectus preparatory charter School

175-177 Gramatan Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY 10550 914.221.6929

Mrs. Miller transformed her experience of long school commutes into founding Intellectus Prep in Mount Vernon, offering a high-quality, STEAMbased education. Her school champions college and career readiness, focusing on hands-on learning and success beyond traditional paths. With a robust background in educational leadership and multiple advanced degrees, Mrs. Miller has made Intellectus Prep a model of community transformation and educational excellence, proving that a student’s potential is not defined by their zip code.

Jane Keane, Assistant Executive Director of SSDS, has been in the field of Preschool Special Education since 1986. Jane has a BS from Saint Joseph’s College and a MS from Bank Street College. Jane began her leadership career at SSDS in 1998 after being a Preschool Special Educator for 12 years. Jane is the parent of four, two who were identified with Special Needs during their preschool years. She believes in the power that parents hold to ensure that schools provide all children with the opportunity to shine in their own way.

IPCS offers priority application priority for scholars with disabilities, currently serving grades 6-9 with plans to expand to grade 12 in the coming years. Achieving firstyear mathematics proficiency results over 30% above state levels, IPCS is dedicated to providing an inclusive, equitable educational experience. Through integrated co-teaching, experiential learning, and a focus on personal development, it addresses educational quality, conflict resolution, and economic challenges.

SteppingStone Day School 2826 Westchester Ave, Bronx, NY 10461 718 554 2025 37 years ago SSDS opened its doors to provide services to children. The schools have remained true to the original vision which embraced the sentiment that “All children can”. SSDS continues to be at the forefront of best practices in early childhood services.

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175-177 Gramatan ave. mount v ernon, n Y 10550 914.221.6929 x100 @intellectusprep S p E ci A l nEE d S d i RE c T o R y Special Advertising Supplement

ASSEMBLY MEMBER Ro�ne�s� Bich��e Hermely�

on politics, maternal health for Black mothers, raising her toddler, and being thankful for a strong support system

On a cozy cover shoot day at The Soft Space by Mama Glow in Brooklyn, the New York Family team and our cover mom relished in the light that danced into this gorgeous space while enjoying music, chatter, and staying out of the way of an active 17-month-old toddler running about while nibbling on his lunch.

Our focus this day was on his mother, Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn. Rodneyse serves as the Assemblywoman for New York State’s 42nd Assembly District. She is also the Brooklyn Democratic Chair, making her the first woman and first Black woman to hold this position. She is also the first Haitian American woman elected in NYC.

Yes, she is as impressive as she sounds. While Rodneyse diligently serves her community as their representative, she also focuses on a cause dear to her heart—advocating for Maternal Health and combatting the maternal health crisis that is adversely affecting minorities.

About eight years ago, Rodneyse experienced a pre-term pregnancy loss. Although the loss came down to many factors, the key one was that maternal healthcare, healthcare transparency, and access to providers who put both mothers and their babies first was severely lacking.

Rodneyse was high-risk and had several complications, some of which were not detected or not properly communicated, leading to her being rushed to a Manhattan hospital where she was told the only solution was to terminate her baby. “I wanted the doctors to do everything they needed to save me and my baby,” she said.

Eventually, Rodneyse delivered her child, Jonah, at another hospital, where he lived for less than two hours. “It was probably the saddest day of my life,” she explained. “That’s

when I decided to focus on maternal healthcare bills.”

And she did. Rodneyse drove the “Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law” in her son’s name, which establishes requirements for treatment when an expecting mother comes to a hospital with concerns about pre-term labor.

Now, after a healthy and safe pregnancy, Rodneyse and her husband, Edu, are parents to beautiful 18-month-old Daniel.

Rodneyse continues to advocate for maternal healthcare and more. And she does all of this while studying for a law degree!

Read on to learn about Rodneyse’s creative career journey, raising her son, childcare when legislating, a supportive husband, and more.

NYF: Before entering public service, you were a public school teacher, an engineer, and an investment banker. What made you decide to enter politics?

RBH: Joining then US Senate candidate Barack Obama’s campaign in Illinois in 2004 was my first taste of local politics. As an Obama Operative, I rallied Democrats while finishing up my MBA at Northwestern and working full-time at Lucent Technologies as an engineer. Shortly after having moved back to New York City in 2005 and having worked as an investment Banker on Wall Street at the height of the Financial Crisis, I took a turn in a different direction after being reintroduced to local politics and reigniting my desire to uplift communities.

This time, it was in my hometown of Brooklyn, helping a state senator Kevin Parker in 2008. After being laid off, I had an epiphany and decided it was my calling to serve as a voice for my community. It was the teacher in me that understood the need for building our public school system; it was the engineer in me that wanted to push STEM programs for city school students while encouraging minority and women-owned business opportunities, it was

my ability to work with numbers that helped my data analytics in assessing my run for office.

NYF: You recently took the bar exam; what is the commitment to using your legal education in your work?

RBH: My constant learning throughout my career allowed me to be a better legislator and understand and address pressing, complex issues.

Law School was a massive undertaking, but I am committed to serving vulnerable and protected classes of people in the courtroom, especially as it relates to Civil Rights, constitutional law and immigration law. I am interested in using my engineering background in construction law as well. I also want to be a better legislator in the way I write bills and debate them on the floor. And as Assembly Majority Whip, I have a responsibility to ensure bills get passed through.

After losing my son and having been mistreated by the hospital, I decided that a legal education would allow me to advocate for many in the courtroom.

NYF: Can you explain the “Jonah Bichotte Cowan Law” and the protections it provides?

RBH: It provides protection and rights for all expectant mothers in New York to have their medical concerns taken seriously and the hospital of their choice to admit, diagnose, and treat expectant mothers in emergency situations.

More specifically, it establishes requirements for treatment when an expectant mother presents at a general hospital with concerns about being in preterm labor. This law ensures that, first, mothers are informed that they are going into early labor and of the associated risks, and secondly: these hospitals must care for high-risk pregnancies.

The law is named in memory of my late

26 | April 2024

faces the same unfortunate narrative of a high-risk pregnancy and mistreatment at the hands of medical professionals, and now it’s prevented through law in New York.

NYF: You are no doubt super busy. How are you ‘juggling’ a toddler and career? What does your support system look like?

To say I’m busy is an understatement! I’m fortunate to have a great support system--my super-supportive husband (who also works) and a nanny help balance childcare when I’m in my District in Brooklyn. Up in Albany, the Assembly is full of new moms in office, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been immensely helpful in providing childcare resources when we’re legislating.

I know that it’s incredibly tough out there for many moms who lack these resources, and are trying to hold down a job while struggling to afford help. I am always advocating to make childcare more accessible, including co-sponsoring the “universal child care act” which would make free childcare accessible for all New Yorkers

NYF: Lastly, let’s talk about your adorable 18-month-old Daniel. How’s the experience of being a mom?

son Jonah Bichotte Cowan, who passed after I was turned away from a hospital I rushed to in early labor. After discovering I was dilating at 3cm, I was notified of the worst news an expectant mother can receive - both me and my unborn baby were in an incredibly fatal and high-risk situation. Knowing the risks associated, the Doctors at one Hospital discharged and forcefully released me, citing “hospital policy.”

I was then rushed to another hospital in Brooklyn. They took me in, and their doctors were culturally competent. They understood my situation and tried their best to help. Although they were not able to save Jonah, the stark difference between their care and how I was denied treatment at a well-regarded corporate hospital highlighted the need for legislative action.

One in 10 families across the country

RBH: The experience of being a mom is unmatched. I am filled with joy and gratitude every day when I wake up to see my little boy growing healthy and very happy. I am also blessed to have avoided complications during birth and post-postpartum depression. I thank God for my health, my cherished son’s health and my husband’s.

Helpful to New York Mothers

Both Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul have recently taken significant steps to reduce maternal and infant health inequities in New York City and the State by providing critical resources to new families.

Mayor Adams announced a citywide expansion of the doula program, the expansion of a Midwifery Initiative, and the expansion of a maternal health care services program.

Gov. Hochul introduced a six-point policy plan (I proudly spoke at her announcement at Wyckoff Hospital, where my son Daniel was born and where I lost Jonah) and legislation to expand access to high-quality prenatal care, reduce costs for mothers and families, fight postpartum depression and support infants in the first months of their lives.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity, please visit to read the story in its entirety.

April 2024 | Bronx/Riverdale Family 27
Photo by Yumi Matsuo



nyc parks presents: Skate party

when : Wednesday, April 3, 3 – 6 pm

where : Gymnasium in Kwame Ture Recreation Center, 1527 Jesup Ave., Highbridge

AgeS: All

whAT: Enjoy an afternoon of music, dancing, and skating while listening to some of your favorite music.

wAnT To go?: Free.

Bronx night market

when : Saturday, April 6, 4 – 10 pm.

where : Bronx Night Market, 1 Fordham Plaza, Belmont

AgeS: All

whAT: This iconic market features a remarkable lineup of 50 local vendors offering a diverse array of cuisines that will have you coming back for more.

wAnT To go?: Free admission.

Solar eclipse viewing on the front lawn

when : Monday, April 8, 2 – 4 pm

where : Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, 895 Shore Road, Pelham Bay Park

AgeS: All

whAT: View the deep partial solar eclipse, learn about this phenomenon, and take part in eclipse activities for children.

wAnT To go?: Free. (718) 885–1461,

family Art project: Tie Dye your imagination

when : April 13-14, Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 1 pm.

where : Wave Hill, 4900 Independence Ave., Riverdale

AgeS: All

whAT: Become inspired by the blooming spring flowers and transform a plain T-shirt into a colorful garment.

wAnT To go?: Included with admission: $4-$10. (718) 549–3200,

earth Day celebration

when : Saturday, April 20, 10 am – 6 pm

where : New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Belmont

AgeS: All

whAT: Learn about the work that NYBG does to save the plants of the world and support our environment.

wAnT To go?: $4-$35. (718) 817–8700,

The Bronx river open house

Jackie robinson Day when : April 13-15, Saturdaytry out tie dye at wave hill’s family art project on April 13 and 14.

when : Saturday, April 20, 12 – 4 pm

where : Bronx River House, 1490 Sheridan Blvd., Longwood

AgeS: All

whAT: Celebrate Earth Day with canoeing, walking tours, kid friendly educational activities and workshops, music and more!

wAnT To go?: Free.

kids week: nature puppet Show

when : Wednesday, April 24, 1 – 2:30 pm

where : Crotona Nature Center in Crotona Park, 1702 Crotona Ave., Bronx Park South AgeS: All

whAT: See some naturethemed puppet shows and learn more about animals that

can be found in our local parks.

wAnT To go?: Free.

M A nh AttA n

nyc Tartan Day parade

when : Saturday, April 6, 2 – 4 pm

where : 6th Ave. between 44th St. & 55th St., Midtown

AgeS: All

whAT: Be there for the largest annual Scottish cultural gathering in NYC, with over 1,500 bagpipers, Highland dancers, Scottish clan members, Celtic Canines, and more.

wAnT To go?: Free.

28 | April 2024
Joshua Bright

Monday, 11 am – 6 pm

where : Jackie Robinson Museum, 75 Varick St., Tribeca

AgeS: 5 and older

whAT: Commemorate Jackie Robinson’s enduring legacy on and off the baseball diamond with fun-filled events featuring special museum tours, handson activities, games, and more!

wAnT To go?: Included with admission: $15-$18; free for children younger than 5. (866) 454–3772,

persian parade 2024

when : Sunday, April 21, 11:30 am

where : Madison Avenue at 39th Street to Madison Square Park, Midtown

AgeS: All

whAT: See Persian culture on display including music, dance, and art at this annual parade.

wAnT To go?: Free.

Queen S

pajama Story Time: Sense-sational Spring –primavera Sensacion

when : Friday, April 5, 5 – 8 pm

where : Queens Zoo, 53-51 111th St., Corona

AgeS: 2 and older

whAT: Celebrate the spring and learn about amazing animal senses with seasonal crafts, up-close encounters, tasty treats and an evening of storytelling.

wAnT To go?: $30; $24


nySci eclipse watch party

when : Monday, April 8, 1 – 5 pm

where : New York Hall of Science, 4701 111th St., Corona

AgeS: All

whAT: This celestial party features hands-on activities, food vendors from the Queens Night Market, music by DJ Annie Red, and a chance to witness the wonder of the Solar Eclipse.

wAnT To go?: $10.

Apple Blossom children’s carnival

when : April 20-28, Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am – 6 pm

where : Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy.

AgeS: All

whAT: Merry Go Round in the orchard and celebrate the season with assorted carnival rides,midway games, local food vendors, and a visit with the farm animals.

wAnT To go?: $16.95-$23.

climate Arts festival

when : Saturday, April 27, 11 am – 4 pm

where : Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St., Flushing

AgeS: All

whAT: Learn how to take care of our planet every day of the year with hands-on activities, art exhibits, music, interactive performances, tours, demonstrations, and more!

wAnT To go?: $2-$6; free for children 3 and younger and members.

Broo K lyn

celebrate eid al- fitr

when : Sunday, April 14, 11 am – 4 pm

where : Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave, Crown Heights

AgeS: All whAT: Celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan with a day of music, dance, food, and art that honors cultural traditions from across the Muslim world.

t he Bronx night Market is back at Fordham Plaza on April 6.

wAnT To go?: $15; $14 grandparent. (718) 735–4400,

Brains on! live: your Brain is magic when : Sunday, April 7, 2 pm where : Murmrr Theatre, 17 Eastern Pkwy., Prospect Heights

AgeS: All whAT: The crew from Brains On, the popular podcast for kids, will take you on an adventure through our brains with magic tricks, dance moves, out-of-body experiences, and more! wAnT To go?: $35-$70.

The rock and roll playhouse plays the music of u2 + more for kids when : Sunday, April 14, 12 – 1 pm

where : Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg

AgeS: 10 and younger whAT: It will be a Beautiful Day for your little ones when you introduce them to the sounds of Irish rock icons, U2. wAnT To go?: $16.

city nature challenge family Day

when : Thursday, April 28, 10 am – 1 pm

where : Green-Wood Cemetery, 500 25th St., Sunset Park

AgeS: All

whAT: Take part in one of the world’s largest citizen science projects by spotting and identifying as many species of wildlife as possible at GreenWood.

wAnT To go?: Free.

April 2024 | Bronx/Riverdale Family 29 APR i L calendar
n Yc Parks hosts a s kate Party in highbridge on April 3.

Celebrating Beatrix Potter

The Morgan Libary takes a closer look at the beloved children’s author

Mr. Jeremy Fisher adorns the top of the doorway leading into the Morgan Library and Museum’s Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature exhibition.

He’s not only one of Potter’s better known characters: he’s also exhibit curator Philip Palmer’s favorite.

Palmer says his first glimpse of Mr. Jeremy Fisher at the entrance to the exhibit was “emotional.”

It was like “seeing an old friend again,” Palmer says.

And entering the exhibit will surely evoke similar feelings from visitors. Beatrix Potter, best known for books like The Tale of Peter Rabbit, is one of the most beloved children’s authors of the twentieth century.

Through her artworks, books, manuscripts and artifacts, the exhibition at the Morgan highlights Potter’s unique relationship with the natural world and showcases how her blend of scientific observation and imaginative storytelling resulted in some of the world’s most popular children’s books.

Created by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the exhibition is broken into different sections, each featuring a part of Potter’s life and how they helped her become a storyteller.

Beginning in “Town and Country,” visitors will get an idea of the places, spaces and influences that defined Potter’s childhood, starting with her life in South Kensington, London.

With an emphasis on her family life and development as an artist, this exhibition contains things like early sketchbooks, objects from her home, artwork by her family and a page from an encrypted diary that Potter kept from her adolescence into her 30s.

“Under the Microscope,” the exhibition’s second section, looks at Potter’s interest in natural sciences.

It showcases Potter’s work as an amateur mycologist through displays of her intricate and

UK’s National Trust, highlighting her extraordinary legacy that lives on not only through her books but through her efforts towards preserving natural spaces.

Palmer says Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature is a natural fit into the Morgan’s programming line up.

scientifically impressive drawings of fungi.

Other areas of this section look into Potter’s childhood summers in Scotland and northwest England’s Lake District, where she collected fossils, fungi and other natural specimens.

These travels with her family shaped Potter’s artistic process, which can be seen in her early sketches and picture letters depicting natural scenery.

“A Natural Storyteller” shows Potter’s almost accidental journey to becoming a bestselling author, focusing on Potter’s beloved children’s books and the stories behind them.

See preliminary sketches of Peter Rabbit, Potter’s paintings of the real-life places that inspired Mr. McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, tiny letters she wrote in the voices of her characters and sent to children and more.

The exhibition’s final section, “Living Nature,” follows Potter into her later life in the Lake District in northwest England.

Through letters, photographs and paintings, this section shows how Potter transitioned away from working as an illustrator and writer and into working in farming and conservation.

The show ends with a look at the four thousand acres Potter bequeathed to the

“The Morgan has always been known for children’s literature,” Palmer says. “So Beatrix Potter falls into that perfectly.”

Families will feel right at home when visiting. The exhibition was created with families and young readers in mind, Palmer says. Visitors will find several reading nooks and reading spaces throughout the gallery, where they can relax and enjoy reading Potter’s books.

For families looking to take their exhibition experience to the next level, keep an eye out for upcoming Family Programs related to the exhibition at the Morgan.

These include Family First Sundays, where families can tour the exhibition and enjoy a picture book story time, and the Spring Family Fair, which will include the reopening of the Morgan Garden and hands-on activities related to the exhibition.

Palmer says he hopes that families who visit the exhibition leave with a new appreciation for Potter and her contributions.

“We do hope that children and families maybe discover Beatrix Potter for the first time, or rediscover their interest in Potter,” Palmer says.

Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature will be on view at the Morgan Library and Museum ( now through June 9.

30 | April 2024
family day out
Photos By Kaitlyn Riggio
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