Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Picnic At Muscoot Farm

Mother Nature and the Staff of Muscoot did a spectacular job for the families of The NewYork/Westchester Chapter of NAA during a recent trip to the 1850's farm in Katonah,NY. Coordinated by Farm Manager Sue Moga, farmers and a host of teen volunteers helped to make the day very special for the 83 children and parents who came from the Greater New York area.

The guests initated their visit with self guided tours of this gentleman's country home turned magnificent county park. One of the highlights of the day included a rare opportunity for hands-on encounters with the spring newborns. Many children were able to touch days-old chicks,lambs, pygmy goats and calfs while their animal mothers looked on. In the same barn, a few children even watered "Pineapple" and milked "Jersey Girl," two very friendly cows.

Crafting followed at the picnic tables under the shade trees next to the white country house. The teen volunteers helped each child decorate paper lambs and chicks by using actual sheep wool and chicken feathers from the farm animals.

The children next put their artistic talents to work creating drawings of the sites of the day.One young artist, Henry, drew a vivid red and blue Tom cat from "Tom and Jerry," no doubt inspired by one of the many working mousers living on the farm.

Soon some families shared their picnic lunches while a few kids played frise in the cool grass with a couple of the four yellow and black Lab therapy animals.

Farmer Jonathan drove a tracker which pulled a flatbed hayride of 37 adults, children and two therapy dogs to the beautiful lush green back acres of the farm. While on the ride, the group passed a fenced-in field with two new fauls and their mothers. One dark brown faul, with a white mark down the front of its head, lay taking a nap in the tall grass with the bright afternoon sun warming its body.

"The day was I was just breathtaking," commented Chapter President Sabeeha Rehman with her husband Khalid."This is something our families need and we can't wait to visit next year."

Nancy Gardella

Erica Rahavy on Relationship Development Intervention

In early June, parents and therapists gathered for another Parent Network Exchange Meeting to learn about RDI (Relationship Development Intervention). Erica Rahavy led the group in explaining how this therapy was developed especially for children on the spectrum. The founder of the approach took the best pieces of many different modalities in child psychology to create RDI. From what we understood it is a way of dealing with your child that builds onmany of the skills that happen to be core deficits in children on the spectrum such as emotional reciprocity. It is similar in some ways to Floortime in that you really try to engage your child. For example, you can take an activity like folding the laundry and make it a bonding and emotional experience for you and your child. Erica recommended that you first find a professional guide to work with you and your family. They will tailor a program specifically for your family and individual child.

One parent who has used this therapy, Susan Raitt, shared her experience and delivered other general information about RDI in a very parent friendly way. She also recommended some good books for those parents that are interested to find out a little more. I think most of us walked away at least intrigued by what this therapy has to offer. I know personally that it peeked my interest,since it is so parent based. My husband and I are always looking for ways to connect better with our son. Most of the other therapy he receives is addressed at his individual needs rather than interaction with those around him. I will definitely be one of the parents reading up some more on it and possibly trying it out.

Dara Berger

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Valerie Dejean on Tomatis

Valerie DeJean with Katherine Black, Tracy Merslich and Meera Sankar

On Wednesday, May 27, 2009, Valerie Dejean, who practiced occupational therapy for many years and now is a Tomatis consultant and the founder of the Spectrum Center, spoke to our group about attention, behavior and communication.

Dr. Tomatis was a French Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, who pioneered the listening therapy named after him. Valerie Dejean was trained by Dr. Tomatis himself and her centers have provided Tomatis listening therapy to over 4000 children, with much success. The presentation titled “Attention, Behavior and Communication” was more about the impact of listening on the behavior and not as much on the nuts and bolts of the “Tomatis Therapy”.

Valerie started by defining “developmental” as something that happens during the early years of life and “pervasive” as something that affects the whole body, physically and mentally. Children develop their ability to communicate by listening, watching and then imitating the adults and other children around them. However, children with autism often are impeded by language processing difficulties that leads to problems with communication, social interaction, imaginative play, and behavior.

Valerie described our brains as more “programmed” than “hardwired” -- so that, beyond some basic functions, we learn skills through imitation. If a child lacks or has limited imitative capacity, learning is impacted. Children with autism frequently are dyspraxic, in other words, they have deficits in motor planning, which can affect many areas of function, including listening, imitation, and ,hence, language development. She went on to explain that language is merely symbols that help us communicate. Symbols are then related to ideas and thoughts. She gave an example of the word “ball”. We know that the symbols (letters) B-A-L-L means that it is something that is round, can roll on the ground and can bounce. Though a child with autism may be able to spell the word “ball” he or she may not be able to connect that word with the concept of what the ball can do and hence may not understand that if it is thrown on the ground, it will roll towards another child.

In addition, if our sensory system is faulty we cannot properly take in information from our environment. According to Valerie, Tomatis helps develop the ability to use our awareness to control our actions and to more appropriately and effectively use information from our environment. She also described the way in which Tomatis can reawaken neural networks and get them working -- to re-educate the auditory system to develop the ability to focus our attention and thus develop “event perception” -- an ability to, among other things, effectively understand and organize information from our environment.

Hearing is different from listening, Valerie said. We hear lots of things simultaneously when we are on the street or when many people are talking. However we listen ( purposefully) to one or a few voices in order to analyze and understand what we are hearing. We have the ability to ignore the background sounds. Some of the children with autism disorders have difficulty with this process. Tomatis programs, she said improves the listening abilities of these children and in doing so, improves their ability to interact and communicate.

Khalid Rehman, MD
Kim Mack Rosenberg

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

April Renee and Dr. Andrew Moulden “Educate Before You Vaccinate” Presentation

April Renee, Dr. Andrew Moulden and Lisa Rudley

April Renee and Dr. Andrew Moulden delivered a very important, powerful message to our community in their presentation to the NAA-NY Metro Chapter on Wednesday, May 20, 2009. April stated that vaccination injury is real and is happening to many children and adults. April stated that she lost her beautiful daughter Casi to vaccine injury 10 years ago, and that Casi died from bacterial meningitis that was brought on by vaccine-induced immune dysfunction. April shared with us her knowledge and research on vaccines and informed us of our rights when comes to vaccinating. Her mission is to educate the public on vaccines. April’s website is

Dr. Moulden, a Canadian doctor who views vaccine injury and micro-vascular strokes as being the same affliction. He states that the reduction in blood flow to the vessels is seen following a vaccination. He presented numerous pictures of children and adults with strokes through facial paralysis. Dr. Moulden compared the actual disease-induced strokes to the vaccine-induced strokes. We were all left in awe by his depiction of vaccine-injuries. He is working on a protocol to assist in re-establishing the blood flow back to the vessels that caused the stroke. Dr. Moulden is currently an expert-witness for vaccine-injured plaintiffs in the United States Vaccine Court. His website is

--Lisa Rudley