Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Metropolitan Parent Center January Highlights

Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center had a busy month in January! Here are some highlights.

Improving Spanish Translations for Special Ed 
It was selected to participate on a Spanish Glossary Project Review Team that met on January 24 & 25, in Washington, D.C. The intent of this project, which is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), is for team participants to review Spanish translations of special education terms and phrases and come to a consensus of which of the words are the most appropriate that will then compiled and distributed to Parent Centers throughout the United States that work with diverse Spanish speaking communities. It was a demanding task that required that a panel of 16 individuals from diverse areas of the country, working in groups of four to review and revise glossary terms located in a 44-page document. Each group engaged in conversations, discussed their opinions and arrived at a consensus regarding the words assigned to the group. Afterward each group reported on their findings and sought the consensus of the other groups in order to determine which terms and phrases were the most appropriate one. 

Technology and Leadership Training 
A few days after that Godfrey Rivera and Cassandra Archie, the Co-Directors of the MPC, attended the National Parent Technical Assistance Center's ALLIANCE Technology and Leadership & Management Institutes, which took place in Washington, D.C. on January 26 & 27. Mr. Rivera attended a variety of sessions on website content management systems, webinars and collaborative online workgroups (i.e. Wikis, Big Tent and Ning) at the Technology Institute. Ms. Archie on the other hand learned about effective management leadership strategies, motivating staff, and compliance issues for implementing grants at the IBM Management Institute.

Using Technology to Help Parents
Finally, later in the month, the MPC was also selected to participate in a Technology Leadership Initiative which consisted of representatives from six Parent Training and Information Centers (PTICs) and two Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). The chosen Parent Centers were from NYC, Tennessee, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, California, Pennsylvania and Colorado. This is a three-year project whose task is to develop a model on how to use technology to enhance Parent Center's ability to meet their missions of helping families of children with disabilities and to serve as mentors to training other parent centers. There was a training session on January 28 where participants met each other, the technology consultant, John Kenyon, and started to outline the project by articulating benchmarks and goals.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

EIP - Getting Ready for the Annual Review

The IEP is a written statement of an Individualized Education Program that each school-aged child with disabilities receives, designed to meet their specific needs. The program must be reviewed annually, and this typically happens between March and May. These annual conferences are scheduled to review and revise the IEP for the upcoming school year. Cassandra Archie, Co-Director of Sinergia's Metropolitan parent Center, has some suggestions on how parents should prepare for their child's annual IEP conference:
  • Thoroughly review your child's current IEP
  • Know if your child has made progress, or if there has been a lack of progress. For example, if the child is to receive counseling, three times a week, did he receive it? How well is he responding to it?
  • Think about what educational and functional goals you want to see your child achieve in the upcoming school year (2011-2012).
  • Know your options for participation in the annual IEP conference. Participation can be in person or via conference call and you can request that it be in Spanish.
Here are two articles with more information:

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Year, New Look for Sinergia

Sinergia is getting ready to unveil a new website and a new logo to go along with it, and here's a sneak peak. The graphic depicts three shapes coming together to create synergy, emphasizing unity through diversity. Stay tuned for updates on the relaunch!

Our new tag line is "Providing Multicultural, Lifespan Services for People With Disabilities." For the past 34 years Sinergia has served low income, minority families with children and members with disabilities, particularly those limited English language learners whose principal language is Spanish. It has been very important that the members of our organization reflect the diversity and life experiences of the people we serve. Consequently our staff and board of directors have consistently been multilingual and multicultural, many living in the same communities where our consumers reside, and many are parents of children with disabilities. 

In its early beginnings Sinergia started offering educational advocacy services for children with disabilities but then blossomed organically into more comprehensive services that extended into adulthood and beyond in order to meet the unique needs of consumers. Our Family Support services were developed so that the child or adult with disabilities would not have to leave their home because families did not have the resources they needed to care for them. We created the Parent Training and Information Center because our core belief is that parent involvement is integral to their children's educational and functional achievements and can lead them to more productive, high quality adult lives.

Finally, as children moved into the adult world, Sinergia met their transition needs head on. We developed residences and support services for adults with intellectual disabilities so they can live as independently as possible in their own safe and secure homes in our neighborhoods. Our Day Habilitation Program has helped persons with disabilities to learn skills that lead them to greater independence, employment, and recreational and artistic opportunities, and have increased their knowledge of community life and resources. Some of our Day Habilitation participants as well as those living in Sinergia-operated residences are now senior citizens.

In this way Sinergia serves people throughout their life span. Over the years we have heard your voices, heeded your needs and were driven to respond. We have truly earned our tag line!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Diet and Disability Connection

Is there a connection between disability and the food we eat? That question was very much on Lizette Dunn-Barcelona's mind. The Associate Director of Sinergia had searched for years for different ways to cope with her daughter's severe asthma. "My 14 year old would frequently have bouts of hay fever, and since we were unable to control her asthma at home, she was often hospitalized - for days - until her breathing was normalized," explains Ms. Dunn-Barcelona. She had often wondered about the effects that certain foods had on allergies, and then two years ago she read that gluten accumulates in the body and inhibits its ability to fight environmental toxins. "I decided to limit my daughter's gluten intake during allergy season, between March and May, and noticed a significant difference in her body's response. She still sneezed all the time and got asthma, but we were able to control it from home and she wasn't hospitalized," adds the mother of two.

Last December Ms. Dunn-Barcelona attended a workshop offered by Sinergia entitled "Alternative Nutrition for Children with Disabilities: Gluten Free Diets". Her son had been recently diagnosed with ADHD, and having had such positive results by changing her daughter's diet, she was very interested in the topic. The instructor, Kristin Boncher, who is founder of, talked about her own child and how through food she got him to be more responsive to his environment, interact with people and break free of whatever had a hold of him. She achieved this by removing gluten, soy and dairy from his diet. Since Ms. Dunn-Barcelona's family was already diary free, and because of the success she had when limiting her daughter's gluten intake, she decided to eliminate all three of those foods from her household, commencing in February 2011. In order to get her family onboard with the idea, she took on the role of guinea pig, and on December 23, 2010 embarked on her food "experiment".

"I felt more energetic and was able to focus more easily at work. I purchased gluten, soy and diary free bread, pasta and cheese and incorporated them into my diet. On January 9, 2011, I was celebrating my birthday and ate a slice of birthday cake; it was regular cake filled with gluten. Within 20 minutes I felt as if someone had given me a sedative. I was unable to concentrate, and lost my focus at work. The entire day I felt sluggish and tired. I began to think about my son and wondered if his inability to concentrate is exacerbated by the cloudiness caused by the food I'm feeding him. All along I've been limiting his sugar intake, but never thought about removing anything else."

Ms. Dunn-Barcelona immediately went back on her diet and can't think about turning back. She has learned what to buy and how to cook it and is feeling better because of the changes she's made. "I'm looking forward to introducing my family to new, healthy ways of eating, and hopefully completely eliminating my daughter's allergy and helping my son on his quest to deal better with his diagnosis," she says.

Sinergia is offering 3 upcoming workshops on the topic of Alternative Nutrition for Children with Disabilities: Gluten Free Diets, on March 3rd, Reading Labels: Choosing Healthier Foods with Less Chemicals, on March 9th and Implementing a Dairy Free Diet for Kids, on April 14th. To register for these FREE events, please call Gina Peña-Campodonico at 212 643-2840, ext. 305 or by e-mail at  
Photo credit

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Workshop For Parents of Deaf-Blind Children

Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC) has entered into collaboration with the New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative (NYDBC) to provide a training space and information on education advocacy for a group of parents of children with Deaf-Blindness. The NYDBC is a federally funded project which provides technical assistance to improve services for children and youth who are deaf-blind (ages 0-21.) The NYDBC has a program called Parent Leadership Training that will teach parent skills to prepare them to be advocates for their children, learn about their rights and how to access/obtain services and resources in their own communities. The MPC has provided the Nivia Zavala Conference Center to the NYDBC so that they can conduct their Parent Leadership Program. The first session took place the weekend of January 22 & 23. Nine parents participated, including three married couples. There will be other weekend sessions taking place in March (for Spanish-speaking parents) and in April. In addition to providing a training space, the MPC will be offering presentations on education advocacy for parents which focus on how parents can be effective advocates for their children and for other families and become empowered in the process.

Day Hab's Annual Dinner Dance

On the night of Friday, January 14th, the Day Habilitation program held its 4th Annual Dinner Dance at the Julia da Burgos Recreational Center at 1680 Lexington Avenue in East Harlem. As always, this was a night for everyone from Sinergia’s Day Habilitation, Residential, and Family Care programs to dress up and dance the night away to all kinds of exciting music. More than 50 individuals with disabilities attended and enjoyed the dancing, food and entertainment. This year’s festivities included a fashion show, dance music from a DJ and live music from the outstanding singer, Amui Ptah and his band. The food was delicious and was graciously served by members of the Day Hab staff as well as other members of Sinergia’s various departments. Everyone had a fantastic time and there were smiles on all their the faces, from the first dance right up to the time for everyone to begrudgingly call it a night. Many thanks go out to Day Hab Coordinator Lore Barcelona and her staff for the planning and implementation of this event and to the other staff from Sinergia who gave of their time to help this night be a special one for the people with disabilities that we serve. We look forward to next year’s event being just as grand. More pictures and video will be added soon to our Facebook page.