Issuu on Google+


Educating the Future


imagine... © Eric Vitale Photography

Page One:

Pursuit of Perfection Page Two:

The Magic of Early Learning Page Three:

Every Child Deserves a Champion Health 2.0 Page Four:

Graduating to Excellence Page Five:

It Matters to Me Pursuit of Perfection (cont’d.) Page Six:

Bienvenidos Your Support Is Our Strength

Congratulations to the 2015 Project SEARCH graduating class.


Pursuit of Perfection

Project SEARCH Graduates Ideal Employees

t the 2015 Employer Recognition Breakfast, Joe Saccomano, managing shareholder of Jackson Lewis, took the stage to accept an award. Instead of thanking Arc of Westchester for the award, he thanked Arc for providing him with two employees. Both are Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism (PSCA) graduates, who have become essential assets to his firm. He spoke of their remarkable work ethic, ability to perform He had a job duties and their inspirational attitude.

categorizing files for storage. Saccomono was exceptionally impressed that Kyle completed the task perfectly, saying, “He had a 100% rate of accuracy.” Kyle and Joey are two of many stories that highlight the success of PSCA, an internship program created by New York Collaborates for Autism for graduating high school seniors with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The program is designed to provide each student with competitive employment through real-life work experience, training in employable skills and guidance in independent living.


rate of accuracy. “It has been a privilege to Arc of Westchester conducts work with Arc of Westchester,” all job training, providing each student Saccomano said. “Kyle and Joey have with instruction in hard skills, such as been two tremendous contributors how to develop a resume, and soft skills, to our office. Their job duties and like personal interactions. These young expectations are no different than men and women gain confidence, many other employees, and their become independent and learn essential positive attitude is what we hope workplace behavior, which helps them to for from everyone.” secure a permanent job. Graduates Saccomano shared a story about how leave the program with a sense of Kyle helped with a recent move. He was pride and a determination to establish in charge of organizing, managing and a rewarding career.

continued on page 5

For information about Arc of Westchester services, please contact us at


From preschool support to

The Magic of Early Learning verything changes the moment a parent hears that their baby or child isn’t hitting those key developmental milestones. Early diagnosis and treatment can change the life of a child with autism, Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities — and The Children’s School for Early Development can help.

{ { Funded by New York State, Early Intervention is a free program that provides therapy from birth to three years old. In addition to offering Early Intervention (EI) evaluations, once the child qualifies, The Children’s School can be selected by a parent as their service provider. The school assigns a service coordinator who secures the appropriate therapists for the child’s needs, answers questions and remains a constant source of support.


Providing Early Intervention evaluations and fully equipped and professionally staffed classrooms at the highest level of excellence costs far more than the state provides. With increased diagnoses, more families are turning to Arc’s Children’s School for our renowned learning programs than ever before. Every evaluation that we do for an infant or toddler costs over $500 in excess of state reimbursement. These reimbursement rates have not increased since 1995 — and yet the population we serve has reached a record high. We will never cut back on the quality of our services. That’s why we depend on private donations, like those received at Golfing for Kids, to help us close this gap, but more help is needed. Please give our youngest students the best start in life. Visit: to donate today.

What sets The Children’s School apart from other EI service providers is the unique set of classes offered to children and their caregivers. Once a month, Mommy & Me classes are held for select toddlers who are at least 18 months old, as well as a separate monthly parent/child group


for children with Down syndrome. Three-year-olds can take preschool classes at The Children’s School. Classroom teachers are specially trained to educate this particular population of learners, and a high ratio of staff to students guarantees the children get the attention they need. Children with similar needs are placed together and taught age-appropriate social, verbal and behavioral skills.


The Children’s School has re-launched an innovative program to help moms and dads of infants with Down syndrome receive compassionate and informed support starting at birth. Accompanied by an experienced parent, a school representative visits with obstetricians, pediatricians and maternity nurses to educate them about a wide range of available resources for new parents. Additionally, the school now offers counseling and assistance in the hospital or at home after the baby is discharged. To learn more, contact Kathy Higgins:

“We’ve seen amazing things happen in these special classrooms,” said Rosemarie Masci-Yarus, a teacher at The Children’s School. “We’re able to provide children with the opportunity to learn in a way that works best for them, and that makes a significant impact on their lives. The students thrive in this setting, both academically and socially.” Our experts help turn a frightening situation for parents into a positive learning experience, providing a safe place for moms and dads to get information, families to relate and share and children to acquire the developmental skills they need to move forward with success. We are proud that 80% of our preschoolers go on to attend schools in their communities, learning alongside typically developing youngsters, compared to 16% of children with developmental disabilities nationwide.

college collaborations, education = success!!! Every Child Deserves a Champion


ast year, Christopher entered The Children’s School for Early Development unable to sit still, focus, hold a pencil, recognize his name, engage in conversation or even appropriately ask a question. But after just four months of working with the highly trained and caring professionals in his classroom, Christopher had made significant progress. “During a snow day, I sat down with Christopher and drew shapes,” explained his mother Jamie Collins. “He had never been able to draw shapes, but he could name each shape that I drew. At one point, I handed him the pencil and I asked him to draw a circle — and he did! He drew a circle from end to end seamlessly. He had learned how to focus his mind and hand all together to mimic that image. It was such a wonderful feeling to watch him finally draw a circle.”

Last year Christopher attended a specialized ASD class, but he made tremendous progress and has now joined a self-contained classroom at the Boys & Girls Club in Mt. Kisco.

“His social skills are emerging,” Jamie explained. “He will take Christopher in the turns pushing his best friend Chris on sensory gym. the swings, or say ‘Chris, come on, come with me.’ So the next step was to put him in a more social classroom and school.”

Our youngest students, ages 3 to 5, come to us with a wide range of intellectual and developmental disabilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition to a singular school, The Children’s School program is spread throughout Westchester County, with 16 special classes at various early childhood sites. In addition, there are five classrooms designed to meet the specific educational and behavioral needs of children with ASD. This structure provides students the opportunity to learn in a self-contained classroom and transition to a regular class when ready. “Each boy and girl who enters our preschool program does so with a specific set of objectives designed to achieve their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. Those include focusing on how the child learns, what behavior modifications are needed and the proper setting to achieve success,” explained Ann-Marie Sabrsula, VB/ABA Program Supervisor of The Children’s School for Early Development. “No two plans are alike, and the school works with each family to determine the proper program and location that will work for their child.” “In just one year, Christopher’s speech improved and he 3

can now make eye contact,” said Jamie. “Instead of walking around the house and yelling what he wanted or just standing in the middle of a room crying, he now comes to me to get my attention and ask for things. He can now sit down for up to 30 minutes and attend to a task. I can even call his name from across the room and he turns his head. We take these tiny little accomplishments for granted, but when you have a child who can’t do those things or doesn’t know he should be doing those things, it melts your heart when it happens.”

The current goal for Christopher is to make him ready for kindergarten. The teachers and therapists work tirelessly to prepare young students for elementary school, and as a result, most graduates go on to a less restricted or collaborative setting. But the relationship doesn’t stop there. The staff continues to attend meetings, provide guidance to parents, and input in drafting a new IEP, guaranteeing that the transition to kindergarten is as seamless and successful as possible. “We make ourselves available for our students every step of the way,” said Sabrsula. “Every child deserves a champion.”

Health 2.0: College Students Use Technology to Improve Health

Denise Hargrove, an Arc of Westchester resident, recently experienced major health issues due to renal failure. She had difficulty managing her diet and medications. The agency, along with her roommates and Arc staff at her home, became very concerned. To help Denise get back on track, Arc partnered with Mercy College’s nursing students to intervene to improve Denise’s health. The students introduced a series of technologies. They taught Denise how to use a Jon-MedMinder, an electronic device that


Graduating to Excellence

Arc of Westchester’s College Collaboration Programs Result in Superior Innovation

e believe that true innovation occurs through collaboration. Throughout the past few years, we have developed successful partnerships with numerous local colleges and universities. Preschool Partnerships The Children’s School provides college students studying education and therapy with extensive hands-on instruction and guidance. In return, the young scholars generate fresh, innovative ideas that keep the preschool at the forefront of groundbreaking educational developments. Technology Study Mercy College graduate students are using customized technology to build independence, enhance social skills and achieve pre-determined goals among young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Once a skill is accomplished, students will then determine if it can be maintained though technology and without ongoing intervention. “Mercy students are working with a man named Tommy, and they are helping him get ready in the morning,” explained technologist Jordan Jankus. “He needs to be dressed and out of the house on time each day. So far, their work is helping Tommy accomplish this. But they have learned that the personal meetings and individual support are an integral part of helping him, and others, understand the technology.” Advanced Training for Direct Support Professionals Arc of Westchester received a grant from the office of the State University of New York (SUNY) to increase the skills of direct support professionals. Arc will now receive curriculum development and staff training resources through the Westchester Community College Professional Development Center.

BIP Grant Last fall, Arc of Westchester received a grant from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) Balanced Incentive Program (BIP) to fund new touch-screen technology that makes the process of scanning documents highly user friendly. Arc is partnering with a Mercy College behaviorist to develop the metrics to measure the effectiveness of this new touch-screen software. Summer Programs Our recreation department partners with Manhattanville College, using its campus to create a fun, safe summer camp experience. Participants ages 17-21 spend six weeks in music and pet therapy, playing sports, rehearsing in the dance studio and socializing with their peers. They also engage in life skills activities such as computer training, first aid, cooking and personal safety demonstrations. Additionally, participants have a weeklong opportunity to stay in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria and experience life as a college student. We also collaborate with SUNY Westchester Community College to provide a one-week theater workshop on their Valhalla campus. Participants learn dancing, singing, improvisation, speaking and acting while building confidence and self-esteem. Continuing Education Arc and SUNY Empire State College have partnered to offer employees and volunteers assistance with their continuing education. The college offers financial incentives for the first term and will apply credits for on the job training that relates to the students’ area of study. For more information about these college collaborations, please visit

guarantees the correct dose of medication is taken at the appropriate time. Denise also learned various computer applications to improve her diet, understand nutrition and help track her water consumption. Mercy students involved Denise’s fellow housemates in her recovery. They all began to cook together, learning new ways to prepare and make alternative food choices for a renal diet. “She looks so much better now and has a lot more energy — you can just see the liveliness in her,” explained Chinika Thompson, Denise’s roommate. “We are having a lot of fun with all of the wonderful new recipes and have even begun creating our own healthy versions of our favorites such as fish tacos and beef kabobs.” Consequently, Denise’s medications have been reduced, she requires less support, is more independent and now experiences a higher quality of life.

AJ on-

Me dM

ind er.

Denise (right) and Chinika preparing a healthy dinner together.




oo often, those in charge of making key funding decisions about our programs have no real experience with individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities. They don’t understand that our services are a precious resource to the people and families we serve. That’s why it’s essential that Arc of Westchester continue to Richard P. Swierat educate the public and legislators about the valuable role our programs play in enabling people in our community to pursue safe, healthy and meaningful lives. You are a very important part of our advocacy. Earlier this year, many of our programs and services were at risk of state budget cuts. We successfully avoided this potential catastrophe with your support of the Families Cannot Be Caregivers Forever campaign. Now, in partnership with NYSARC, our new It Matters To Me campaign seeks to keep the momentum going. The It Matters to Me campaign is looking for your stories for presentation to our legislators. We want to tell them how Arc of Westchester has helped you or your family — why the programs and services we provide matter to you.

continued from page 1

“We aren’t training people for just jobs, we are preparing them for a career,” explained Ric Swierat, executive director of Arc of Westchester. This training leads to dedicated employees who are knowledgeable and effective in their position. Through Arc’s employment program, each graduate receives continued job support that enhances his or her performance. Now in its fifth year, the majority of PSCA’s original graduates are still working for their initial employer, a retention rate that makes these graduates very desirable. “Businesses that hire a PSCA graduate have come back asking for another,” explained Swierat. “They see the value of having a well-trained and dedicated employee who is supported by our employment program.”

Kyle on the job.

Your voice will help us speak out on behalf of our Direct Support Professionals. DSPs are an integral part of our community, but our ability to pay their salaries is restricted by public policy. Your voice will also call attention to the need for more residential housing for individuals living at home with aging caregivers. Arc wants to help family members plan ahead and find the housing services they need for their loved ones, before a crisis occurs. Your voice will help us fund The Children’s School. New York State does not provide legitimate tuition reimbursement for our preschool and limits what we can pay our teachers and staff — and yet, costs continue to rise. Visit our website and learn more about how your voice matters on these and other issues. Your words will make it clear to our legislators the urgent need for increased funding of our programs and services. I also invite you to email me directly at and tell me why Arc matters to you. I am always interested in hearing your stories. Warmly,

Richard P. Swierat Executive Director 5

PROJECT SEARCH COLLABORATES FOR AUTISM PSCA was created by New York Collaborates for Autism in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Arc of Westchester, Southern Westchester BOCES and ACCES-VR. Clinical support is provided by the NYP/Center for Autism and the Developing Brain. PSCA is based on the national Project SEARCH program created at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and was made possible through a grant from New York Collaborates for Autism from the proceeds of Comedy Central’s 2012 Night of Too Many Stars.


Bienvenidos n 2009, Arc of Westchester embarked on a mission to better serve Westchester’s Hispanic population through the creation of Bienvenidos, a group exclusively dedicated to serving Spanish-speaking families in our community. When Bienvenidos began, the goal was to grow the number of bilingual staff. Now, with more than a dozen new Spanish-speaking employees hired each year, our focus has shifted to refining our programs and services to better assist these families.

From left: Martha Pisculli, Beatriz Giraldo, Tibi Guzman, Lupe Gemio and Judit Acevedo

There are numerous cultures within the Hispanic to ease their transition to Arc?’ Or an advocate may community and what may be common to one could point out to a clinician that it is customary be offensive to another. To guarantee that each for a certain individual’s entire family to family is treated with respect, Bienvenidos attend therapy.” Before Bienvenidos, developed a source for cultural feedback. Arc of Westchester hired We call it The Learning Circle. Composed This cultural sensitivity has become a key one or two Spanish-speaking of staff and families from different focus for Arc of Westchester. Our goal staff per year. Now, we hire Spanish-speaking countries, this group is for each individual and family to be 12-15 Spanish-speaking comes together to foster understanding served in a way that is appropriate to staff each year to better of the different cultures and how we can represent the people their heritage. Bienvenidos not only looks be of service. we serve. internally for this support, but also partners with local Spanish-speaking community “Bienvenidos members are a valued resource,” organizations for training. explains Tibi Guzman, associate executive director/chief operating officer of Arc of Westchester. “For Now in its sixth year, Bienvenidos has helped Arc example, one support professional may say ‘I have a family of Westchester create a comfortable, understanding from Columbia, what do I need to know about their culture community for the Hispanic population.

Your Support Is Our Strength


rc of Westchester was founded in 1949 by a small group of parents who were determined to change the path for their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Today, 66 years later, Arc of Westchester is the largest, most comprehensive provider of programs and services for individuals and their families. Each year, Arc of Westchester must evolve to meet the changing needs of the growing population we serve while government support continues to decrease, creating income gaps that are larger than ever. Donations from loyal friends like you make it possible to deliver a continuum of quality care to 2,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, who depend on us every day. We need your help! Make a gift and become a member at:


Stay Connected Join us online Visit us at to learn more about our services and upcoming events.

Our Facebook page is a place where you can read and share stories, give us your feedback, view our photos and hear about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Visit us every day!

Tell us what you think

Like what you’ve seen here? Have some great story ideas to share? Send us an email at so we can advocate for you or your family member. Your thoughts matter and we value your input.

The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center • 265 Saw Mill River Road • Hawthorne, NY 10532 • 914-949-9300 •


Imagine: Fall Newsletter 2015