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April 8, 2015              



New Service to Benefit Residents with Speech, Hearing Impairments; Traditional Telephone Calls to 911 System Still Preferred Communication Method 

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Commissioner of Central Police Services John Glascott, Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr., and Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled Frank Cammarata to announce that “text to 9-1-1” is now available to Erie County residents seeking assistance during an emergency. While traditional telephone calls to the system remain the preferred method of communication in an emergency, the alternative “texting” form of communication will be beneficial to individuals with speech or hearing impairments, as well as for use in situations where a telephone call is not possible such as when a crime is in progress or when the caller is facing domestic violence or abuse. 

“Adding a texting component to the 9-1-1 system allows individuals who may not be able to speak into a telephone for whatever reason to access emergency help when it is needed, without ever speaking a word. In accidents with injuries, in domestic violence situations, or whenever a person can’t speak but needs help, a text to 9-1-1 will get assistance on the way,” said Poloncarz. “However, everyone should be aware that use of the text to 9-1-1 service carries the same responsibilities as the traditional phone 9-1-1 system, and that this is not something to be abused. This is a life-saving resource, and frivolous or non-serious usage of the system could result in critical resources being diverted away from an individual who really needs help. The system is there to be used when it is needed, and as with the traditional 9-1-1 phone system, abuse of the system carries penalties.” 

Over the past several months, Erie County’s E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center received major equipment upgrades to provide these enhanced 9-1-1 capabilities. Text messages to 9-1-1 follow the same parameters as other texted wireless messages; callers are limited to 160 characters and reception and service will be limited if cell phone service is interrupted. 

“We have been working with the mobile carriers in the area such as Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to make sure this system is operational for our citizens,” said Erie County Central Police Services Commissioner John Glascott. “All of the public safety telecommunicator call takers at the 9-1-1 center have been trained to respond to text-to-9-1-1 calls. After a vigorous testing period we are pleased to activate it and offer it as another life-saving tool for the public.””

 “This system provides better access to the 9-1-1 system for the deaf and hard of hearing community and will also help people who may be non-verbal,” added Executive Director Cammarata. “Assistive technologies for people with a disability have greatly increased in the past few years, allowing them greater access to services. This is another terrific and helpful example.”  

“Erie County will be one of the few counties in Western New York capable of handling text-to-9-1-1 calls,” said Michelle Kerr, Erie County’s Deputy Director of Law Enforcement Communications. “The 9-1-1 text message rings in similar to a normal phone call. The incoming text message will appear on all of our equipment. Once we answer the call, a text screen will open, at which point text dialogue with the caller can begin.” 

In most cases Erie County’s equipment will be able to see the general location of the caller/texter. If for some reason text to 9-1-1 service is found to be unavailable, the caller will receive a text message instructing them to make a phone call because there is no text service available to 9-1-1 at that time. When the call is over, the caller will receive a text message confirming that the dialogue has closed. 

County officials remind everyone that calling 9-1-1 remains the fastest and most efficient way to communicate with emergency personnel. 

The following steps must be taken in order to text to 9-1-1 during an emergency:

 •          Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field. 

•          The first text message to 9-1-1 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help that is needed. 

•          Push the “send” button.                                         

•          Be prepared to answer questions and follow all instructions. 

•          Text in simple words and do not use abbreviations. 

Below are a few things to know about the text to 9-1-1 service: 

•          Text location information may not be equal to current location technology. 

•          As with all text messages, 9-1-1 messages can take longer to receive, can get out of order, or may not be received. 

•          Text-to-9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming. 

•          A text plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1. 

•          If texting to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating that texting 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means. 

•          Photos and videos can’t be sent to 9-1-1. 

•          Text to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one person. Do not send an emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1. 

•          Don’t text and drive.


NFTA Rider Alert

Attention Metro Rail Passengers  

Due to Construction Metro Rail will use the inbound track only, Monday and Tuesday April 13 and 14, 9 p.m. till closing. 

Allen Medical Station to Humboldt Hospital Station. Signs at the stations will identify The temporary closing for Allen Medical Station, scheduled for April 15, has been delayed. A new date will be announced when one is confirmed. 



                           March 6, 2015                           


Community Forum at Downtown Library Part of National Effort Underway to Stop Bullying, Hurtful Language  

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, the Erie County Office for the Disabled was joined by over 15 human service agencies from around Erie County at the Central Library in downtown Buffalo as part of an annual national effort to “Spread the Word to End the Word”. The event brought parents, teachers, and students together in an effort to raise societal consciousness about the dehumanizing effects of the “r-word” (“retard” or “retarded”), encouraging attendees to sign a pledge to stop using the word, and also called attention to the many forms of physical, verbal, and cyber bullying and the need to eradicate them. 

“When we join together to speak out against cruel and harmful language and we teach our children to do the same, we begin to build a more inclusive and tolerant community. There is no place for bullying or for destructive labels like the r-word in Erie County, and today we pledge to not use hurtful language ourselves and remind others to do the same,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.  “Words really can hurt, and events like this help underscore the potential damage that bullying can do both to the victim and the perpetrator. I want to thank the Office for the Disabled and their partners for once again leading the way and spotlighting this issue.” 

Open to families and students from elementary through high school and from across Erie County, the Community Forum took place from 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM and included the signing of the “Anti-Bullying Pledge” Banner by all in attendance. The forum also featured poetry readings by Starlight Poets, and participants played the “I Am…Game”, a thought-provoking exercise meant to look past the labels of names and titles and instead focus on a personal attribute. In addition, Program & Operations Manager for the University at Buffalo’s Alberti Center for Bullying Prevention Brie Kishel moderated a presentation of short films centered on disability awareness and advocacy, themes that were also explored in the forum’s keynote discussion by Batavia Self Advocates.“Today’s event is about spreading the word that people with an intellectual or developmental disability have unique gifts and talents to be shared. The language we use affects people’s attitudes, so please think before you speak,” said Frank Cammarata, Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled. 

Sponsors for Community Involvement Day include the Erie County Office for the Disabled, Self-Advocates of NYS (“SANYS”), the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, the Learning Disabilities Association, Starlight Studios, the University at Buffalo Alberti Center, and People, Inc. 

For more information: 

 On the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, visit      http://www.r-word.org


Mel Ott Challenger Division Little League Baseball

For Children and Adults with Disabilities

Ages 4 & up

Games played Sunday mornings

Mel Ott Little League

377 Meyer Road, Amherst, NY 14226

For Info and Registration Materials

Jacqui at 839-1224 or email jacqui.berger@gmail.com





Little League Challenger Division is ready to begin another baseball season.  We are moving and hope you will come with us! We are excited about our new affiliation.  We have become a Division of Mel Ott and continue to play in Amherst at a new location on Sunday mornings. We will be playing at Mel Ott Little League 377 Meyer Road, Amherst, NY 14226.  We will continue to play on Sunday mornings. Children play at 10 a.m. and the adults play at 11:30.  The times may be adjusted during July.   It is a great opportunity to volunteer and earn community service hours.  Please share this information with your friends.  While we are looking for buddies who can make a regular commitment, we welcome volunteers any week.  

Buddies team up with a player with a disability and help them to play baseball to the best of their ability.  Knowledge of baseball is not necessary.  If you are under 18, please consult with your parents before making this commitment.  If you have any questions, call Jacqui at 839-1224 or email me at Jacqui.berger@gmail.come.  As part of the Little League Child Protection Program, Little League requires all volunteers over 16 to complete the attached volunteer application. Please complete the form and return the volunteer application, photo I.D. and the form at the bottom of this page.  Return all forms to: 

Jacqui Berger 

181 Bernhardt Dr. 

Snyder, NY 14226    

Mel Ott Little League Challenger Division Buddy Program.   

_____ I would like to volunteer as a buddy for a child.  Games start at 10:00 a.m. and I will arrive 15 minutes before game time.  I will arrive at 9:45 a.m.  

_____ I would like to volunteer as a buddy for an adult.  Games start at 11:30 a.m. and I will arrive 15 minutes before game time.  I will arrive at 11:15 a.m. 


_____  I would like to volunteer at both sessions.  


Name ___________________________________  Grade  ____________   Age _____


 Address  ___________________________________  School  ____________________


 City  _______________  Zip  _______  Phone #  ____________   Email ____________


Do you need a Community Service Letter?    Yes_______  No ______


 March 2015  

Dear Parents, Coaches, and Friends, 

It’s time to Play ball!  We are moving and hope you will come with us! We are excited about our new affiliation.  They are excited to have us become a part of their organization and will be inclusive and supportive.  We will become a Division of Mel Ott and continue to play in Amherst at a new location on Sunday mornings. We will be playing at Mel Ott Little League 377 Meyer Road, Amherst, NY 14226.  We will continue to play on Sunday mornings. Children play at 10 a.m. and the adults play at 11:30.  The times may be adjusted during July. Please register promptly. Make checks payable to Mel Ott Little League and write Challenger on the memo line. Agencies, who need time to process registration fees, please send the registrations in with a note and have the agency identify the individuals they are paying for when they send the fees.  Our season will start on May 3 and continue through July. 

As always, we are looking for more volunteers.  We need coaches and additional buddies.  Each team needs a team parent(s) to coordinate volunteers, phone trees, and activities.

If you have any questions or would like to volunteer, please call Jacqui at 839-1224. 

We look forward to seeing you soon!  

Jacqui Berger                         Christy Williams-Wood                        


839-1224                                                     835-3836

Jacqui.berger@gmail.com                               cwillwood@me.com




Families needed for interview with physician assistant students- can you help? 

Professor Erica Newsome from Daemen contacted me hoping we can help connect the Physician Assistant  students to family's with a child at home who has a developmental disability.   The interview will take about half an hour and can be conducted at a mutual date. The children must also be of school age and under 18. 

As part of the physician assistance program at Daemen College students need to conduct a mini survey with families who have a child under the age of 18 with a developmental disability. 

If you are willing to participate please provide the following information: 



Phone number 

Email (if possible)  

Age of child  

Professor Newsom will then assign the students with a family. The students are responsible to reach out to the family and set up time to meet.  

Thank you for your support.  

Professor Erica A Newsom 

Vickie Rubin, M.S. Ed.  Phone - 716-880-3880 

Early Childhood Direction Center
3131 SHERIDAN DRIVE, People Inc Building
The only acceptable R-word is “respect”. 



 10 Things You Should Know about Social Security Benefits 

1. Get to Know Disability.gov, the federal government website for information on disability programs and services in communities nationwide. Visitors can explore resources covering 10 main topics, including housing, employment and healthcare. Since the site is a directory of resources, you will be sent to other websites managed by the federal government, state and local government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to get the information or help you need. 

Disability.gov does not process disability benefits applications or decide who has a disability. Those matters are handled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and your state’s Disability Determination Service. However, Disability.gov does connect you to information, such as qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. To learn more about navigating Disability.gov, read the “How to Use the Site” guide. You can also browse 14 different guides, which provide a brief overview of the site’s most important topics like disability benefits and financial help for low income individuals and families. 

2. Applying for Disability Benefits. Last year, more than 2.5 million people applied for Social Security disability benefits, and that number is expected to continue growing as baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965) enter their most disability-prone years. For the nine million who receive a monthly check, the average disability benefit is only $1,146, an amount barely above the 2013 poverty level of $11,490 annually; yet, even this modest level of support makes a difference. 

So where should you begin? Disability.gov offers a thorough Guide to Disability Benefits, which connects visitors to information on what you need to apply, as well as what SSA means by “disabled.” You should also check out SSA’s factsheet on “What You Should Know before You Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits” and the Disability Planner. Next, use this checklist to help you gather the necessary pieces of information. Finally, read this brochure about applying online, which will help you save time, money and a trip to the Social Security office! 

3. Benefits for Children with Disabilities. If you have a child with a disability who is younger than 18 years of age, he or she may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To get started, review SSA’s Child Disability Starter Kit, which includes a factsheet on the application process, a child disability interview preparation checklist and a Medical and School Worksheet. You can submit the Child Disability Report online, but you must complete your SSI application over the phone or schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office. Adults who have a disability that began before the age of 22 may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. In this case, SSDI is considered a “child benefit” because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. Visit Disability.gov for an easy-to-read overview on the requirements of both SSI and SSDI. 

4. Returning to Work. Earlier this month, SSA released its free 2015 Red Book – A Guide to Work Incentives, which includes everything you need to know about returning to work, employment supports and other resources to help you during your transition. If you don’t want to read the entire publication, check out what’s new this year. You should also learn about Ticket to Work, where you can get career counseling, job placement and training from Employment Networks or your state Vocational Rehabilitation agency. Watch this YouTube video, sign up for a monthly Work Incentive Seminar Event (WISE) webinar or call 1-866-968-7842 (TTY: 1-866-833-2967) to learn about the program and different work incentives. The best part is that you can take advantage of a trial work period during which you can test your ability to work while still receiving your full Social Security benefits for at least nine months. 

5. Survivor Benefits. Losing a loved one takes a toll – both emotionally and financially. But did you know that immediate family members of a deceased loved one may be eligible for Social Security survivor benefits, depending on the amount of time he or she worked? If you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn up to four Social Security credits per year, and the time you put in affects the amount of survivor benefits your family may receive. Under a special rule, SSA can pay benefits to your spouse and children even if you don’t have the required number of credits. If you have a disability that started before or within seven years of your spouse’s death, you may be eligible for survivor benefits, too. Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security office to schedule an appointment. 

6. Your Claim Is Denied, What’s Next? You’ve submitted an application for disability benefits, checked the status and found out that it’s been denied. First, you have a right to question the decision made on your claim by filing an appeal, which must be submitted in writing within 60 days of the date you received your denial letter. There are four levels of the appeals process, beginning with a request for reconsideration. During this stage, a Social Security representative, who was not involved in making the first decision, will review your claim. If you disagree with his or her decision, you may then request a hearing with an administrative law judge. The next level is a hearing with the Appeals Council, and finally, you may file a civil suit in a federal district court. You may want to contact your local Legal Aid Office to find out if you qualify for free legal assistance. 

7. Should I Hire a Representative? Last month, Disability.gov posted a guest blog on “10 Questions to Ask a Lawyer before Hiring One for Your Disability Case.” Many readers correctly pointed out that although everyone has the right to be represented by an attorney or another representative, it is not required, nor is it needed to file a claim. It’s a well-known fact that SSA initially rejects more than 60 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance applications; according to Allsup, a provider of Social Security disability representation, common mistakes include not providing enough information or underestimating the extent of one’s disability. Watch this seven-part video series to learn more about the disability process. SSA representatives explain in detail what happens when a claim is denied and how to appeal the decision. Only you can weigh the pros and cons, including costs, of hiring a lawyer or non-attorney representative to help your case. 

8. Fraud, Waste and Abuse of Benefits. It might be tempting to fudge information on your Social Security application to “improve” your chances of getting benefits; however, if you commit fraud, you could face penalties of up to $5,000 and be required to repay up to twice the amount of benefits you received fraudulently. Making false statements on claims, falsifying information that affects eligibility or failing to report worker’s compensation are all situations of fraud. Sometimes beneficiaries are the target. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 75 percent of fraud victims, age 55 and older, never report it, resulting in $2.9 billion in losses each year. For this reason, SSA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging have stepped up efforts to combat fraud targeting seniors. If you believe someone is committing fraud, you should report it to the OIG Fraud Hotline. 

9. Identity Theft may provide plenty of material for a witty comedy, but for the 16.6 million people affected by it in 2012, there was no comic relief in the circumstances. While most cases involved the fraudulent use of an existing account, such as a credit card or bank account, crooks also used the stolen identities of more than 1.1 million people to open new accounts. With your Social Security Number (SSN), fraudsters can apply for credit cards, mortgages and even file a fake tax return to claim your refund. As journalist Phil McKenna found out, tracking down information like the date and location of your birth or answers to security questions is not hard, especially when the information is available online. 

Even worse, the damage caused might take years to repair, which is why it is important to protect yourself. Never post your SSN, birth date, disability benefits confirmation number or other personally identifiable information online. You should call SSA if you want to discuss or check the status of your application. If your identity is stolen, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website for information on what to do right away and what to do next. You can also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center’s free Victim Assistance Call Center to speak with a trained counselor at any time by calling 888-400-5530. 

10. Saving Money while Receiving Disability Benefits. In December 2014, President Barack Obama signed into law the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act. Better known as the ABLE Act, it allows people who have a disability that occurred before the age of 26 to open one tax-free savings account to pay for qualified disability expenses. This money can be used for education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, health and wellness, as well as other miscellaneous expenses. Under current gift-tax limitations, families may deposit as much as $14,000 annually, and beneficiaries can save up to $100,000 before impacting their SSI benefits; Medicaid eligibility will continue no matter how much money is saved. You won’t be able to apply for one until later this year, but in the meantime, review this list of 10 Things You Must Know about ABLE accounts from the National Disability Institute. 

Don’t forget to like Disability.gov on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and use #disabilityconnection to talk about this newsletter. You can also read Disability.Blog for insightful tips and information from experts and disability advocates.

Read past issues of the Disability Connection newsletter.



Budd Bailey’s Running: Group puts focus on including the disabled

on February 14, 2015 - 7:22 PM, updated February 14, 2015 at 11:45 PM 

A group of Western New Yorkers believe that as many people as possible should have the chance to be involved in local running events. During the past few months, they’ve tried to do something about it.

They formed the Rollin’ Athletic Club Inclusion Network, which shortens to “RACIN!”

“I work for the Western New York Developmental Disabilities Office as a psychologist,” Eric Frank said. “One of my colleagues, BJ Stasio, is in a wheelchair, and he was unable to enter the Corporate Challenge. We said, that’s not cool. We need to make sure people in wheelchairs, and those with developmental disabilities, can take part in local operations.”

Frank and the rest of the group contacted Frank Cammarata of the Erie County Office for the Disabled along with other groups in 2013 on what to do next. It should be noted that RACIN! is not a government program and received no funding from that source, and it’s also separate from Frank’s employer.

A committee was formed, monthly meetings were held, and an organization was formed. RACIN became a part of the Developmental Disability Alliance of WNY. All of that, naturally, was the easy part.

“Financially, it’s going to take a big effort,” Frank said. “We’ve been talking to people in the community. Our goal is to get people in the racing community on board. The goal is inclusion for people with disabilities. They haven’t been included in activities that are out there. We want to break through.”

There were a couple of obvious starting points. The group contacted race directors of 5-kilometer events around the area to see if they would be willing to accommodate such participants. They were.

Then RACIN! collected enough money to buy a racing chair. A basic chair costs about $2,300, while one that has extra stability built in goes for $3,400.

“In 2014, we were in five races – Linda Yalem Run, Breaking the Sound Barrier, Heritage Center, Dash for Diversity and Kidney Foundation,” Frank said. “This year, we’re slated to be in 10. About five races came up to us and said, ‘We’re inspired, we’re all about inclusion.’ ”

Sending one person out on a race course isn’t a small task under these circumstances. It takes a team of people to do it. Some of the assistants take turns pushing a person and the chair around the course.

“It’s an average of five people,” Frank said. “We’ve had a number of community members be pushers. If you talk to the pushers, they say it’s what Buffalo is all about, that it makes sense to break down barriers. ... They love it because they love running, and open it up to others. You run alongside and get to know the people in the chair a bit.

“We’ve had high school students on local race teams. We’ve had parents, fathers and mothers, who make up a core group that goes racing.”

Veteran runners who have taken part in many races know that street surfaces around Western New York can be on the bumpy side. What’s more, weather like this weekend’s certainly will ensure that “pothole season” will be with us for a long time in 2015.

Frank said his organization has tried to account for potential problems in that area.

“It’s been a concern,” he said. “We’ve looked for races with flat terrain. If it’s too hilly, it’s too much work for the pushers.

“Also, each group has a scout to ensure that the group goes in the right direction. We want to make sure it’s a smooth ride. We’ve done a good job of ensuring the safety of those in the chair and of the pushers.”

By the way, while wheelchair athletes are the most visible participants in some ways, RACIN! also has a goal of expanding past simply wheelchair athletes.

“We also want to get people with any disability walking or running with us,” Frank said. “We’re not limited by the chairs we have. We can get many people. What some people might see as a limitation, we’ll find a way to get as many people as possible involved.”

There’s a nice reward for those who are part of the program – the reaction to those who are aided as they travel the course.

“The people who have developmental disabilities – some are verbal, some are not verbal – they just light up,” Frank said. “They are lighting up right on the track.”

Additional information about the organization can be found at buffaloracin.org.

Race calendar






Looking for support? There's help available! Our group is dual-purposed, and serves as both a parent/guardian support group in addition to a child play group. Children with visual impairments ages birth - 5 are who our group primarily serves, however; this group also welcomes children with any developmental delays or disabilities in that age range. We meet once a month to talk about concerns, obstacles, and successes you may be encountering with your child, in addition to allowing free play time for our children. The overall purpose of this group is to provide support and allow for new connections to be fostered among a community of parents, caregivers, and children


You can contact ECDC Staff at ECDC@kaleidahealth.org 

telephone 1-800-462-7853




Creating a Sensory Friendly Home Environment for Children on the Autism Spectrum - National Autism Network


Individuals with autism often experience sensory difficulties that can make everyday interaction painstaking. Noises that typically go without notice to the general public can be a huge challenge for an individual with autism, and prevent them from being able to focus on a given task or possibly even lead to a meltdown.  

Although not considered core features of autism, sensory issues, which can impact all 5 senses, have been found to affect nearly 90 percent of children on the spectrum in some way or another. While it is impossible to control others out in public, there are steps you can take as parents to make your home more sensory-friendly for your child. A child's sensory needs could involve the reduction of stimuli or an increase of stimulation depending on the situation.2 This article will discuss features you can add in your home to make it more comfortable for your child experiencing sensory sensitivities.  

Children with autism have sensory needs that may be viewed as odd to the layman individual unfamiliar with the disorder. Actions like lining objects in a row or stimming can seem peculiar, but may offer therapeutic value for that individual. Below are some examples of household features that can assist these sensory needs as well as items that can transform your home into a living space that is more sensory friendly:  

Design: When planning a sensory-friendly environment it is important to envision how the design or the layout of the area will affect the child's abilities. You are going to want to design a room to be sensory-friendly by constructing it so that it cuts down on outside stimuli, is organized (and can be easily reorganized).  Plan as much out in the design phase as possible including furniture arrangement, color schemes, child's needs, how much sunlight is getting in, the type of theme you desire, if any, outlet placement, what your budget is, the types of sensory devices/activities you would like to include, etc.   This is most important in rooms in where your child spends the majority of their time, such as their room, the living room, kitchen, and bathroom.   

Color: Colors have the power to incite specific emotions and feelings inside of us. For example, red, which triggers stimulation, appetite, and hunger, and yellow, which triggers feelings of happiness and friendliness, are often used by fast food companies to get you to subconsciously desire their food. 

When it comes to colors for children on the autism spectrum, less is more, as some research has found that children with autism see color more intensely than their neurotypical peers.  

One of the cornerstones of making a room sensory-friendly is to cut down on overstimulation. To stay true to this concept, colors should be low-toned, or muted, patterns should be minimal, and colors should be chosen wisely. For example, blue has been found to be the most calming, while reds were found to be the most arousing in children with autism. No matter how you plan your room's colors, you can always add sensory stimuli to them according to your child's needs.  

Lighting: This is where you get to really be creative, especially for your child's room. A calming environment will naturally be void of intense lighting from fluorescent bulbs, but in their place a number of different lighting techniques can be used. Bright or fluorescent lights can be disorienting for those on the spectrum, causing them to seek refuge or isolate themselves in a more controlled environment.  Every room in your house should have a dimmer switch so that the lighting can be adjusted according to your child's needs. For your child's room, you can introduce lighting in a variety of ways. Black lights, Christmas lights, bubble tubes, projectors, LED lights, fiber optics, night lights etc. are all viable ways to provide lighting in your child's room.  Putting a piece of fabric safely around a lighting fixture can also reduce light. While there is a consensus within the autism community that fluorescent lighting should be avoided, the jury is still out on natural light. Some argue that natural light aids cognitive abilities and overall health. However, there are others who believe that natural lighting is detrimental to an individual with autism because distractions like glare, shifting sunlight patterns, and outside visual stimuli are too great. However, for a home setting natural light is encouraged, and there is nothing stopping you from drawing a curtain if it becomes too big of a distraction. Blackout curtains can be helpful, especially for children who often experience sleep issues.  

Organization/Structure: Let's face it, kids will be kids, and that means they will be messy. However, keeping rooms structured and organized is important for maintaining routine. Play things do not only need to be organized in a logical manner, but able to be easily accessed by your child whenever he/she pleases. Of the utmost importance is safety. Be sure to arrange furniture and your electronic devices so that there aren't any exposed wiring or outlet holes. Your structure and organization doesn't need to end in your child's room or even have to involve their possessions.  Other organization tips include a toy bin on wheels, a sensory "sweet spot" full of pillows and other sensory-friendly items, simple routines, and anything that will make your child feel more comfortable.  

Furniture: The type of furniture you have in your house can go a long way to providing structure and organization, as well as ensuring your child's safety. Children tend to be rough on furniture, especially their own, so make sure to purchase durable items. In the dining room, cushioned, heavy chairs with long backs provide the most support and security. For children who have poor motor skills, a low-rise table may be suitable to prevent from tipping or falling out of chairs.  

In their room, arrange furniture so your child can easily transition from activity to activity without breaking routine. Also, arrange the furniture in such a way that they are away from shelves or other places where the child may climb. It is also important to keep in mind that doorknobs and hooks can be viewed as invitations for climbing in the eyes of a child who views the entire world as their personal play palace. For children who have the motor skills and the desire, there are sensory room designs that include rock climbing walls.  Labels on the furniture can be helpful at not only assisting a child with identifying an object, but also its purpose. For example, if you label a bed as "for sleeping", then your child will be less likely to use it as a trampoline. Your furniture can take on the same principles of other sensory items, and that is to either calm or stimulate the senses depending on the situation.  

Sensory Items: While it may seem impractical to introduce some of the items you might see at an Occupational Therapy session, such as a ball pit (although, one can be easily created using an empty child's pool and plastic balls) , many of the therapeutic tools utilized during OT can be affordable and easily applied in the home. Big pillows, rope ladders, tactile paths/discs, OT therapy tunnels, swings, and many other variations on these themes are essential for enhancing and calming your child's sensory needs. Your child's mattress is another item that warrants careful consideration as sleeping problems are common for children with autism, not to mention potential bed wetting scenarios. Like the rest of the furniture your child uses, your bed frame should be heavy and durable. Weighted blankets, although not entirely without controversy, have been used by some to help children with autism conquer sleep issues or for the calming effect.   As for the mattress itself, you want it to be firm, soft, and durable, which is why memory foam or latex mattresses work best, but take your child to the store for a test drive, if possible. For themed rooms, your child's bed frame can make bedtime feel like more of an adventure than a chore. Some families have installed curtain rods in the ceiling above the bed so the child can block out excess light and have more privacy.  

Shelves: This may seem like a small feature to be given its own section, but shelf placement and use can help keep your child engaged. First of all, arrange shelves horizontally as to suppress any notion of climbing. Secondly, children with autism tend have a proclivity for lining things up or stacking items (the latter of which can come in handy when deciding upon organizational tactics). According to The Sensory Hippo, which provides idea for sensory living, "creating a play space in your home that appeals to their desire to line things up can be calming for them."  

These long shelves should be placed just below eye level and be installed in multiple rooms in the house.  These shelves can be therapeutic as a calming strategy, but can also work as a new coping strategy. For example, if a child with autism isolates themselves when strangers come over, then you can give them a new toy or special item they find comforting for them to line up and play with in the living room or family room. The new coping strategy can work to help get them through the visit as opposed to running into their room. 

Bathroom: The bathroom is likely anything but a haven for your child on the autism spectrum. The bathroom can cause a number of sensory sensitivities such as the ringing of echoes on tile surfaces, cold floors, hard/cold toilet seats, loud toilets, running water, and bright lights reflected on mirrors can all be disorienting for individuals on the spectrum. 

The first thing you should consider when trying to make your bathroom more sensory-friendly is safety. Some safety issues to install would be a bath rail and a rail next to the toilet, a toilet lock, non-slip surfaces on tiles and in the tub, non-slip stools, etc.  In terms of comfort, non-slip rugs and mats next to the tub and sink, cushioned potty cover, shelves and hooks for towels to decrease the echoes in the room, night lights over bright lights (natural lighting during the day if possible), and a towel warmer to cut down on the anxiety shivering can cause children. Other features you may want to consider is a removable, handheld shower head, a shower head with LED lights, portable bath jets that can reduce pain and induce relaxation through massage, a waterproof pillow, bath toys (naturally), music in the bathroom, and be sure to utilize non-toxic cleaners. Glass mirrors frequently used by your child should be replaced with a reflective acrylic surface to avoid breaking. 


There are infinite possibilities out there when it comes to constructing a more sensory-friendly environment in your home that cover a wide range of expenses. You do not have to break the bank to create an effective sensory-friendly environment and some sensory items you can even create myself. Include your child in the planning, decision making, and creation process as much as possible. Tailor their sensory-friendly environments to their favorite subjects because after all they will be spending a lot of time there. Have fun with the process and remember it doesn't have to be perfect.  

We would love to hear about some sensory activities or objects you have installed in your home in the comment section below. We have also included some resources relating to sensory-friendly environments below


The National Preparedness Community  


Looking for a change in 2015?  

Here is one New Year's resolution that is easy to keep: learn more about what you can do to help prepare you and your family for emergencies.  

Don't know where to start? Visit Ready.gov to learn what protective measures to take before, during, and after an emergency.

 Interested in stepping up your preparedness game? The 2015 Seasonal Preparedness Messaging Calendar will guide you through the coming months and let you know what resources will be coming your way. Resolve to be Ready in 2015.

 With the start of the new year, it doesn't hurt to get back to basics and review some of the essential items that you should have in your house and as a part of your preparedness plan. One of the most important pieces you should maintain is a basic emergency supply kit.
Your kit could include the following recommended items:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Visit Ready.gov for more information about how to build your basic emergency supply kit. Also, be sure to share what is in your supply kit and how it has helped you! 

We're always on the look out for members and organizations to feature in our weekly newsletter. From highlighting your accomplishments in preparedness and emergency management, to members just looking for advice and input, we want to hear from you! 

Want to be featured in our Member Spotlight? Submit your story here! 

Have something else you'd like to see featured in our weekly newsletter? Fill out this brief questionnaire.



The Learning Center (TLC) has open spots for Adult Education classes for adults with a learning disability. TLC provides individualized educational instruction to adults who do not have a high school diploma. TLC offers small group instruction to those interested in obtaining their GED, as well as classes to improve basic literacy in reading, writing and math. For more information, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of WNY by emailing information@ldaofwny.org or calling (716) 874-7200.
Thank you!

Parrish Gibbons

Director of Community Relations

Learning Disabilities Association of WNY

O: 716-874-7200

F: 716-874-7205

C: 716-390-9435



Family Support Services

Family Support Services Coordinators are available at each of OPWDD's Developmental Disabilities Regional Offices (DDROs) to help families access Family Support Services. Each DDRO also has a Family Support Services Advisory Council to represent the interests of family members and people with developmental disabilities. The councils work in partnership with the DDROs to make decisions supporting families and loved ones.

Family Support Services can help in times of crisis when a family member or loved one becomes ill, or when things get difficult at home for other reasons. With assistance and support, families can often work these situations out and stay together. Find out more information about these services and supports by calling the Family Support Services Coordinator at the DDRO representing the county in which the individual/family lives.

DDROs continually work with local community agencies to ensure that other family support services for people with developmental disabilities and their loved ones are available when and where they are needed. These family support services may include:

  • information and referral
  • family and individual counseling
  • family-member training
  • recreation
  • camps (Adult Overnight Summer Camp Information )
  • after-school programs
  • transportation
  • sibling services
  • support groups
  • service coordination

DDROs can also arrange for specialized equipment and home modifications.  For information about these types of FSS supports and services, please contact the Family Support Services Coordinators Listing of the Developmental Disabilities Regional Office (DDRO) representing the county in which the individual/family lives.

 Vickie Rubin, M.S. Ed.  Phone - 716-880-3880 

Early Childhood Direction Center
3131 SHERIDAN DRIVE, People Inc Building
The only acceptable R-word is “respect”. 



The men’s forum is open to fathers and male caregivers of children with special needs.   The forum meets in the evening once a month throughout the school calendar year at Bornhava, 25 Chateau Terrace, Amherst, New York.  

The group has been meeting monthly for several years.  Approximately twelve fathers have participated in the group, with an average attendance of seven or eight men, fathers of birth to five year olds.  It has been a great success.  There are ongoing discussions about coping with the handicapping conditions – the stresses, challenges, and rewards of being a father/male caregiver of a child with special needs.  There are also many practical discussions about what people are doing for their kids and how to access additional services. 

The group is facilitated by a licensed psychologist, Donald Crawford, PhD. 

Contact:    Ellen Crawford @ 839-1655  


 The TRAID-In Equipment Exchange Program is a statewide service that connects individuals with disabilities, searching for an affordable means to acquire needed devices, with people who have devices they wish to sell or donate. Call the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities at 800-624-4143 or email at webmaster@cqcapd.state.ny.us and ask for the TRAID-IN Equipment Exchange Program to list, at no cost, devices being sought or devices that are available. 


STARLIGHT STUDIO GIFT STORE-click on websitehttp://www.cafepress.com/starlightstudiogiftstore


Community Connections and the Summer Treatment Program are offered by Summit Educational Resources. With a staff of more than 600 professionals, Summit provides educational, behavioral health, adult, and family support services to more than 2200 individuals with developmental, social and behavioral challenges. 

These are five-week programs for children in grade 1 – age 16 with ADHD or ASD. Both programs will be operated Monday, July 6 – Friday, August 7,  on the campus of Erie Community College – North by Drs. David Meichenbaum and Jennifer Toomey.



Erie Community College – North, 6205 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221

Our program will operate Monday, July 6 – Friday, August 7, 2015, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


The cost of our program is $2100. A limited amount of financial aid is available to families

who meet established criteria. Application is available on our website.


Call us at 716-629-3400 or visit www.summited.org. On-line application is available on our website.

Specialized programs to improve your child’s social, emotional, behavioral, and academic skills.

Let’s Climb Together

150 Stahl Road, Getzville, New York 14068


David Meichenbaum, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist. Director – Community Consulting & Clinical Services

Summit’s Summer Programs are directed by David Meichenbaum, Ph.D., a NYS licensed psychologist with many years ofexperience working with children and adolescents with autism, ADHD, and behavioral challenges. Dr. Meichenbaum received his doctorate of philosophy in Clinical Psychology from University at Buffalo, SUNY, in 2005. He completed his pre-doctoral internship at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Meichenbaum is a consultant for school districts across western New York, offering behavioral andeducational strategies for students with autism and severe behavioral challenges. Dr. Meichenbaum specializes in disruptive disorders, autism spectrum disorders and anxiety disorders, as well as school-based consultation and trainings.

JENNIFER A. TOOMEY, Ph.D.,.Licensed Psychologist, Coordinator – Research and Program Evaluation

Dr. Toomey is a NYS licensed psychologist who graduated with a doctorate in Counseling and School Psychology from the University at Buffalo in 2008.  She completed her pre-doctoral internship with Summit ducational Resources. She has her affiliate faculty memberstatus at the University at Buffalo and has taught classes on autism, assessment and consultation. Dr. Toomey specializes in the assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorders using evidence-based interventions.


Our camp counselors are college and graduate students majoring in special education, psychology and related fields.


They undergo comprehensive training prior to the start of camp and many return from year to year.




Funding for this program is provided by a Family Support Services grant from the Offi ce of People with Developmental Disabilities.


Please contact Early Childhood Direction

(716) 880-3875 or e-mail: ecdc@kaleidahealth.org



If you are interested in attending but have transportation or other

barriers that would limit your participation, please let us know.


Provide a welcoming environment for parents and other caregivers

of children with autism spectrum disorders to meet, share experiences, ask questions and receive support.





Autism Society WNY Chapter & Autism Services, Inc.’s Autism Center for Learning Invite you to attend:


A Fresh Look 

At Autism: 

A Revolutionary Approach 

Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D. 

Author of The Autism Revolution 

Saturday, April 18, 2015 

8:45 am-12:45 pm 

$11 Parent /Individual with ASD 

$25 Professional /Student 

$35 SLP/Audiologist/OT/COTA/PT/PTA  

Dr. Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D., a Harvard Medical School Researcher and Pediatric Neurologist at Massachusetts  

General Hospital, will be speaking about new research that offers a scientific basis for hope in the treatment of autism.  

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants 

will be able to: 

1. List ways to reduce brain overload in individuals with 


2. Describe one aspect of epigenetics—the effects of previous generation’s environmental exposures on subsequent generations.


3. List several tips to increase brain resiliency in individuals with ASD.  

Location: Classics V Conference Center is located at 

2425 Niagara Falls Blvd. — One mile north of the Niagara Falls Blvd. Exit on the I-290 or Youngman Hwy. 

Scholarships available for parents or individuals with 

ASD based on financial need. Please call (716) 633-2275 

for more information. 

Additional brochures are available online at www.autismwny.org, www. autism-services-inc.org, and  

www.shawny.org or call (716) 633-2275.


Parent Network of WNY and


Early Childhood Direction Center present


Parent Member Training


Saturday, April 25, 2015


9:00 am to 1:00 pm


This New York State Education Department (NYSED) training is intended to provide Parent Members who sit on the Committees on Preschool and School Age Special Education (CPSE/CSE) with an understanding of their role, requirements and the special education process. Participants will learn techniques and strategies to fulfill the Parent Member role in a meeting.



People, Inc.


3131 Sheridan Drive


Amherst, NY 14226


Call to reserve your spot today!!


Parent Network: (716) 332-4170 phone;


1-866-277-4762 toll free




Check your local TV broadcasts for cancellation information.



52nd Annual Dinner Celebration 

“One Community, One HOME” 

Thursday, April 23, 2015, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

The Greenhouse Room @ Hotel Lafayette 

391 Washington St., Buffalo, NY 14203 

Please help support a great organization and  celebrate the fight for civil rights for fair housing. Purchase a table, ad., and or ticket(s). Just spread the word among your community groups and supporters  of your organization too. Please decide if you would to share with your board. 



Bradford Watts 

Community Relations Coordinator
People Inc.
1219 North Forest Road, Williamsville, NY 14221
Direct Line: 716-817-7420  Fax: 716-817-7234
People Inc. is a not-for-profit health and human services agency providing programs and services to more than 12,000 people with special needs, their families, and seniors throughout Western New York. Since 1971, People Inc. has assisted individuals to achieve greater degrees of independence and productivity. 




Autism Services is thrilled to present our Third Annual “Tea for ASD,” to benefit programs and services for those with autism spectrum disorders.   Please join us on Saturday, May 16, 2015 from 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. at Classics V Banquet and Conference Center located at 2425 Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst for this fun-filled event that will include a variety of vendors so that attendees may enjoy an afternoon of shopping, culminating in a delightful tea luncheon.  Other attractions include a door prize raffle, 50/50 split club, and wine tasting courtesy of Willow Creek Winery.   Enjoy an afternoon out while helping to support a worthwhile cause.   Proceeds to benefit Autism Services, Inc.

We have some exciting new vendors this year in addition to some past favorites including Avon, Willow Creek Winery, Thirty-One, Stella & Dot, LulaRoe Buffalo, Buffalo Cookie Company, the Bavarian Nut Company, and more!   Donors for the event include Paula’s Donuts, Bead Gallery, Park Edge Sweet Shoppe, Sue’s Pottery Garden, and Buffalo Art Glass.  Please see the attached flyer for mail-in registration information.  Online registration via PayPal will be available beginning Monday, March 16, 2015 at www.friendsofasi.org under the Event link.  Tickets are $27.00, and pre-registration is strongly encouraged as there will be limited on-site registration available.  For more information, please contact Tracy Panzarella at (716) 631-5777, ext. 328 or tpanzarella@autism-services-inc.org.  Thanks and hope to see you there!


Tracy A. Panzarella, M.A./CCC-SLP/L

Licensed Speech-Language Pathologist/TSHH

Director of Clinical Services

Autism Services, Inc.

4444 Bryant Stratton Way

Williamsville, NY  14221

Phone- (716) 631-5777, ext. 328

Fax- (716) 631-9234




Remember the feeling of freedom and pride you experienced the first time you rode a bicycle? 

The goal of iCan Shine bike camp is to teach individuals with disabilities to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle and become lifelong independent riders.

June 29th – July 3rd 

Camp Info: 

Clarence High School

9625 Main Street

Clarence, NY 14031





**Limited FAMILY/individual scholarships available upon request

The 3rd Annual AT EXPO 2015

(Assistive Technology Conference)



The 3rd Annual AT EXPO 2015 (Assistive Technology Conference) Implementing Technology From SmartHomes to SmartSupports will be held on Thursday, May 14, 2015 at Millennium Hotel, 2040 Walden Ave. Cheektowaga, NY 14225, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  This AT Expo is being sponsored by Parent Network of WNY, Early Childhood Direction Center (ECDC), People Inc. and Learning Partners. 

This year's annual conference: Implementing Technology From SmartHomes to SmartSupports, will feature keynote speaker, Greg Wellems, COO, IMAGINE! on Assistive Technology in the home and community.

There will be two sessions on mobility and communication: The Mobile Technology Wave: How to Utilize Tablet Technology for Individuals with Limited Movement and To Engage in Functional Communication by Dr. Katrina Fulcher-Rood, Ph.D. CCC-SLP and  I'm not straight, so please don't make me! Custom Seating Do's and Don'ts! by Sheila Buck, B.Sc. (OT), Reg.  

The third session will focus on Developing Technology as a Core Service featuring keynote speaker, Greg Wellems. 

The AT Expo is for assistive technology users, their families, educators, clinicians, agency providers and administrators. The AT Expo will include an exhibit room featuring vendors and sponsors who will have an opportunity to speak about their technology products and answer questions throughout the day. The cost of this year's AT Expo is $150, which includes vendor interaction and CEUs will be available for mobility and communication tracks. Lunch is included. 

For more information or to register, contact Tracey Kosmoski-- tkosmoski@people-inc.org or  at  716.817.7484 

Also online at: www.people-inc.org



Parent Network of WNY and

Early Childhood Direction Center present

Parent Member Training

Saturday, April 25, 2015

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

This New York State Education Department (NYSED) training is intended to provide Parent Members who sit on the Committees on Preschool and School Age Special Education (CPSE/CSE) with an understanding of their role, requirements and the special education process. Participants will learn techniques and strategies to fulfill the Parent Member role in a meeting.


People, Inc.

3131 Sheridan Drive

Amherst, NY 14226

Call to reserve your spot today!!

Parent Network: (716) 332-4170 phone;

1-866-277-4762 toll free


Check your local TV broadcasts for cancellation information.


Check in and post-race party will be held at 
St. George's Orthodox Church 
(2 Nottingham Terrace) 
Race will start promptly at 6:30pm
Walkers at 7:00pm 
, June 5, 2015
Delaware Park 

First Team to Reach 30 Team Members Wins 
30 New Era Superhero Caps! 

Dear Friend, 


Registration is open for the Superhero 5K Race & Wellness Walk. Right now the cost is only $25 for runners and $20 for walkers, up until June 3rd. The cost also includes your food, beer, a race t-shirt and more! 

GET 40% OFF REGISTRATION BY TAKING A SELFIE WITH ONE OF OUR RACE POSTERS OR LAWN SIGNS IN THE COMMUNITY! If you find a poster, snap a pic and send it to angie@compeerbuffalo.org before May 1st!

The Superhero Race is a collaborative effort in promoting awareness, reducing stigma, and raising funds to assist individuals striving for good mental health and wellness in Western New York. Proceeds from the event will specifically support children serviced by the CASA program (Court Appointed Special Advocates) through the Mental Health Association of Erie County and Compeer of Greater Buffalo mentoring programs for youth and adults. 
Hundreds of people in our community will be directly served, thanks to your support in raising funds for these important programs.  

First Team to Reach 30 Members Wins 30 New Era Superhero Caps!

Creating a team is easy AND saves you money! Did you know that if you create a team of four or more, you pay a flat rate of $20 per person, no matter when you register?


As an added bonus to this discounted team rate, we've added a fun contest: First team to reach a total of 30 team members will receive 30 New Era Superhero Caps. Please send an email to 

angie@compeerbuffalo.org to notify us when your team has reached 30 members! 

Create Your Own Pledge Page, Raise Funds for The Cause, and Win Prizes! 


For every $200 raised on your pledge page your name will be entered into a raffle to win one Fit Bit Charge, a prize worth $150! 


The Superhero Race is excited to offer all of our participants & volunteers the oppourtunity to create your own pledge page for the race! This is a great way to become involved and help us reach our fundraising goals. We make it easy for you! Once you register, you'll be prompted to create your personalized pledge page and put your face and personal story to work for the cause!


Once you've created your page, you can use social media and email to share it with your friends, family and co-workers in order to rally their support in helping you reach your fundraising goal! 

Follow us on Instagram!  

Stay up to date with race info and contests. Find @BuffaloSuperheroRace on your Instagram App and follow us! Make sure to add your own fun pictures, tag us and use the race hashtag: #buffalosuperherorace

Superhero Night at Bisons Baseball

Mark your calendars and join us out at the ballpark on Saturday May 30th for the Bisons home game at 5:05 p.m. It's the official SUPERHERO night and we recieve half of the proceeds from ticket sales. Come dressed up as your favorite superhero! 


Individual tickets are $13/ticket, we have a bunch available for purchase at both the MHA and Compeer. Please email 

kmiskovski@eriemha.org, if you would like to purchase some. 


SUPERHERO 4-PACK'S are also available for $72. For just $72 you receive 4 Reserved tickets, $20 in Bison Bucks and 2 Bisons capes! Bring the family or a group of friends to share in this great deal! 


For more information on all of the above (and more), visit us at http://www.buffalosuperherorace.com; 716-883-3331 or email angie@compeerbuffalo.org


Thank you again for your generous support.

The Superhero Race Team 
 Race Fees 
Team of 4 Registration:

 $20 per participant
Virtural Race Supporter:

Now until June 3rd:
Walker $20 Runner $25 

Day of Race:

Walker $25 Runner $30

Supporting Partners
Lake Shore Behavioral Health, Inc.
Erie County Medical Center

R&P Oak Hill Development, LLC

Houseknecht Family 

Tenpine Web Development

Michele Brown

Nussbaumer & Clark, Inc.