Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sinergia's Autism Initiative Events Calendar February thru June

The following events have been scheduled:

February 14, Tuesday:  *Desayuno / Encuentro
February 21, Tuesday: Help me Get Through the Day, giving strategies and practices during those very difficult moments. 
March 15, Thursday:  Nest and Horizon Programs for children with autism with Dorothy Siegel, program co-founder.
March 27, Tuesday:  *Desayuno / Encuentro
April 5, Thursday:  Sensory Integration and Positive Outlook Practices for children with autism and other disabilities, with Margarita Gendelman.
April 24, Tuesday:  Play Skills for Socialilization, Social Skill Groups, Strategies - POSTPONED
May 18, Friday:  Photography and Art workshop for children with autism with Michelle Lopez, Queens Library and Museum.
May 29, Tuesday:  *Desayuno / Encuentro
June 2012 :  Surprise pending confirmation.

*Desayuno/Encuentros are in Spanish

For more updates visit our Upcoming Events Calendar.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Free Resources: Parental Control Software

On Wednesday January 18, ten parents who attend the Metropolitan Parent Center’s (MPC) support group participated in a workshop about how to use the Internet. The third floor of Sinergia has a library available for parents along with a computer area adjacent to the library that has a number of computers available to parents, so we were able to give them direct, hands-on instruction. The workshop was conducted in Spanish and covered everything about identifying the components of a computer: the tower, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and what their functions are. This was done because the majority of the parents have little or no computer literacy skills so it was important that they knew some basics on how computers work. In addition, most of the parents do not have computers at home. The parents were also offered some basic information about the Internet, including how to log on and how to make inquiries using the Google search engine. Because they are all parents of children with disabilities, we practiced how to find information about their children’s disabilities (i.e., autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy.) They were shown that they could write questions in Spanish and would be given responses in Spanish. The MPC promotes the fact that in order for parents to be effective advocates, they need to learn how the disability affects their children’s ability to learn in the classroom.

Parents also received information about parental controls that protect children from being able to access inappropriate or dangerous Internet web sites. While the parents may lack computer and Internet skills, their children are very knowledgeable on that subject so some time was dedicated to showing the class how to check on the websites children have visited via the “history tab” in the Firefox, a popular web browser available to Internet users. A list of free downloadable parental control software was provided to parents, and some links are provided below. Overall, the parents enjoyed this workshop very much and expressed great interest in future opportunities to learn about, and be able to use the Internet as a tool to further their understanding about disabilities.

Free Parental Control Software

1.    K9 Web Protection - K-9 blocks websites in more than 70 categories, including pornography, gambling, drugs, violence/hate/racism, malware/spyware, phishing
2.    Parental Control Bar - Free software that helps concerned parents prevent their children from accessing adult-oriented web sites.
3.    Action Alert - Creates a kid-safe PC with filtering and website blocking and permits parents to review activity to determine whether anything suspicious occurs.
4.    KidsWatch - Allows parents to set computer usage time limits by child and blocks access to dangerous and inappropriate websites. It alerts parents immediately when a child steps outside the boundaries of safe surfing. KidsWatch™ will automatically send you e-mail alerts when your child enters or receives a suspect phrase or keyword from any chat conversation.

Free Parental Control Software in Spanish (Controles Para Padres en español)
1.    Naomi - Un programa para bloquear páginas web inadecuadas, dirigido a menores de edad que están expuestos en la red, con contenidos como por ejemplo pornografía, etc. Cada vez que se intente acceder en forma voluntaria o accidental a una página inadecuada el navegador se cerrará rápidamente.
2.    Time Sheriff - Permite administrar las horas que pasan sus hijos en la computadora. Time Sheriff puede limitar el tiempo de sesión de usuarios, prevenir la ejecución de juegos, navegadores y programas de mensajería instantánea.
3.    PC Lock Station - Un programa que permite monitorizar y limitar las actividades de un usuario frente a la PC. Permite establecer límites a la navegación por sitios inapropiados, definir horarios o tiempos máximos de uso.
4.    Amigo Control Parental - Este programa graba lo que se ve en la pantalla en todo momento para que después un padre pueda comprobar qué ha estado haciendo su hijo en la computadora. Es más, puede leer lo que ha escrito y lo que su hijo ha leído.

MPC holds workshop on Behavior Management Techniques for students with ADHD

Despite the cold weather, on January 20, more than twenty-five parents attended our workshop on Behavior Management.  Miriam Cusicanqui, a supervising social worker at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital shared behavior strategies with parents.  The strategies demonstrated were based on years of research in behavior development and they included:
  • Parent–child relationship, restoring and nurturing that relationship with positive feelings and building self-esteem.
  • Increasing desirable behaviors through praise, acknowledgement and incentives, including the use of behavioral charts.
  • Managing non-compliance, including the use of time-outs or other types of consequences. 
Parents should consider finding a therapist to help them practice these strategies consistently and to get through the often difficult challenges involved in carrying them out. The NYU Child Study Center has an excellent database to help you find a doctor. These strategies should also be used in school and if necessary implemented in a child’s behavior intervention plan. For more behavior strategies click here.

 The MPC can help with implementing these strategies in your child’s school by contacting our intake coordinator at (212) 643-2840 ext. 336. 

Are We Over-relying on Medication To Treat Behavioral Problems?

The over-reliance of medication to treat behavioral problems is becoming a rampant problem for individuals with disabilities. Recently the NY Times focused on the problem in state run group homes in its article “In Treating Disabled, Potent Drugs and Few Rules.”  The psychologist interviewed felt that medication does not address the underlying problem and that the behaviors could best be addressed by therapy. Lizabeth Pardo, an attorney in the Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC), sees this pattern in our schools. Many of her clients with ADHD are on medication but are not getting any type of behavior therapy privately or getting sufficient support through a behavior intervention plan at school. The workshop we presented is one way Sinergia is educating parents about behavior therapy to ensure their children are getting the proper care.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Celebrating MLK Day at Sinergia

"On January 17th, the Day Hab program had a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Together, we talked about the work of Dr. King and we each learned something we didn’t know about him, such as his birthplace (Atlanta) or primary occupation (a preacher). We had been preparing for the celebration during the previous week and everyone participated by sharing poems or other thoughts on their dreams for the future and peace and equality. It was the perfect opportunity to refer to the conflict resolution training that we did during the Bullying Prevention Week in October. We reviewed tips on avoiding conflict and how to peacefully diffuse a potentially violent situation.  The civil rights movement’s use of peaceful demonstrations (speeches, marches, boycotts, etc.) was a great example of how people can make their voices heard without using violence.

Day Hab Artists (above, l. to r.) Vanessa, Mildred and Ivan worked as a team on a portrait of Dr. King.
They spoke about how important King’s work as a leader was, as bringing people together is the best way to make things happen. They demonstrated this point by talking about how they had collaborated to accomplish the drawing, which was too large for any of them to have done alone. We also enjoyed singing some songs, including “We Shall Overcome,” led by Mabel J. who proudly sings in her church choir on the weekends."

For more pictures on art projects that the DayHab artists have been creating visit our Facebook page.

--Erin McSorley, DayHab Art Specialist

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sinergia hosts Meeting for Emerging & Multicultural Providers

Pictured above: three officials from OPWDD: Tom Holland, 4th from left, Jonathan Pease, 5th from left and Alan Eskenazi, 7th from left, plus Yvette Watts E. D. Assoc., center, and the Board members of NYAEMP.

Sinergia hosted a membership meeting of the New York Association of Emerging & Multicultural Providers on January 18, 2011 in which  Yvette Watts,  Executive Director of the Association welcomed the members and introduced the guests presenters from the NY Office  for Persons With Developmental Disabilities.  Allan Eskenazi, Deputy Commissioner of Department of Quality Improvement (DQI), Tom Holland, Regional Director and Jonathan Pease, Area Director presented on the changes within DQI, the Early Alert System for agencies,  Fire Safety and the three areas of focus as recommended by the expert panel that reviewed the Wells Fire; building safety and construction , functional level of consumers and staffing and training. Also discussed were MSC and vendor protocols which will include incident management, personal allowance reviews and physical plant reviews.

Power Point  presentations , agency overviews and thoughts and concerns around the 1115 waiver  were also made by key staff from member agencies and the responses by NYAEMP to the Request for Information issued by OPWDD were disseminated . Overall, the speakers gave a strong message to the membership on  the importance of multicultural agencies to form a collective presence in the face of the drastic changes in the system and advised the organizations to band together, maintain quality standards and keep connected to their communities in order to survive these changes.

Farewell to Manny Ortiz

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Manuel (Manny) Ortiz.  He was a former President of the Sinergia Board of Directors in our early years and  very committed to our  mission of enhancing the well being of individuals with disabilities and families, particularly special populations that traditionally experienced difficulties in accessing services. He was a longtime community organizer and activist for social justice. Richard Lash, Sinergia's founder, and I were very fortunate to count Manny as a friend and supporter of Sinergia and the people we serve.

Also the affordable housing and community development field has lost a great advocate and leader.  Manny was a long time Executive Director of the Carroll Gardens Development Corp. and for many years a board member of the Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of NYS. He passed away in Puerto Rico. Our condolences to his friends, family, and wife Isaura.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Workshop: Financial Assistance and Rental Subsidies // Taller: Asistencia Financiera Para Inquilinos

Monday, January 23rd, 10am-12pm
a presentation by
The Human Resources Administration Department (HRA) of Social Services of New York City
Are you falling behind with your rent payments? Are you facing a non-payment eviction? Want to know how you can obtain assistance with your rent?

Come and learn how you can apply for financial assistance to pay rent arrears. Learn who is eligible, the documentation required, charitable organizations, rental subsidy (FEPS) and other services offered by HRA
Presented by: Karina Cuevas, Manhattan Borough Coordinator, NYC Human Resources Administration

Place: Sinergia Inc., 2082 Lexington Avenue between 125th and 126th 4th Floor New York, NY
Directions: Take the 4, 5, or 6 train to the 125th station. Bus: X80, M35, M60, M100, M101, & Bx15 to 125th St.
Date: Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Time: 10:00am – 12:00pm

Contact: Yesenia Estrella or Maria Pabón, Housing Advocates
(212) 643-2840 ext. 249 & 350
Email: yestrella@sinergiany.org
Spanish Simultaneous Translation is available but you must call to request it.


Lunes, 23 de enero, de 10:00am – 12:00pm
Sinergia cordialmente les invita a un taller sobre:
presentado por
La Administración de Recursos Humanos (HRA), Departamento de Servicios Sociales de la Cuidad de Nueva York

¿Está atrasado(a) con los pagos de su renta?¿Está siendo desalojado(a) por falta de pago? ¿Quiere saber como obtener ayuda con su renta?

Venga y aprenda cómo aplicar para asistencia financiera para pagar sus rentas atrasadas. Aprenda quienes son elegibles, que documentos se requieren, organizaciones de caridad, subsidio de renta (FEPS) y otros servicios ofrecidos por HRA.
Presentado por: Karina Cuevas, Coordinadora del Condado de Manhattan de la Administración de Recursos Humanos de la Cuidad de Nueva York
Lugar: Sinergia Inc., 2082 Avenida Lexington entre las calles 125 y 126, 4to Piso, New York, NY
Dirección: Tome los trenes 4, 5, o 6 hasta la 125.
Buses: X80, M35, M60, M100, M101, & Bx15 hasta la calle 125.

Fecha: Lunes, 23 de enero, 2012
Hora: 10:00am – 12:00pm

Contactos: Yesenia Estrella y Maria Pabón, Defensoras de Viviendas
(212) 643-2840; correo electrónico: yestrella@sinergiany.org
Traducción al Español estará disponible pero debe llamar para pedirla.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sinergia’s Healthy Families Collaborative: A Team Approach to Service Delivery


Sinergia’s Healthy Families Collaborative has been moving towards a comprehensive team approach to assist parents with developmental disabilities, which involves bringing together many experts from a wide variety of areas. There is the Intake specialist, nurses, Family Support staff, Medicaid Service Coordination, home visitation by special educator and infant teacher, Program Coordinator and administrative staff. Parents with developmental disabilities need much support if they are to become the parents they hope to be and secure the myriad of services that will help them reach their goals. In this approach the nurses make an assessment of the medical needs, the educator and family support staff make home visits, and the entire team works in a person-centered manner to find individual solutions and services to help the consumer to become a more effective, nurturing parent as well as to meet their own individual needs. It really does take a village in the form of a very committed team to help parents with developmental disabilities to develop a circle of support and find the services they need.

Case in point is that of a 15 year old female with developmental disabilities and her infant. They reside with her mother, who found herself as their sole support system. As a result of the pregnancy, she dropped out of a special education high school. After various meetings and home visits, team members were able to convince her that it was important for her to return to the last school placement although she wished to attend a “regular” school.  Today is her first day of school and we are now helping her in the process of registering the infant in a NYC/DOE day care program in the neighborhood where they live. This will allow the grandmother to return to work or receive training to prepare her for alternative job opportunities. The team’s commitment and caring fostered a trusting relationship between its members and the family. This allowed for the development of a circle of services and supports that includes family members, the principal, the teacher, and the health and day care services in the neighborhood in which she lives. Without the trust, hard work and belief that this young mother could succeed, she would remain home without an education or the prospects of a better future for her and her daughter.  Her mother would be overwhelmed and frustrated without the time or outlets for her own betterment.

The team will continue to offer parent training and visits to the home to assist and monitor the infant’s and the mother’s progress as well as connect them to needed services. A beautiful handmade quilt made by parents hangs in one of Sinergia’s offices and on it is embroidered, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child”.  This particular case is a living example of that axiom.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sinergia's Annual Christmas Celebration 2011

Sinergia's Annual Christmas celebration for children and families on December 22, 2011 was the high point of our holiday season.  Our Christmas angels, the NYC Department of Sanitation-M7 personnel, again blessed our holidays as the sponsors of the annual event at Lincoln Center's Julliard School. They have faithfully supported this celebration for over a quarter of a century. This year we had great weather and no snow so we had an overflow audience - the greatest attendance ever! We were pleased to have the Commissioner John J. Doherty join the men and women as they helped Santa Claus distribute wonderful gifts to the many children in the beautifully decorated space. Dinner included the traditional dishes: rice and gandules, pernil, hot dogs for the children and cookies, candies and refreshments galore. The accompanying pictures tell the story of the wonder and joy exhibited by so many children for whom this celebration has such significance. We took the opportunity to pay special tribute to Alexander McDonald, former member of the NYC Department of Sanitation-M7, who passed away this year. It was a touching moment when we stopped the festivities to honor his memory. Nancy McDonald, his widow, and his son Mathew were presented with a certificate of appreciation by Sinergia's Executive Director, Myrta Cuadra-Lash, which acknowledged Alex McDonald's contributions. The evening ended with the traditional entrance of Santa Claus and his elves. The staff of the Department of Sanitation and Sinergia felt joyful to be part of a legacy and tradition that brings so much happiness to so many children and families. Special thanks to all the entertainers, to Scott Lancelot and Maria Quintero and the staff of the Department of Sanitation, to Sinergia's own Doris Rodriguez and the rest of the staff for making this event possible.
(click here to view our Photo Album on Facebook)

Recap: 507 Plan & 1115 Waiver Presentation

On December 7, 2011 Sinergia was very pleased to welcome Katherine Bishop (above) from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), People First Waiver Unit.  Ms. Bishop made a comprehensive presentation to a standing room only audience on the 1115 Waiver at Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center. In collaboration with the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, the presentation was taped and it aired on January 1, 2012 on their cable channels. The forum was simultaneously translated into Spanish and power point presentations were available in both languages.

Ms. Bishop led the discussion of the major redesign of the OPWDD system to better support people’s health, life skills and personal outcomes through increased flexibility, person centered services, care coordination and modernization of the financial platform. The lynchpin of the transformation will include development of entities that will be called Developmental Disabilities Individual Support & Care Coordination Organizations (DISCO).  They will be not-for-profit fiscal intermediaries and providers of care coordination, which receive all payments and may be direct providers and/or subcontract all needed services, including health care.

There was an extensive question and answer period where parents and providers were able to ask key questions about this future waiver which will have a major impact on the way that services will be delivered.  To get more information on People First Waiver visit their webpage: www.opwdd.ny.gov/2011waiver. Our appreciation is extended especially to Katherine Bishop and to MNN, the interpreters and staff at Sinergia for making this event possible so that both English and Spanish speaking parents become aware of these significant changes in the OPWDD system and how they will affect their children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Spotlight on Sinergia's Up-Living Program

The UpLiving program is a subset of Sinergia's Day Habilitation program (DayHab). Technically it is called Supplemental Habilitation because it takes place mostly in the afternoon, in the hours after DayHab stops providing services. For admission to this program we canvassed 12 individuals with disabilities who were not enrolled in any type of day program, were not working a job and who had rarely ventured out into the community. We asked them what their interests were and how we might assist them in becoming more positively involved in those activities. We received responses such as getting a GED, becoming more involved in their church, enjoying more of the activities that NYC had to offer, becoming more computer literate, and getting healthier through exercise and diet. This program has had great success and we have seen individuals who rarely ventured out into the community increase their visibility tremendously and really increase their involvement in their stated interest.

Bonnie Gardner (above left, with Wilson in Governor's Island) is an UpLiving direct support professional who has been with the program since its inception in 2009. She has been part of the reason that we have seen so much success. Below she describes some of the participants she has worked with.

"Rowan Cahill (above) loves being in the Up-Living Program. His primary area of concentration is studying for his GED. He works very hard on this goal and it shows as he is improving at an impressive rate, particularly in the areas of reading and comprehension. Rowan is also becoming more adept at handling his finances online, learning the ins and outs of Facebook and navigating other forms of electronic communication. Rowan loves trains and collects them as a hobby. His breadth of knowledge in this area is rather impressive. Whether he is in the library learning about trains or visiting places like the Transit Museum, it is all very inspiring to Rowan. It is also Rowan's wish to start creating his own trains as a hobby in order to exhibit and sell in future Sinergia art shows. Rowan is also making terrific strides in the area of socialization and communication, showing more faith in many areas of his life."

"Frank (above) on the other hand, enjoys creating art on the computer and will work diligently on a piece for hours. He is a prolific artist and has created an impressive body of work. In addition, Frank sold many of his art pieces and is hoping to expand to t-shirt and coffee mug design. Frank also loves learning about other artists -- from urban street artists to old masters like Leonardo DaVinci, which he is adept at interpreting. Frank is flourishing in the area of socialization and communication as well. He thoroughly enjoys his forays out in the community, particularly if they are art related."

"Life is full of beginnings and endings" my mother once said. So it is with some sadness that Wilson Sanchez (above) has left the Up-Living Program. However, he successfully acheived one of his goals and has found employment. Congratulations Wilson, well done!"

"A special nod goes out to Anton McIntyre (above). Still relatively new to the Up-Living program, he is flourishing and doing great!"

See more photos in our Facebook Photo Album.