Reporter: [00:00:00] It's that time of the year. Pencils pens desks chalkboard the traditional items you expect in a classroom.

Reporter: [00:00:05] But what about a ball pit swing and rope ladder. Those are some of the tools of a sensory room.

Reporter: [00:00:13] And as Kari Drew tells us they are popping up in schools throughout our area right now. Yeah.

Reporter: [00:00:18] Lori and Rossanna a good morning to both of you. The sights and sounds of a typical school can be overwhelming for many kids with special needs so now some schools are offering what's called sensory rooms or sensory gyms they're designed with hands on activities for kids to engage their senses. And they're also helping students to overcome obstacles.

Sarah: [00:00:36] There you go, go to green go to green.

Reporter: [00:00:38] It's a chance for kids to just be kids and learn some life changing skills along the way.

Sarah: [00:00:47] Everybody hold their thumb up, Joseph where's your thumb. Ryan's got it. Joe just got it.

Reporter: [00:00:52] This is no ordinary gym class.

Sarah: [00:00:55] You can do it. Yeah.

Reporter: [00:00:58] It's a sensory gym at P.S. 15 in Red Hook.

Reporter: [00:01:01] It's almost like learning in 3-D would be a way you could describe it.

Reporter: [00:01:05] It's changing the lives of children with developmental delays and behavioral disorders.

Sarah: [00:01:10] They have all these opportunities to be in a variety of planes of movement. They can be high. They can be low. They have to go over obstacles.

Reporter: [00:01:18] Sarah Baluch is an occupational therapist with the New York City Department of Education.

Sarah: [00:01:24] Let's go. Pinch clap , pinch clap.

Reporter: [00:01:27] She explains how each hands on activity from a colorful ball pit. To a swing just inches off the ground. It. Allows kids to work on movement and speech by engaging their senses.

Sarah: [00:01:41] Everything that they can touch feels different.

Sarah: [00:01:43] You have ropes which are rough. You have balls which are smooth.

Sarah: [00:01:48] We have kids that you know maybe came in really uncoordinated with difficulty with stairs just to put it in like a real life setting. Interacting with this material it helps them develop the skill of walking. The skill of stair climbing stair descending.

Reporter: [00:02:03] Medical research on the effectiveness of sensory rooms on children with special needs is limited but small scale trials show they help children especially those with autism.

Sarah: [00:02:14] A lot of children who are coming to this program are also from disadvantaged backgrounds where they don't have access to a lot of enriching experiences. On top of which they have a delay or an intellectual disability. There's kids who have coordination difficulties and by engaging with this material here you can have the opportunity to become stronger to become more coordinated.

Reporter: [00:02:38] I saw you on the swing before. Is that your favorite.

Child: [00:02:41] Yeah.

Reporter: [00:02:43] You like the ball pit. How come

Child: [00:02:45] It's so fun.

Reporter: [00:02:46] These kids are also reaching major life milestones. One of the students who was nonverbal is now speaking.

Sarah: [00:02:53] He's saying full sentences. He is saying definitely the parts of a sentence you know like "I'm going fast."

Sarah: [00:03:00] All of the adults working with these children are just like blown away because it's amazing to see.

Reporter: [00:03:07] A program for kids with special needs called Extreme Kids and Crew partnered with the city's Department of Education to create this space.

Caitlin: [00:03:14] It just felt like we could be here and just in building this space provide the OTs (occupational therapist) and the PTS (physical therapist) with a facility that they would never be able to get on their own.

Reporter: [00:03:27] Caitlin Cassaro is the executive director of the non-profit and she's also the mother of a child with special needs.

Caitlin: [00:03:34] My son's autistic and incredibly awesome. We felt very alone and finding that community was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. And I know for a lot of people who come in our doors.

Reporter: [00:03:47] Once inside these doors the kids overcome obstacles and the friendships formed along the way makes it even more special.

Sarah: [00:03:56] They form the sweetest most loving bonds the type of connection and a type of acceptance that we see them having for each other and looking out for each other. It's totally inspiring and inspires me every day.

Reporter: [00:04:12] Really an incredible place and Extreme Kids and Crew does have another sensory gym it's located at P.S. 71 in Queens. Now all these facilities are open to everyone in the community on the weekends from 1 to 4 p.m.. So it's really cool. They can check it out. Good day will be right back.

Posted
AuthorClaribel Rivas

Originally posted by Red Hook Star Revue

Broker Victoria Alexander opened Realty Collective in 2005, which has offices at 223 Columbia Street and 351 Van Brunt Street. While properties they represent can be found throughout Brooklyn, Realty Collective’s agents serve the needs of prospective buyers, sellers and renters for commercial and residential properties located in (but not limited to) Red Hook, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Gowanus. Those agents generally handle properties in their own neighborhoods, according to Realty Collective’s website.

Alexander works with a lot of properties located in Red Hook and the Columbia Street Waterfront District because she herself lives in Red Hook. She also serves as a member of Community Board 6, County Committee, Resilient Red Hook, the 24 Hour Plays and several other organizations. Her values are to help people navigate the decision-making process in the challenging and stressful NYC real estate market, whether that be inheriting a building or wanting to rent/buy a first apartment for example.

In 2018 Alexander found Cora Dance a new home on Van Brunt Street, and did real estate transactions with local non-profits like Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Center, Red Hook Initiative and Extreme Kids & Crew.

As someone who is pro-small business and pro-mixed-use neighborhood, Alexander said she’s always speaking up for what she thinks is in the best interest of Red Hook – noting it’s not just what the highest and best use for property could be, but what the highest and best value for creating an equitable and just city could be as well. She added that proposed ideas like the BQX and another subway could change the neighborhood – saying it could become another Williamsburg, at the mercy of big corporations and developers.

According to Alexander, it’s currently a good time to be both buying and selling because interest rates have dropped.

“I think in the rental market the prices have definitely come down – I would say 20% from what the rents were historically in Red Hook, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens,” she explained. “That’s been really great for tenants that are moving into the neighborhood; they have a lot more leverage.”

She said that the general Red Hook market seems to be oversaturated with overpriced properties listed at the moment.

“We’ve seen in the last year that properties have sat on the market for 6 to 12 months, not moved and prices have slowly come down,” Alexander said. “And that’s because of speculation.”

In terms of what the real estate market could look like down the road, Alexander believes we’re not going to be in a seller’s market as much in the next two years – rather, people will have more opportunities to rent and purchase.

Posted
AuthorClaribel Rivas

KIDS WITH DISABILITIES SHOULDN’T HAVE TO FIT INTO SOCIETY’S MOLD

Originally posted by INCLUDEnyc

At the upcoming INCLUDEnyc Fair on Saturday, January 26, families can meet face-to-face with over 80 summer camps, afterschool, weekend, arts, sports, social, and recreational programs, including Extreme Kids and Crew, who offers weekend programs and summer camp to kids with disabilities.

Located in Red Hook and Ridgewood, Extreme Kids has weekend, weekly and monthly programs, including music classes, parent support groups and social clubs for girls and teens. During Open Play on Saturdays and Sundays in Red Hook and Saturdays in Ridgewood, kids can play in a sensory gym on play equipment that is normally reserved for therapy.

Many of these programs embrace the participation of families, encourage socializing, and help build community. “Extreme Kids is an open, welcoming place. We believe society can learn a lot from the children and families coming into our space. Kids with disabilities shouldn’t have to fit into society’s mold. Instead, classrooms and the broader community should be more open to neurodiversity,” says Executive Director Caitlin Cassaro.

Extreme Kids’ summer camp, based out of the Red Hook location, typically is for a small group with a 1:3 staff ratio for six weeks. Children enjoy field trips and participate in various activities, including art, music, dance and movement. “We want our summer camp to be accessible to those who need it, so we use a sliding scale and is completely free to eligible families,” Caitlin explained. This August, they will also present a two-week summer camp based out of the Ridgewood location designed for children with higher-needs.

Extreme Kids will be attending the upcoming INCLUDEnyc Fair. “The Fair has been valuable for us. We can reach new children and families and have the opportunity to connect with other partners,” Caitlin said.

To learn more about Extreme Kids, visit www.extremekidsandcrew.org or swing by their table on January 26th.

- Carly Wolff

Posted
AuthorLeigh Reid
CategoriesMedia, Partners

Red Hook Space will be closed this weekend due to a facilities issue at P.S. 15. If you signed up for Girls Crew, we will be in touch at another time about rescheduling. For Open Play and MusicWorks, we will see you next week.

Posted
AuthorLeigh Reid

For many of us the end-of-the-year is a time of giving, and to that end we’re here profiling three Woolfers doing extraordinary good in the world.

Learn more about the great work of Caitlin Cassaro with Extreme Kids & Crew, Dana Marlowe with I Support the Girls, and Jen Losey James with Crisis Text Hotline — find out how you can get involved, too!

Can you tell us what Extreme Kids & Crew is and how it works, how you support your population? Extreme Kids & Crew provides play-spaces for children with disabilities and their families. We were founded with a simple concept in mind: to be a safe, fun and judgement-free zone for the whole family. Play is vital to every child’s development, but when you spend two hours commuting to school and there are an unending number of provider visits (doctors, therapists, etc.), it can be hard to find time to have fun as family.

We provide inclusive arts and play programs to children with any disability and/or neurological differences, and their siblings, their friends and their caregivers are welcomed and encouraged to join. We host weekend classes, open play in our sensory gym, special events throughout the city, caregiver meet-ups and workshops, and after-school and summer camps. Our programs are free and we work hard to connect with families who are living in underserved areas of NYC. We are the place that the families whom are often discriminated against can come and relax, meet other families in similar situations, and where the children can be themselves and develop a sense of self-worth and confidence in their abilities.

How long have you worked there and how did you get started?
Like many families, I discovered Extreme Kids shortly after my second child was diagnosed with autism. Until age two Shane was called “a good baby” for his lack of need, but he had begun randomly falling out of chairs, running into walls, and complaining that the bright sun was too “loud.” Our beautiful, once-cheerful boy was no longer a child most parents wanted at birthday parties or playdates. The usual sibling strife became extreme and near impossible to navigate. 

As Shane changed, my husband and I became stressed out, worried, confused, and lonely. Whether or not this was self-imposed or the result of our friends pulling away isn’t clear to me, but the feelings of isolation we felt became overwhelming. 

In a desperate search for something I wasn’t even sure existed, I came across Eliza Factor online. In an open letter, she wrote about her experiences with her beautiful disabled son and two beautiful non-disabled daughters. Her letter made me cry loud, body-rocking, choking sobs. It was not about “oh how sad it is that my son is different,” but more like “all my kids are wonderful, why can’t we join the party? Where can we BE?!” I didn’t realize at the time how deeply essential a sense of community is for everyone’s well-being. Hmm, I wonder if any Woolfers know what I mean?… ha ha.

I contacted Eliza and she immediately replied. Turns out there was this little space she called Extreme Kids & Crew and they had gatherings every weekend. We went. Of course, we went! This little room with big pillows and padded floors immediately became so much more. At Extreme Kids, Shane had fun. His sister had fun. We all had fun together! Kids and other adults played with him while we sat and collected ourselves. I cried again, but this time happy tears. Extreme Kids made me feel like it was going to be OK, and that we were not alone. So what if Shane flapped and yelled and ran around the room crashing into, luckily, padded walls. We had found our community.

I started volunteering, helping to create a financial file and put some systems in place, all non-interesting aspects of running a little start up, except they are interesting to me. I was, at the time, the CFO for Friends of Firefighters (a nonprofit offering private support and therapy to members of the FDNY). Prior to that, I created a little freelance business helping start-ups and nonprofits put the behind-the-scenes systems in functioning order so that the amazing founders would be free to continue growing their vision (and not worrying about, for instance, payroll tax or annual audits.

In the spring of 2013, I interviewed for the job of Executive Director/COO of Extreme Kids & Crew. The organization was growing and turning into a business, something Eliza was not interested in managing. The word went out that a search was on and I happily threw my hat in the ring. I stepped into the role of Executive Director during the time I facilitated moving the organization into PS 15 in Red Hook. The past six years have been amazing. I have never loved a job like I love this one.

continue reading on The Woolfer

Posted
AuthorLeigh Reid
CategoriesMedia

Autism Awareness

WFUV is a National Public Radio affiliate station based in New York City. WFUV features a quarterly Public Service Campaign called “Strike a Chord.” Their goal is to spotlight issues important to communities throughout the Tri-State area, from the environment, to health care, to veterans affairs. Their focus this season is "autism awareness." By focusing on a specific issue each quarter, WFUV hopes to make a big difference in raising awareness about important matters, getting people more involved in their communities and simply letting people know help is out there. 

:05 My name is Leigh Reid and I'm the director of development and communications at Extreme Kids & Crew.

:11 At Extreme Kids and Crew we cultivate welcoming, accessible spaces where kids with disabilities and their crew create a supportive community through the arts, play and conversation.

:24 At an average playground there can be a lot of bigotry and fear about disability. When you provide a space that is not just open to having differences, but encourages people to be who they are when they come in, that makes a happier child, and that happier child will become a happier adult and more well-adjusted.

Posted
AuthorLeigh Reid
CategoriesMedia