Apple Blossoms in the Hudson Valley Greet us Each Mother’s Day
May 6th, 2019
Spring in the Hudson Valley is a beautiful rhythmic orchestration. Hiking will bring you up close to the emergence of skunk cabbage, fiddleheads, wild mustard, and columbine, to name a few. The sidewalks are littered with maple and oak flowers, and the redbuds, dogwoods and wild cherry trees begin their flowering. The “really big show,” as if Ed Sullivan was announcing it, would be the apple trees blooming, letting us know Mother Earth has stolen the show; perfect timing, each year, for Mother’s Day.
I am not a big fan of Hallmark Holidays, but Mother’s Day has always been a chance for my sister and I to take our mom Suzanne and her best friend Marge out to brunch, followed by a quick stop at TJ Maxx on the way home. My husband and I decided years ago that we would do whatever we wanted on “our holidays” - he plays golf on Father’s Day with his buddies.
My mother was no doubt the most influential figure in my development and life beyond college. We both are extremely social, both educators, we love to garden, hike (when she was able), and we chat for hours at a time about whatever comes up in conversation. I grew up one of five children, and my mom gave us all a lot of freedom. This freedom came at a cost, and we certainly stumbled here and there, making our way through the 60’s and 70’s as kids. The most important piece of advice my mother gave to me was to make sure I could take care of myself before I decided to marry and have children. My sister and I took that advice very seriously, with my mom’s words never leaving our thoughts on the subject for too long. She raised two girls who are fiercely independent.
My mom moved to a piece of land adjacent to our property after she retired, my husband built her a beautiful house, and we were neighbors. She was the epicenter of our family gatherings, and with two houses on the properties, hers and ours, we were able to navigate this large group. Little did I know at the time how vital she would become, when our children were diagnosed with autism. Daniel, then five years later, Matty. My mom was their second parent, as she helped us with time and emotional support. She had a very special relationship with Daniel, our child with high-functioning autism, and they cooked together, read together and in turn he learned to care for her as the years progressed. When Matty was diagnosed at 3 with autism, and his path led to regression and his still present non-verbal place, my mom did what she could to help. Matty knew her house, she always had his favorite snacks and videos, and he was safe there in her loving care.
My mom had a stroke when Matty was 6 years old, and it was our turn to give back to her. She continued to live in her home, with assistance. As Matty got older, we talked about his future and what would be best for him, and my mom listened, never judged. When Matty was 16, my husband and I made the most difficult decision of our lives. We placed Matty at Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg NY. We did this for Matty so he could be in an environment that was set up with all the supports he needed, a loving staff, and an opportunity to be as independent as possible. He still lives and goes to school there today, with one more year until he gets to move to his “forever home” in the Hudson Valley.
My mom passed away 4 months after Matty went to live at Anderson. I wish she could have seen the progress he has made, but she lives on in me, so she is there, maybe not physically by my side, but she’s there. I feel her presence always, and have her incredible nurturing spirit with me as I use my experiences with our boys to help others who have children with autism. She would be so proud. She knows I have been able to let Matty spread his wings towards independence, just as she did with her five children. Today we might call this “Dignity with Risk,” a new buzz word in the special needs community.
For all the moms out there, I hope you are doing what you want to on this Mother’s Day. I have a new ritual, getting together with other mothers and enjoying the day, as we talk about our mothers and enjoy a good brunch, and maybe a little shopping or a nice long walk. But the day isn’t complete without an acknowledgement of the Apple blossoms. Some years when they are early, by Mother’s Day they are dropping from the trees like snow. A magical sight to see.
Anderson Center for Autism and SUNY Empire State College to Expand Opportunities for Students Entering Field of Autism
May 7th, 2019
Executives from Anderson Center for Autism and SUNY Empire State College held a signing ceremony at Anderson Center on Monday, May 6, to mark the launch of a cross-institutional educational collaboration that will provide paths for professional advancement for Anderson Center employees and develop a program to prepare SUNY Empire State College students to work with individuals with autism.
The immediate objective is to expand professional opportunities for those entering the field of autism.
Future goals include:
Developing trainings, events and materials to better disseminate greater knowledge and skills related to working with individuals with autism to professionals and the community at large.
Collaboratively develop academic programs that lead to degrees – including a master’s degree – that meet workforce needs, as well as certification or licensure in professions that serve individuals with autism.
Establishing a Center for Excellence in Autism Education.
“Together, Anderson Center for Autism and SUNY Empire State College will learn what works best and share that knowledge with the center, college, nonprofit communities and, ultimately, with government agencies across New York, all for the benefit of those living with autism,” said SUNY Empire State College Officer in Charge Mitchell S. Nesler. “Thanks to the leadership of SUNY Empire alumnus and center CEO Patrick Paul and his team, and the work of Dr. Nathan Gonyea, our newly appointed dean of the School for Graduate Studies; Associate Professor Donna Mahar and Assistant Professor Ajay Das, of the college’s School for Graduate Studies’ education programs; Vice President for Advancement Walter Williams; and Stephanie Corp, director of the Fund for Empire State College, we are able to take the first step in our journey to better serve those living with autism, their families and the communities where they live and work. I am most grateful for the good work of all involved.”
Tina Marie Covington, chief operating officer at Anderson Center, said, “The idea came about when our CEO at Anderson, Patrick Paul, who’s a graduate of Empire State College, was discussing with staff at Empire State the growing need for professionals in the field. Incidence rates for autism are now reported at one in 59, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it’s critical that we develop programs that will prepare professionals to support this population and give them a real career track. The idea behind this collaboration is to develop a model that can be used for Excellence in Autism Training Centers that will hopefully be created in other parts of New York state, our country and internationally.”
Added Tina M. Payeur ‘01, a SUNY alumna and executive assistant to the chief executive officer at Anderson Center, “So much of my adult life has been about Anderson Center and, as a graduate of ESC, this collaboration is a 'full-circle' moment for me. Bringing these two outstanding organizations together to further professionalize the field will be an amazing accomplishment.” Payeur completed a Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services in 2001.
Anne Jordan ’12, ‘15, assistant director of human resources at Anderson Center, graduated from Empire State in 2012 after attending the institution while working full time. She then went on for a graduate certificate, which she completed in 2015. Jordan said, “I would not have even been able to apply for the employee relations coordinator position at Anderson in 2015 without my bachelor’s from Empire State. Therefore, I would not be an assistant director of human resources today. I loved the classes that I took at Empire State and credit them for the education, which enabled me to become the professional that I am today. Thanks to the opportunities offered by Empire State College, I work at a job that I love.”
Jordan continued, “Anderson encourages our team members to educate themselves, to improve not just the quality of life of those we serve, but their own quality of life. Education holds the key to so many possibilities and options. Having Anderson partner with ESC will be a fantastic opportunity for our staff and for the agency itself. As our team members plan their career paths and attend Empire State College – on their time, at their pace - they can find promotional opportunities within their own agency, allowing them to grow with us.”
Covington continued, “We are so excited about building this program here at Anderson in cooperation with Empire State College; it will have far-reaching impacts. I love working for an organization so visionary and it’s great to see Anderson taking a lead. And, working with an institution of higher education that really values life experience and designations, like the RBT (Registered Behavior Technician), makes this a perfect fit and a great match.”
In a process now underway, SUNY Empire faculty and Anderson Center staff are collaborating in the college’s Professional Learning Evaluation program for Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification.
When completed, the college will assign undergraduate college credit for the college-level learning obtained in the RBT certification program. Anderson Center employees then may include this credit as part of a bachelor’s degree, saving them substantial amounts of time and money.
Upon completion of the evaluation process, SUNY Empire will award credit to any individual who has RBT certification, regardless of where they completed their training, when they enroll with the college.
Anderson Center for Autism is a nonprofit organization based in Staatsburg, New York, that provides educational, vocational and residential services to people with autism spectrum disorder. Autism presents with communication, social, and sensory processing challenges.
For more information, call 845-889-9208 or visit www.AndersonCenterForAutism.org.
About Anderson Center for Autism
The mission at Anderson Center for Autism is to optimize the quality of life for people with autism.
About SUNY Empire State College
SUNY Empire State College educates more than 17,000 students in person, online and through a blend of both, at more than 30 locations in New York and at eight international sites worldwide. Together with one of SUNY Empire’s more than 1,300 faculty mentors, each student designs his or her own individualized pathway to a college degree that accommodates his or her schedule and awards credit for prior college-level learning. SUNY Empire awards more than 3,000 degrees annually and 94 percent of graduates stay in New York state. Today, more than 84,000 SUNY Empire alumni are entrepreneurs, veterans and active members of the military, professional athletes, teachers, medical professionals and leaders in their field, as well as in their communities. To learn more, visit www.esc.edu and follow the college on social media @SUNYEmpire.
Anderson Center for Autism contacts:
Marybeth Cale, publicist, Anderson Center for Autism, firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-750-3763
Eliza Bozenski, Chief Development Officer, Anderson Foundation for Autism, email@example.com, 845-889-9594
Singers Benefit Concert Donates Money to Center for Autism
March 28th, 2019
The Singer’s annual “Love in the Afternoon” benefit concert on March 9th and March 10th raised an impressive $4,000 for the Anderson Center for Autism.
“We were really happy with how much we were able to donate,” said Singers President, Nicki Barrett.
The donation will go towards the services at the Anderson Center that support the children and adults with autism who thrive through their programs.
“We have a many long years partnership with Marist College and this is yet another way we partner to improve the lives of all of our community members,” expressed the center’s Program Development Manager, Christine Wolcott.
This year’s concert took place at Marist College in the Nelly Goletti Theatre and included 30 performances, featuring the 180 members of the Marist Singers Program. The set list had a wide variety, as there were solos, duets, and small group performances. Among those small groups were The Enharmonics, Sirens, and Time Check, which are the three acapella groups at Marist. Each song performed was connected with the same theme: love.
The show opened with the entire Singers group singing “”Somebody to Love.” Some of the other iconic love songs performed were, “I Wanna Love You,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and “I Love you Always Forever.”
The annual concert has always placed an emphasis on this theme of love, because each year they select a different organization to raise money for.
“We decided on the Anderson Center this year because we had a lot of connections with the center already.” We knew that a few people in Singers have family members with autism, and two of our board members are studying Special Education.” said Barrett. “Plus, the organization is local so we can physically go there and perform and interact with people we’re helping.”
“What was cool was that two of our board members held an educational seminar for Autism so that everyone in Singer’s was more informed about the people and cause we were donating to,” said Tori Schubert, a junior singers member. Special Education majors, Dylan O’Brien and Max O’Handley felt it was important for everyone to be educated about Autism so that they could really put their whole heart into it.
During the show, Sarah William, the director of Choral Activities, came out to thank everyone that had been involved, and to show appreciation towards those who came. She also spoke passionately about the fact that every year, the “fabrics of each singers hearts weave together” to produce a show that will benefit an amazing cause.
Marist College’s Autism Speaks club also worked with Singers to support the event. On the days of the concert they had a table set up at the front of the house and were available to give out information to those interested.
Schubert stated, “I really like the “Love in the Afternoon” concert because we always support a really great cause, and it’s nice because it’s not about us. It’s about helping other people and touching other people’s hearts. It feels it really good to do that.”
A Letter to the Mom Whose Child with Autism Lives Away from Home
May 1st, 2019
As we round the corner to Mother’s Day, I want to give you an extra pat on the back. While other moms are getting reservations for Sunday brunch, you’re probably planning a day trip to see your child with Autism at his or her residential center. I know it’s hard, and I’m right there with you. There’s a special kinship that connects all of us moms of children with autism to one another, particularly those of us who had to enroll our children in residential programs. You’re not alone, even though it probably feels that way much of the time.
I’ll never forget the day my son Owen was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or the mix of complex emotions that followed. I’m sure you remember this day with your child quite vividly too. As if being a parent weren’t already difficult enough, then you find out that a new level of parenting is going to be required. It shakes you to the core, doesn’t it?
On some strange level though, it was a relief to have answers to lingering questions that persisted in my head but that I didn’t necessarily want to pose. The diagnosis was also accompanied by unprecedented feelings of confusion and grief. It was a day that marked a new journey. Everything seemed to be described as either “before Owen’s diagnosis” or “after his diagnosis,” as if it were a quiet, invisible line that separated a past life and a past version of myself from everything that developed thereafter. I’m guessing you understand what I mean.
I know you’re just like me in your quest to do absolutely anything that might support the development and happiness of your child with Autism and your entire family. I know the pain of trying countless therapies and vitamins without success. I know the exhaustion of attending every possible conference, reading every possible book, and doing so while dealing with sleepless nights. I know the heartache that comes with not being able to be fully present to the rest of the family at times, and having to say ‘no’ to invitations from lifelong friends. I know the sadness that comes from my child’s inability to verbalize what he’s thinking, feeling, or wanting. I know what it’s like to fear what the future holds or be in a state of angst about how you’re even going to get through the day.
I also know that residential placement has to be one of the most difficult decisions you could ever make.
I know because I’ve been there. Sometime around the onset of puberty, Owen just became too difficult to manage. We sat down with our school district and told them that school and home ABA hours simply weren’t enough to teach Owen to be his most productive self. Coincidentally, it was right around Mother’s Day, 6 years ago, that our district sent out packets to several different schools in New York. Only two schools agreed to meet Owen and our family.
An avid knitter, I’d often use the annual NY Sheep and Wool Festival as a retreat for myself. Managing life with Owen wasn’t easy; I needed that time to pursue my own passion; I’m hoping you’ve taken breaks for yourself along the way, too. And when I did go, I’d pass by Anderson Center for Autism. Even from outside the gates, the campus looked beautiful. And, fortunately for us, Anderson Center for Autism was one of the schools that agreed to meet Owen.
What I discovered inside those gates was even more amazing. I remember when we brought Owen for his first visit (Anderson was 2.5 hours away from our home). Owen took his pillow out the car; we think he thought Anderson was a hotel. The admission process was pretty intense but the staff were caring and welcoming; they were there to help navigate what was one of the most difficult decisions we could possibly face as parents.
Owen was accepted, and I’m guessing you know what a bittersweet moment THAT was. We knew Anderson had a great program and were so impressed with their attention to every detail. To give you an example, I noticed that they have a vocational wing in the Education Center with a bed, where students with Autism learn to make the bed. They have a washer and dryer and teach kids to do laundry. They also have the kids manage inventory for their houses: paper towels, toothpaste, etc.; on top of this and all of the educational and therapeutic opportunities, they even showed us an incredible recreation program. Opportunities galore, right?
I know that when your friends and family hear that you’re exploring a place like this, they try so hard to focus on all of those positives. And while you can wrap your head around all of that intellectually, nothing can help you process what’s happening in your heart.
The day we brought Owen to his new home and school, our whole family went. We dropped him off in the Education Center. A peer brought him to his new classroom and we walked down to his new house. We decorated his room, put his clothes away, and then we had to drive away. You know how heartwrenching that is; I understand what you’ve been through.
Owen has minimal speech, and it is mostly just requesting food items: “Chips, please.” So, we couldn’t speak to him on the phone to hear how is day was but the teacher and the house manager were amazing about communicating how he was doing. He did request “mommy/daddy” and that was hard. If your child struggles with verbal communication too, I’m sure you get it. People can’t even imagine what it’s like to NOT know what your child needs.
But here’s the thing. And hopefully you had the same experience in your residential program. Owen’s transition to Anderson Center for Autism was so much smoother than I ever imagined. When we visited the first time, he was happy to see us. But when it was time for us to go, he was also happy to return to his residence. “Bye, see you later!” After all the grieving, some relief.
The sadness reveals itself – sometimes in predictable ways, and sometimes when you least expect it. That’s how it’s been for me. After having him home for a visit, I’d get to a certain point on the highway after we dropped him off and just cry. Eventually, as time went by, we would call and Owen was out– at the movies, playing basketball, roller skating or on a campus walk. I chuckle to myself thinking about how Owen does more things than I could ever imagine or hope for–he’s even been to the prom! Once a super-picky eater, he now eats meat and veggies and is no longer afraid of the doctor.
I know you have your own story that’s unique to your child and family. I’m guessing there are some parallels. I’m guessing it’s been a journey of overwhelming emotion. I’m guessing you’re one of the strongest people anyone in your community knows. And I’m guessing that your child is able to live a more productive, fulfilling life because of the heartbreaking decisions and sacrifices you’ve had to make.
And on Mother’s Day, I want you to know that I honor you. Although we may not know one another, I know so much of your pain, your anxieties, your heartbreaks, and your joys. You’re an awesome mom for making the tough choices. I hope you know that today and every day.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Art Beat: Susan Angeles' exhibition 'Moving Mountains' at Rosendale Café through April 28
The Daily Freeman
April 12, 2019
The Rosendale Cafe is hosting an exhibition titled "Moving Mountains," featuring paintings by Anderson Foundation Board Vice Chairperson Susan Angles through Sunday, April 28.
Angles drew inspiration for her paintings of mountain scenes from the autism community: family members, caregiver and direct support professionals who advocated for individuals living on the autism spectrum, according to a news release announcing the show.
“Oftentimes, the challenges for individuals with autism and their caregivers seem insurmountable. But when we work together as a community, we can accomplish a great deal. We gain the strength and courage to move mountains,” Angeles said in the release
Angeles' eldest son is a resident in one of Anderson Center’s group homes in Dutchess County, and his autism has had a huge effect on Angeles' life and work as an artist, the release said.
Angeles uses a variety of materials and textures and colors that stimulate sensory play like a tactic that helps calm children with autism, the release said. Angeles channels her son's desire for routine and predictability by using repetition to create rhthym and variation to give a sense of movement, the release added.
“My creative process begins with a general idea of a place or a feeling I want to express. I like to mix various types and viscosities of acrylic, and paint with different textures of fabric and paper,” Angeles said. “I experiment with different media and usually end up with my own, magical version of reality.”
Angeles has also exhibited her work in group shows sponsored by the League and at the ArtBar Gallery in Kingston. Angeles will donate 30 percent of her artwork sales to the Anderson Center for Autism.
The Rosendale Cafe is located at 434 Main St., Rosendale and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call (845) 658-9048 or visit rosendalecafe.com.