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New Online Campaign Seeks to Help High School Students with Autism Find Employment

June 27th, 2013

This summer, New York Collaborates for Autism (NYCA) is launching an online campaign to raise awareness and support for Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 to address the needs of families and individuals living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The campaign will last 30 days and aim to help more high school students with autism find a job.

Here’s how to help:

  • When someone joins (within the next 30 days), $25 will be donated to Project SEARCH Collaborates for autism in their name—no charge to you.
  • The campaign goal is to have 600 new supporters in 30 days

To learn more about this campaign, follow NYCA on Twitter (@NYC4A) or Facebook.

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Summer Programs for People with Special Needs: Therapeutic Riding Programs and Multi-Acre Sensory Trail

June 25th, 2013

This guest blog was written by Christine Fitzgerald, Communications Director, Pegasus Therapeutic Riding.

Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Center: 310 Peach Lake Road, (Route 121), Brewster, NY 10509


There is a world of truth behind the Winston Churchill quote “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Though they are large and powerful animals, horses can also be exceedingly gentle and patient. Add in a gait that virtually mirrors a human’s walking movements, and you have an ideal physical, emotional and cognitive therapeutic partner.

In the fall of 1974, a small group of equestrian women researched this very premise by observing therapeutic riding programs in Europe. A year later they launched Pegasus Therapeutic Riding’s first chapter at Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, Connecticut. Today Pegasus’ four regional chapters run programs for more than 300 students ages four and up each year. Participants range from people with special needs to military veterans to at-risk individuals, including disadvantaged youth and abuse survivors.

Pegasus is an accredited PATH International Premier Center with chapters throughout Putnam, Westchester and Fairfield counties, including Pegasus Farm, our 20-acre equestrian center in Brewster, N.Y. All of our instructors, physical therapists, occupational therapists and licensed educators are PATH International-certified professionals. They are assisted by skilled volunteers, and all of our horses and ponies are highly trained therapeutic partners.

Pegasus is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and more than 90% of our annual budget is funded by charitable donations. We rely heavily on the generosity of the community to fund our programs and further our mission.

OUR PROGRAMS

Pegasus offers therapeutic horseback riding, Horses & Me (an unmounted program), Pegasus Patriots for veterans and Wings for at-risk individuals. Weekly program sessions are held seasonally and are most often in 6-week or 12-week blocks. Each lesson is 45 minutes in duration. Therapeutic riding and Horses & Me session fees are $50 per week. Pegasus Patriots is a fully funded program, and the Wings program is partially funded. Prospective Wings and Pegasus Patriots students can contact Pegasus for further details.

During the summer, we offer both a weekly therapeutic riding program and our Summer Equine Experience, which is a five-day session from 9am-1pm Monday-Friday that combines therapeutic riding and Horses & Me. Both programs take place at our Pegasus Farm chapter. This year’s Summer Equine Experience dates are August 19-23 and August 26-30. Additional weeks may be scheduled based upon interest. The Summer Equine Experience is $750 per week per student, and snacks will be provided.

PROGRAM BENEFITS

Therapeutic riding can produce remarkably improved mobility, balance, posture, coordination, language development, behavior control and concentration. Lessons include instruction in basic riding skills as well as opportunities for social interaction, recreation, sport, therapy and work with developmental concepts. Lessons are conducted in our Ann Pinkerton Riding Arena or outdoors if the weather permits.

In addition to the arena, Pegasus Farm features a multi-acre sensory trail that is a fun and integral part of our therapeutic riding program. A sensory trail is a rich learning environment of woodland paths that includes natural sights and sounds as well as man-made sensory experiences. This environment challenges the students’ balance, stimulates their senses and encourages them to engage with the world around them. The Pegasus sensory trail features musical instruments, ball games, a fragrant herb garden, a “woodland village” of houses containing objects of all shapes and sizes, and a life-size road course complete with real street signs. Not surprisingly, the sensory trail is a favorite student activity.

Horses & Me activities take place during unmounted sessions in the barn and/or arena. Students progress through sequenced activities adapted to their abilities. Lesson topics may include grooming, equine nutrition and first aid, ground training, basic equine anatomy, and
how to tack up and lead a horse. Horses & Me activities offer a wide range of therapeutic benefits. Students can exercise their muscles, develop fine motor skills, socialize with peers, learn about routines and what it means to be responsible for another living thing, develop greater awareness and focusing skills, and build their confidence and leadership ability.

Pegasus Patriots and Wings are highly customized blends of our Horses & Me and therapeutic riding programs, based on the needs and goals of the participants. Groups and individuals are welcome.

REGISTRATION INFORMATION

For safety reasons, prospective students must be at least four years of age. A student or his/her parents or legal guardians should contact Program Coordinator Emily Wygod at (845) 669-8235 x104 or ewygod@pegasustr.org to begin the admissions process.

The prospective student will be asked to come in for an evaluation to determine general eligibility for participation in equine-assisted activities. The evaluation fee is $50. If Pegasus is an appropriate fit, the student will be placed in a program that meets the student’s goals and scheduling considerations.

For further information about Pegasus and to view photos of our programs, visit pegasustr.org.

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Changes Proposed in New York State Special Education Laws

June 10th, 2013

The New York State Education Department is pushing for legislation that would make significant changes in the state’s special education laws. The bill, A-7060 in the Assembly and S-5557 in the Senate, has been referred to the education committee.

  • Private School Students: The proposed legislation would make changes in the law that requires school districts to provide services to special needs students who attend nonpublic schools. The deadline to request such services would be moved from June 1 to April 1 for students who already have an Individualized Education Program. An Extended School Year would be available for these students, but they would not be entitled to a special class or Integrated Co-Teaching.

The bill would also make changes to membership in the Committees on Special Education. The position of school physician would be eliminated, and there would be a parent member only on request of the parent. Subcommittees would also be eliminated. Note that NYS regulations have already

  • Pre-School Evaluations: In regard to preschool, parents would no longer have the right to choose the evaluator for Preschool Special Education Evaluations. All school districts would be considered approved evaluators.
  • Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations for special education due process hearings would be reduced from two years to one year, except in regard to reimbursement for private school tuition, in which case the statute of limitations would be six months from the student’s placement in the private school.
  • Transportation: Finally, CSE Composition confirmed students receiving transportation services up to a distance of 50 miles to and from a nonpublic school, to receive services similar to those available in the district of residence, would not be entitled to special education services from the district of location.

This proposed legislation will have a significant impact on the services to students with disabilities.

For more information, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com

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