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Programs And Advocating For ‘Acceptance’ Big Part Of NYFS Services



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This is the third of four weekly reports being presented during April, Autism Awareness Month, and was produced by Newtown Youth & Family Services.

For the staff and support professionals at Newtown Youth & Family Services, April is Autism Acceptance Month — previously changed from Autism Awareness Month.

The new term advocates for inclusion and respect for people on the autism spectrum.

Autism is a developmental disorder that inhibits a person’s abilities to communicate and interact with others, and NYFS recognizes the need for empowering people with autism spectrum disorders by offering year-round programs for all ages, interests and abilities.

Those programs include Reaching Everyone’s Capabilities (REC) — a social and recreation club for children (7-12 years old), teenagers (13-17 years old) and adults (18 years old or older) with social difficulties or moderate to high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. REC members engage in activities and outings with guidance from trained NYFS staff.

The goal of the program is to make friends and have fun while developing individual growth, confidence, independence, flexibility and patience.

Members of the Children’s and Teen REC Club will participate in group games & seasonal arts, collaborative play, LEGO & model construction, garden bed building, aerodynamics & model rocketry, Veggiecation cooking, plus activities at Rockin’ Jump and the Cave.

REC for Adults is slightly different in that participants are encouraged and guided to implement their own social group events. This year, the group has gone to the Cave, Chuck’s Steak House, Gisella’s Ristorante and Square One Bar & Grill.

Based on survey results, most Children’s and Teen REC Club participants found outings to mini-golf and laser tag most enjoyable. One parent remarked, “he loved the Rockin’ Jump trip. He really enjoys any activity that gets him up and moving.”

Additionally, 90 percent of Adult REC members stated they found the activities enjoyable.

Children’s and Teen REC follow the same session plan and operate through an ongoing seasonal cycle with two spring sessions, two winter sessions and one fall session. Each session is 5 weeks long and the groups meet weekly on Wednesdays for Children’s REC and Thursdays for Teens from 5:30 to 7 pm.

The current REC Spring Session concluded April 19 and 20 with Session II starting May 17 and 18. The cost per five-week session is $170.

Adult REC meets year-round bi-weekly on Tuesdays for two hours between 5:30 and 8 pm. The next Adult REC meeting is on April 25. The cost per 6-month session is $28, not including additional activity fees.

Life Skills & Sibshops

The NYFS program Life Skills is for young adults 18 years old or older with social difficulties or autism spectrum disorders. The program is intended to increase knowledge and the skills necessary for everyday living, and focuses on career planning, personal finance, nutrition, food safety, food preparation & cooking, household care and cleaning & maintenance.

When surveyed, 100 percent of parents said they noticed a positive change from their youth after completing the program.

Life Skills operates on a monthly schedule, meeting on Mondays from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Newtown Community Center. The next Life Skills meeting is May 15. The cost of the program is $35.

Another popular program is Sibshops — a support group for siblings of kids with special and developmental needs.

Sibshops provides young brothers and sisters (9-14 years old) peer support and information in a lively, recreational setting. Members will talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sibling with special needs with others who “get it,” learn how others handle sticky situations sometimes faced by brothers and sisters, play games and have fun.

One parent noted, “I know that my child looks forward to the group and I’m assuming that it makes her feel less ‘alone’ as a sibling to someone with special needs.”

Sibshops operates on a monthly schedule, meeting on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7 pm. The next Sibshops meeting is May 3. The cost per session is $25.

Summer Employment

The Northwest Regional Workforce Investment Board (NRWIB) has chosen NYFS to operate a youth employment program for eligible youth 14-24 years old.

NYFS will provide youth career development focused work experience through support services, career exploration, leadership and mentoring. Special interest will be given to fostered, pregnant, homeless, justice-involved youth, English language learners, youth with disabilities and those with low income status.

Youth will earn the Connecticut State minimum wage of $15 an hour and work a minimum of 20 hours per week for six weeks between July 5 and August 18. Contact NYFS at 203-270-4335 for more information.

All prospective members of the Children’s or Teen REC Club, along with the Life Skills program must meet with Adam Horvath, Autism Recreation Coordinator. E-mail AHorvath@newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org or call 203-270-4335.

Interested participants of the Adult REC Club must contact Daryl Might, Case Manager at DMight@newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org or call 203-270-4335.

Limited financial assistance is available to individuals who might not otherwise be able to participate. If you would like to apply for financial assistance for one of the programs listed, contact Horvath.

All programs are held at Newtown Youth & Family Services, 15 Berkshire Road, unless otherwise specified.

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