Board Member Jodi Kaplan

January 13th, 2012

My name is Jodi Kaplan and I have been involved with AHA for about 12 years.

I recently joined the Board of Directors and have co chaired the Rock N Bowl fundraising event for the past two years.  I am very proud to finally have the time to give back to AHA by fundraising, volunteering with programs and sharing my knowledge and experiences with others.

My son was diagnosed with a receptive and expressive language processing disorder 18 years ago.  We could not understand why, at 1 ½ years of age, he did not turn when we called him, why certain sounds bothered him and why he was always cranky.  Autism was mentioned a few times, but our son was not diagnosed with autism at that time. By first grade our son had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disability – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) and now with high functioning autism.

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Board Member Carole Kalvar

December 18th, 2011

Hi, I’m Carole Kalvar.  I’ve been a member of AHA for about 12 years.

I attended support meetings seeking advice and information for myself and my husband as we coped with the challenges of raising our son who at age 16 was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified was a term used to indicatie that an individual has some characteristics of autism spectrum disorder but does not easily fit other more well defined categories). I became a board member probably about 9 years ago.  I really became intensely involved with the workings of AHA when I volunteered to create a member database after seeing a post in the AHA newsletter seeking members with database skills.  Over the last decade I have developed many automated tools that have been incorporated into the database including membership and school placement tracking and conference registration tools and reports.  I have also contributed several articles to our newsletter, now called On The Spectrum, often drawing on my experiences as a mother of an individual with ASD. For a short period I also assisted Bernice Polinsky with facilitating the support group for parents of adolescents and adults on the spectrum.   I’m currently working closely with Pat on creating our Resource Survey and Resource Database.  This new tool will greatly enhance our ability to help other families who reach out to AHA for assistance.   I’ve been through several phases in AHA’s evolution.  For many years we worked out of spare bedrooms and basements, answering hotline calls from dedicated telephone lines in our board member/volunteer’s homes.  Now we have a wonderful headquarters in Amityville, NY and even a satellite office in Manhattan.  We’ve become a well respected organization in the field of autism advocacy, education and support.

Here’s to the continued growth of AHA in 2012 and many years to come.

Fall Conference: Day 2

October 28th, 2011

Teen Panel – 10/25/2011
This is undoubtedly an important part of our Fall Conference – and it’s highly anticipated! I was a teen panelist two years ago so I paid extra close attention. And believe me when I say this year’s group of teen panelists was outstanding. You shouldn’t have missed it! But if you did, here’s a recap:

First up was Kailyn. She’s a 16-year-old on the spectrum, and she looked beautiful as she began her speech. Kailyn talked about feeling lonely, particularly during middle school. She struggled to connect with her peers and ended up transferring schools. From there, even when she didn’t know any of her classmates, she was able to make friends. It was a struggle, sure, but Kailyn pushed through it. I admire her courage. Not only did she overcome social challenges, but she shared her story with a room full of strangers at Tuesday’s conference. She is truly remarkable.

Morgan was next to take the stage. He is a high school junior with ADHD and PDD-NOS. He spoke openly and maturely about his difficulties communicating. Recognizing one’s challenges is a critical piece of overcoming them on the autism spectrum, and Morgan accomplished that. And while he now may struggle with figurative language and comprehension, Morgan revealed he’s an avid reader. It’s clear that he perseveres, and I know he will achieve anything he sets out to accomplish.

When Morgan finished, I’m not sure anyone saw Alex‘s speech coming (in a good way). The 18-year-old was brilliant, and really knew how to make the crowd laugh. Through his jokes and one-man-show role playing (you had to be there), the crowd adored him and really got to understand who he is.  Alex accepts his diagnosis (more than accepts actually, he loves it). He was able to make having Aspergers work to his advantage. Both talented and creative, Alex is bound for success.

Finally was Drew. This high school senior has passion for many different things, and Asperger Syndrome could never hold him back. Instead, as Drew realized, his diagnosis drives him forward. He wouldn’t have it any other way. In the beginning, things were tough. It took a couple of years for Drew to get to where he is now. He self-advocates at his CSE meetings. He identifies the things he needs to work on and helps teachers understand what they can do to support him. Drew has goals and knows how to reach them. I’m impressed by him and so were the adults at the conference.

The Biggest First Day of School Ever!

September 27th, 2011

Fall 2012 – New clothes? check. New school supplies? check. What about a whole new school? Take out your pencils, because we’re going to need a BIG check!

The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem (NCSH) will have its GRAND OPENING next year, welcoming many children ready to embark on their educational journey. Even more exciting, it will have an inclusion program for children with high-funtioning autism and Asperger Syndrome — what we’ve all been waiting for! This will be the first charter school of its kind in all of New York City, and it definitely won’t be the last.

NCSH will:

  • Provide a rigorous academic curriculum.
  • Employ the best practices of the highest performing charter schools.
  • Emphasize social and emotional learning for all students and provide a rich arts program.
  • Fully include students with Asperger Syndrome in the same curriculum as their classmates.
  • Give teachers specialized training in strategies and supports designed for children with autism spectrum disorders.
  • Help students in the inclusion program with social understanding, self-regulation, and communication.
  • For more information, visit the school’s website:
    Or contact: [email protected]

    Student recruitment materials and applications for students with ASD are available this November.

    Also, NCSH is seeking a dynamic Head of School. A job description is available on their website under Careers.

    Exciting stuff!