Special Needs Long Island Radio Show

I’ve got a new gig!


I’m pleased to announce I am now co-hosting Special Needs Long Island, a weekly radio program dedicated to the special needs community on Long Island.  My co-host is Jeffrey Silverman, Director of Special Needs Planning for the Center for Wealth Preservation in Syosset, New York.


Every Monday night, from 6:30 to 7PM, we feature guests from special needs organizations, professionals practicing in the field and individuals with special needs.


Please tune in 1240 AM WGBB or on the web at www.am1240wgbb.com (click on Listen Live)

Broadway Roars: Autism Friendly Performance at Lion King

Broadway is becoming autism friendly!  The Theater Development Fund (TDF) has started a new program known as the Autism Theater Initiative  to make theater more accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum and their families.


The Lion King has been chosen as the first ever Broadway autism-friendly play with a special performance and reduced prices for its October 2 matinee.  The show sold out quickly, but we can expect if the results are good, that it will be repeated.  You can sign up for information on future performances here.


According to the NY Times, some of the modifications made for this special performance include less strobe lighting and softening of the sound in some places.  Many autistic persons are sensitive to light and sound.


The entire theater has been bought out for this performance.  Although many Broadway productions have the ability to modify shows for hearing and sight impaired people, those modifications are made during regular performances.  According to Lisa Carling, T.D.F.’s director of accessibility programs:


“We wanted to create an environment that was welcoming to children and their parents so they could come in and not be afraid of judgment from other theatergoers who might not understand why a child is doing repetitive movements, or rocking back and forth, or why a child might need to wear headphones or get up in the middle of a song and take a time out in the lobby.”


What a wonderful idea.  Let’s hope that more shows follow, and that The Lion King has much success.

NY to Require Insurance Companies to Pay for Autism Treatments

Via a press release issued by Chairman of the Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee Senator Roy McDonald:

The New York State Senate today approved legislation to enable individuals with autism spectrum disorders to receive insurance coverage for screening, diagnosis and treatment. The bill (S.4005A), sponsored by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R, Merrick), would save tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses spent by families caring for individuals with autism and address insurance companies’ refusal to cover costs for autism treatments and therapies.

Autism Spectrum Disorders affect individuals of all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 110 children, including 1 in 70 boys, are currently affected with autism.

The legislation requires insurance companies to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, including behavioral health treatments, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Insurance companies would be prohibited from terminating coverage or refusing to renew, adjust, amend, issue, or execute a policy solely because the individual has been diagnosed with or received treatment for autism spectrum disorders.

Understanding Autism: It’s Not Monkey Business

Teco, a young bonobo chimpanzee, is exhibiting signs of autistic behavior, according to BoingBoing. His famous father, Kanzi, uses symbols to communicate with humans.  Both chimps can be found at The Great Ape Trust, a nonprofit foundation whose tag line is “Insights through Collaborations with Apes.”

Researchers immediately noticed that Teco was not acting like normal baby chimps.  He did not bond with his mother, did not make eye contact and he became agitated when his surroundings weren’t exactly as he wanted them to be.  Sound familiar?  Furthermore, Teco is showing some repetitive movement, another very human sign of autism syndrome.

Here are a few more questions, answered by Teco’s caretakers: Q &A.


Play Ball! Special Needs Kids on Long Island

A brand new baseball little league has been form on Long Island, welcoming disabled children.  The Little League of the Islips’ Challengers team is comprised of two teams, the Hurricanes and the Cyclones.

As CBS News commented, “the Field of Dreams belongs to everyone.”

The Challengers are the brainchild of Kelly Pipitone and Frank Fritz.  Kelly’s son Jake plays on the team.

There are some special rules too– According to Newsday, each player will be accompanied by a volunteer who will stay by his or her side during the game.  One other special rule?  Everyone wins.

And truly, with dedicated parents and coaches, everyone on Long Island does win.

Early Screening Tool Could Detect Autism by Age 1

A new approach to screening for some autism spectrum disorders may be able to detect autism by the age of 1, a great advance. Earlier detection and treatment can lead to better outcomes, as parents and teachers of children with autism know.

The Journal of Pediatrics has prepared a checklist to be used at baby’s one year checkup. The checklist can be found here.

According to the PBS Newshour, this test can be quickly filled out in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office and is reliable more than half the time.

Charlie Will Never Return: MTA to No Longer Run Long Island Bus

According to Newsday, the MTA voted today to end its contract with Long Island bus, despite protests from bus riders and pleas from transit advocates.   As of December 31st, a private company will take over the operations.

What private company?  It isn’t yet known.  This does not bode well for a smooth transition.

As I have said before, this disproportionately affects the disabled and the elderly, but as of today, all we can do is wait and see what happens.

And as to Charlie, mentioned in my headline above, he may never return.

Light it Up Blue Kicks Off World Awareness Autism Day

I was in Home Depot this morning, shopping for light bulbs, when I noticed a rack of blue light bulbs with a prominent sign “Light it Up Blue—Autism Speaks.”


In an effort to raise awareness of autism, Autism Speaks is seeking to “shine a light on autism by raising awareness of autism in communities across the United States and Canada.


Even the Empire State Building is turning its lights blue for this event!


For more about this event, check out www.lightitupblue.org and participate!

Long Island Bus Cuts–Public Hearing March 23

Call to Action


Everyone who has any family members or friends who are disabled or elderly must attend this public hearing  at Hofstra University March 23, 2011 at 3PM to protest the plans to cut 25 of Long Island’s bus routes and 20% of Able-Ride’s service cuts.

Cuts unfairly target Long Island’s Disabled Riders


The MTA is set to vote in April on its plan to cut 25 , or almost half, of its Long Island bus service routes in July.  The MTA is claiming, and perhaps rightfully so, that it is unfair that Nassau County only contributes $9.1 million to the Long Island Bus annual budget of $141 million.  In contrast, Suffolk County contributes $24 million to its $48 million bus budget.

These service cuts would strand 16,000 riders, many of whom are disabled, and unable to afford taxis.  Currently, the bus services more than 100,000 riders each day.

My daughter takes three buses in each direction to get to her classes at Nassau Community College.  It already takes her more than two hours each way.  Last semester she took an evening course and often missed the last bus and had to take a taxi to get home.

Disabled to Lose Able Ride Buses


According to Newsday, as many as 18%, or 200 of Able-Ride’s 1130 daily riders will no longer be eligible for door-to-door service if the proposed cuts are made.

I urge everyone to attend the public hearings at Hofstra University March 23, 2011 at 3PM.  You can take the N46 or the N47 bus lines to get there.

Special Education Success at School for Disabled

The Henry Visconti School, a New York State supported special education school that prides itself on treating its students with dignity and respect, was recently praised in the New York Times for allowing severely disabled students to succeed in school through the use of technology and on-site medical care.

According to the school website, the Henry Viscardi School is a teaching community of students, parents, teachers, staff, and volunteers dedicated to empowering students with physical disabilities and health impairments to enable them to be active, independent, self sufficient participants in society.

I’m proud to know this school exists in our neighborhood, and is a fine example of how our tax dollars are spent to help the special needs community.