News

    You may have heard through the grapevine that there are two classes currently being offered by the Training Department that are required for Direct Support Professionals. And of course, if you are a DSP, you will know this is true! I’m sure you have seen the names  “Autism and Anxiety” and “Breaking Down Communications Barriers” pop up on your Relias and maybe you are wondering what these classes are and how you can take them. The good news is, they are being offered at least once a month at Latham Building 1, and our team of trainers can work with entire teams to bring the training right to you! 

    Autism and Anxiety focuses on the comorbidity between these two diagnoses and how we as staff can best support the people that deal with both. This course does a fantastic job of breaking down Autism Spectrum Disorder  and the daily impact it has on people. It also gives you tools to utilize in your everyday work to better relate to and understand how anxiety plays alongside an ASD diagnosis and the challenges that people may experience.

    Breaking Down Communication Barriers focuses on what communication is and how we can best adapt to overcome barriers. This is an immersive class that attempts to give insight into the lives of those that struggle with communication and give you tools to bring to work everyday to improve the quality of life of everyone you work with. 

    Now, many of you have already had the chance to join us for Autism and Anxiety and Breaking Down Communications Barriers, so you already know how impactful and useful these training sessions are. However, did you know that these classes are open to EVERYONE! Whether you work at the school, work periodically as a per diem employee, or spend most of your time at the office, you could benefit from taking these courses! They have been designed to center the people we work with on a daily basis and give us the skills and knowledge to build stronger relationships and better understanding. Make sure you check out the 2022 Training Roster under the DSP Bootcamp Classes tab to see upcoming sessions and sign up by emailing training@wildwoodprograms.org. We all can’t wait to see you there!

    Fall marks the start of cooler weather, back-to-school time…and what many consider to be the start of the holiday season for many secular and faith based celebrations.  Depending on personal beliefs and practices, this can mean multiple holiday observances that stretch between the fall and winter seasons.  While some of us may anticipate this time with excitement, others feel unease thinking of the stress that can accompany holidays.  This can be especially true for individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities, who may face additional challenges brought on by the season.  How can we make the holidays a little easier on everyone?  Preparation is key for many people with disabilities, and for neurotypical people as well!

     Major holidays involve the disruption of normal routines and activities, with closures of schools, day programs, or employment sites.  For some people with Autism and DD, these changes cause varying levels of anxiety.  Preparing them for upcoming changes can reduce this anxiety by providing a plan for what is to come.  Using what works best for a person–whether it be a conversation, social story, visual schedule, or calendar– make sure to provide information about changes to their typical routine.  Communicate what will happen in place of regular activities.  Where you can, give people the opportunity to take an active role in planning those activities.  Not only does this provide them with a sense of control, it encourages them to participate in the events that they helped plan.  Many people enjoy having a say in what decorations are used, what food will be served at a gathering, or what music might be played.  One person I support is the official DJ at all the holiday parties at his home, a role he cherishes!  Big or small, decisions like these can make a holiday that much more enjoyable for someone.

    Also consider the environmental factors that may influence success during a  celebration.  Overstimulation is a common experience for many people with Autism and Developmental Disabilities and the holidays tend to be full of triggering situations.  Think of the music, lights, crowds, loud conversations, having company come to the house…all of these tend to be part of the holiday experience. To support a person best, know their triggers and plan out how best to cope with them.  For example, if crowds are an issue, you’ll want to consider if certain places should be avoided–malls come to mind–or time a visit when it might be quieter, with less people around.   Some decorations might be too overwhelming depending on a person’s sensory needs–they might be too bright, too loud, or just too much.  If plans involve going to a party or gathering, how does the person want to take part?  Do they prefer sitting quietly on the periphery, or making the rounds around the room?  Do they want a trusted person to stay by their side?  Figuring out those preferences ahead of time and having a plan in place benefits everyone.  While you can’t anticipate every scenario, certainly knowing what has been a challenge in the past and reading a person’s cues in the moment can help you strategize for success. 

     How a person participates in holiday events may depend on several factors, including what the person wants to do or can tolerate, what types of support is available to them there, and the ability to have a plan B or even a plan C if things don’t work out as expected. For many people having the opportunity to take a break if needed can help calm and regulate heightened emotions and sensory reactions.  Identifying where a break can be taken and how that can be supported (alone, with a family member or staff person, etc.) provides them with a chance to regroup and hopefully return to the activity.  While encouraging participation is always a good thing, knowing a person’s limitations and respecting what qualifies as a success for them is just as important.  

    Many wishes for a happy holiday season for all!

     Do you ever run into stressful situations when it comes to social skills, your relationships, or even sex and sexuality? Maybe in your own life, or trying to figure out how to help someone you care about? 

    And did you know Wildwood Programs plans an entire day every year of free workshops and classes, designed to try to help you with all those kinds of problems? Indeed: It’s time for Wildwood’s 3rd Annual Online Conference on Social Relationships, Sexuality and Disability, coming up in just a few weeks on Wednesday, November 16th, 2022. The programs that day are especially designed for young adult individuals with I/DD, their parents, and any professionals who support them (Care Managers, DSPs, Comm Hab workers, etc.)!

    Every year we have a theme, and this year it’s: “Empowering Myself in Times of Change.” Why this theme this year?

    Well, in general, I think it’s true that, perhaps, the only constant in life is change. How much change have you & your loved ones gone through the last couple of years, whether you wanted it or not? We get lots demanded of us in life related to change: our bodies grow and develop; we face transitions, like our children entering legal adulthood and all that could mean; we must adapt to challenges right now, like pandemics; currently too, we must decide how we feel in the face of –sometimes unexpected—social and political change. Not to mention climate change? I mean, right? There’s been a lot of unusual change, on top of the usual life stuff!

    We picked this year’s theme to check in, provide support and help folks! How ARE you doing with all you’ve got on your change plate? 

    Because, even if you’re happy about some changes, if you find you sometimes feel overwhelmed, anxious, worried, scared to face it, angry or helpless, that’s perfectly normal too! You’re not alone! We want to take a day to remember as a community: it’s okay to feel all kinds of things right now. We’ll do our best to provide you with what information we have, and teach you what tools we know, to help you adapt, cope and succeed.

    What sort of help can you specifically expect to find this year? We’re still building our final schedule, but so far, I’m excited to announce programs like our “Self-Care Showcase”: attendees will learn about several less-talked-about healing arts, like reiki, acupuncture and meditation. Everyone will learn one technique from each discipline that they can do on their own, any time they need it! 

    We’ll also be sure to look at civic empowerment, coping with natural changes, like puberty, and emotional changes in the family when a young person enters adulthood. We’ll incorporate art projects, music, and a fun lunchtime trivia contest! Speakers will include guests from Planned Parenthood, Elevatus Training, Living Resources, and more. It promises to be a fun, informative, and indeed, potentially empowering day.

    To register for this free event, head here: https://forms.gle/SEAbwHD2yXDM1d7r8

     And no need to come all day – we’ll send around the final schedule in a few weeks; come for what events appeal! Any questions? Feel free to email me, Kate Napolitano, at knapolitano@wildwoodprograms.org. Wishing you well with all the changes in your life right now – and hope we get to see you there!

    Mosaic Village, a project developed by ALG with the city of Cohoes, is a beautiful, new facility that features a kitchen and dining area, a smaller living space with a television, a common community space, a workout room and a mirrored studio. Located in Cohoes, the Village is near a bus stop and completely accessible. Adult Education is currently scheduling programming with ALG that will be offered in the space and open to the public.   

    This fall, Adult Education will hold several classes in the afternoon and evening at the Mosaic Village complex. In October, Friends Connection, a social class, will host a Gathering Party in the common community space. In November, students will be baking in the kitchen. Throughout the semester, small group budgeting classes will be offered. 

    For spring semester, classes, such as weight training, dance and yoga, will be added. Collaborative work with other community partners as well as many other exciting opportunities are also being planned.

    To say the least, it has been a very busy time in the finance department. Since the announcement of our planned merger, the finance departments of both agencies began to meet. Our first objective was to get to know each other and then we set out to define our roles going forward. We have continued to meet regularly and I’m happy to report that this transition has been a very smooth process.

    That’s not to say we haven’t come across some challenges.  The challenges have included developing strategies for integrating our systems, including bringing different payroll procedures together and combining similar but slightly different program and service notes. Our two agencies also have small but important differences in our accounting systems and how we approach our general ledgers. And to make things really interesting we have two separate fiscal years!

    Wildwood’s IT department has begun the transition of managing ALG systems as ALG contracted their IT to an outside vendor. Likewise, our Facilities Services Department has already begun a few ALG projects as well, as this was another contracted service at ALG.

    There is no doubt this is an exciting time and already we can see the potential of bringing two like-minded, fiscally strong institutions together. It may be a busy time but the excitement of the possibilities makes all the work worthwhile!

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