Creating a place where kids with autism thrive
By Holly Reich, Big Town Big Heart/New York Daily News September 14th, 2011
Jackie Ceonzo created SNACK, the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids, in 2003 for her son, Joey, whose disabilities fall on the autism spectrum.
“When I would take Joey for any type of programming for special needs kids he was turned away. He was having seizures and he’s not verbal…people were reluctant to take him. So I decided to do my own thing,” she explains.
Now SNACK’s executive director, Ceonzo’s goal was to create a welcoming place for special needs children with challenging behaviors to socialize and enjoy recreational activities while learning practical skills…
Click on this link to read the full article: “Creating a place where kids with autism thrive“
SNACK Founder featured at UN World Autism Awareness Day
On April 22nd, 2010 World Autism Awareness Day at the United Nations, Jackie Ceonzo, Executive Director and Founder of SNACK, was invited to participate in the panel discussion “The impact of autism on the family – families responding to the challenge”.
Jackie was joined by other parents of children with autism and advocates from around the world committed to not only raising awareness about Autism but who are also actively taking steps and initiating programs in their countries to provide support, services and quality of life for families with children affected by ASD.
Riz Khan, Lead News Anchor at Al Jazeera International served as panel moderator and the event was attended by representatives from the United Nations, providers and caregivers, advocates, the media, other non-profit groups, and families affected by autism. A reception followed at the permanent mission of Qatar, an organizer of the event.
Please note: to view the UN video webcast of the panel dicussion you will need “Real Player” application open on your computer. If you do not have, click on this link for FREE download: http://www.real.com/realplayer/search
VIEW UN VIDEO WEBCAST – Click on the link below to view the UN webcast of the April 22nd panel discussion. If you would like to go directly to segment highlighting Jackie and SNACK just move the video arrow ahead to 1:21:25 playing time.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Alums create program to help children with Autism
As featured in Villanova Magazine – Winter 2010
Jackie Galatola Ceonzo ’86 A&S and her husband, Joe Ceonzo ’85 VSB, met at Villanova and had the quintessential college experience. “Our time at Villanova was filled with fun, friends and hope,” Jackie says. “We had it all. Then we had this wonderful little boy and everything changed.” The Ceonzo’s son, Joey, was diagnosed with a lower functioning type of autism at the age of two. Autism spectrum disorders are an array of complex developmental disabilities that may impair children’s social and communication skills and can cause repetitive, often disruptive behaviors. There’s no cure for autism, but many kids’ symptoms improve with appropriate therapies.
Coping with a devastating diagnosis – At the time of his diagnosis, Joey didn’t speak, and he had a profound seizure disorder that lasted until he was seven. “Joey had 25-50 seizures a day,” Joe says. “We were so worried about his seizures that we didn’t realize the big challenge we faced with his autism.” The Ceonzos enrolled Joey in early intervention services but quickly became frustrated with the level of care available. They found that most programs weren’t equipped to handle the difficult behaviors associated with autism. “Joey spent so much time in school and undergoing after-school therapies that he didn’t have any fun,” Jackie says. “I knew he would stay in his own world if we let him.”
Turning adversity into opportunity – Several years ago, Joe, a finance specialist on Wall Street, had a difficult choice to make. His company wanted to transfer him to another office out of New York. Jackie and Joe didn’t want to disrupt Joey’s routine. At the same time, they wanted Joey to have a happier, more fulfilling life. So they took matters into their own hands. Joe accepted a severance package instead of a transfer, and he and Jackie used those funds to create an organization tailored for kids with autism and other special needs. Joe soon found new employment and Jackie found a new vocation. The Special Needs Activity Center for Kids (SNACK) opened in Manhattan, NY, in 2003. The Ceonzos worked with professionals to design a place where kids ages 3-18 could socialize while they learned practical skills in a warm and supportive environment. Jackie serves as SNACK’s executive director.
Acceptance and support help kids thrive – “Joey and many other SNACK kids suffered from isolation,” Joe says. “They weren’t invited to other kids’ homes and were turned away from many programs in the community.” For many special needs kids, SNACK is the first place that they have felt truly welcome and where they are encouraged to do things that other kids take for granted. They can participate in group and individual activities, including: swimming lessons, sports clinics, art, music, yoga, movement and drama. Staff members also take the kids on field trips.
Click on the following link to download full article (PDF file): If You Build It, They Will Come
After School Special
A break from the norm and some good old fashioned fun
by Chris Munzing, Spectrum Magazine August/September 2009
One of the great things about Jackie Ceonzo is that she doesn’t care if you have autism. She doesn’t care if you do not speak. She doesn’t care if you lack well-developed social skills and she doesn’t even care if you are potty trained (though she does want you to work on that).
The only thing Jackie Coenzo cares about is that when you walk through her Manhattan doorway, you have fun. If that means playing soccer, then grab the ball and go play. If the sight of water fills you with comfort, then she has a swimming class for you. She has tennis, drama, and even yoga if you’re feeling a bit free-spirited.
The one thing you don’t want to do in front of Ceonzo, however, is sit still. She’ll have a problem with that. “Kids with autism don’t need downtime,” Ceonzo says. “It only gives them time to practice being autistic.” That’s one way of looking at it.
Ceonzo is founder and director of the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids (SNACK) a sort of one-stop shop for children with autism who want a little bit of fun sprinkled in-between their school days and therapy sessions.
Click on this link to download & read Full article (PDF file): Spectrum Magazine Article
Note: once the article is available on Spectrum Magazine’s website we will also include a link.
Play Time: One Mom’s Mission to Give Kids on the Spectrum Some Fun
By Jackie Ceonzo, Founder/Executive Director, SNACK
As featured in YAI Autism Matters Newsletter – Summer 2009
I am the mother of two boys: Andrew is a typically developing 10- year-old; Joey, my 14-year-old, is on the autism spectrum. Joey loves to play basketball, swim, listen to music and attend birthday parties. He doesn’t really talk and he needs help with most things. He is also now bigger than me and his dad. Luckily, for now, he’s happy most of the time.
Our journey began when Joey was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 14 months old. When he was about 7, the seizures subsided as mysteriously as they had come, and we were faced with a little boy who was not toilet trained, unable to make his needs known to us and classified as having autism. We decided that it was about time this guy had a little fun.
Kids on the spectrum tend to not have a lot of play dates after school. They aren’t given the opportunity to play, to run, to swim. We thought there was something wrong with the fact that Joey’s only after-school activities involved occupational, physical and speech therapies. For the most part, children with autism can be taught play and leisure skills, but they can also exhibit challenging behaviors that only those who are familiar and trained can handle effectively. Kids on the spectrum need to be with other kids, doing things kids do, under the supervision of those who can pull them out of their own little worlds of self stimulation and into ours.
Andrew, my typically developing son, has always been able to take sports, music, art or swimming, without being on a waiting list. We wanted the same for Joey and other children like him. But because of his specific needs, Joey was turned away from several special needs recreation programs. We have always participated in many programs that are volunteer-run and free of charge. They have their special place in the recreation arena but we wanted a dependable source of respite, as most parents do. So we decided to start our own program. It’s called SNACK or Special Needs Activity Center for Kids and it’s designed to fill the void in recreation services for children with challenging behaviors. We realized that SNACK would need to be staffed properly by people familiar with Applied Behavior Analysis; it would have a high ratio of staff to children; and most importantly, it would provide a lot of love and hope. We also realized that it would be expensive to run and that we couldn’t do it for free. We reasoned that if we pooled resources and shared with others, we could reduce the hourly outlay and help those who could not afford it, while providing our kids with a chance to have fun and make friends.
Joey still needs a lot of help with many things, but he has a quality of life as close to his brother’s as we could give him — and so do dozens of other kids.
For more information about YAI Autism Center click on this link: YAI Autism Center
On the Home Front – The struggle for support endured by families with special needs children
by Jackie Ceonzo, Founder/Executive Director, SNACK
As featured in PARENTGUIDE News, May 2007
Living life with a developmentally-delayed or disabled child is a challenge no one is prepared for. I equate the experience to the first few years as a new parent— the progress is fabulous, but there’s always a new challenge around the corner. Like when a toddler learns to walk, it’s so great, but then he’s into EVERYTHING! With a child who has developmental disabilities, however, it seems the highs and lows expected during early childhood never end.
In the beginning, when you first learn of your child’s special needs, Early Intervention (EI) is a wonder. Many people are eager and willing to help you fill your child’s need for services. Many children graduate from EI to the mainstream. Children who don’t, ages 3-5, go to their local school district’s Committee on Pre School Education (CPSE) for support and services. These children are classified as Pre Schooler with a Disability regardless of their actual diagnosis. Many children are considered mainstream after the CPSE stage. Those children ages 5 and older who continue to need support services are referred to their local Committee on Special Education (CSE). At this stage, a classification is determined, such as autistic or speech and language impaired. In sum, there are nine categories in which no one wants to place their child. This is when the struggle for services begins as well.
Link to read Full article: http://parentguidenews.com/Catalog/ChildDevelopment/OntheHomeFront/
From A Mother’s Struggles, an Answer for Many Parents
East Side after school program caters to children with special needs and their caregivers
by Sue Sipprelle, Our Town and West Side Spirit, MANHATTAN MEDIA, February 22nd, 2007
Jackie Ceonzo’s son, Joey, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 2. He experienced multiple daily epileptic seizures until he was 7. When the seizures ceased and Joey began attending school, Ceonzo wanted him to learn to play. But there were no recreational programs available for him. He was nonverbal and not toilet trained, and the few programs that did exist could not accommodate his special needs. Four years ago, when Joey was 7, Ceonzo decided to take matters into her own hands and founded the Special Needs Activity Center for Kids, called SNACK…an after school and weekend program that includes art, music, drama, movement, and games, as well as snack time. The program is also available during school vacations and over the summer. SNACK uses the pool and gym of St. Bartholomew’s Church, at 109 East 50th Street, for one-on-one swim lessons, sports skills classes, and a soccer clinic. Additionally, SNACK also coordinates occasional lectures for parents of children with special needs….“Jackie’s program is unique,” said Dr. Amy Davies Lackey. Lackey is division director at the Manhattan annex of the Hawthorne Country Day School, which educates children with disabilities…“The environment at SNACK sets up kids for success in making friends, engaging in social interactions, and for participating in leisure activities,” Lackey said. “Her staff is outstanding – trained and well-prepared”.…SNACK became a nonprofit organization this month, and Ceonzo hopes that its new status will enable her to realize her dream of expanding the program to other sites in Manhattan and other cities. She receives many inquiries from parents both in the New York metropolitan area and across the country who are desperately seeking similar programs for their children with developmental disabilities.
Click on the link to read more… http://susansipprelle.com/joeyA.htm
SNACK Founder Jackie Ceonzo Named NYer Of The Week For Second Time
NY1 News – June 17, 2005
Last year NY1 profiled a woman, Jackie Ceonzo, who runs an after-school program for developmentally disabled kids as our New Yorker of the Week. After the segment aired, calls came pouring in to the station from viewers wanting to know more about this New Yorker and her program…So, for using her love as a parent to inspire a program that has blossomed for others in this city, Jackie Ceonzo is, again, our New Yorker of the Week. View Video above to see NY1 segment on SNACK