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<p><strong>Alison Kase - NYC Special Needs Writer</strong><br/><br/>Alison calls herself a "Momma Honey Badger," which describes how she powers through life's adventures while keeping a tender heart. Her volunteer work focuses on special education advocacy, and she serves as Title 1 chairperson, a school leadership team member and is a co-teacher of a weekly marine biology course in her native Jamaica Bay, Queens community. Professionally, Alison has worked in various capacities for Scientific American, Scholastic and <em>Parents</em> magazine, to name a few. She originally came to Mommy Poppins as a reader, looking for fun activities for her family, including her special-needs son Jake. The Kases are avid campers who also enjoy cooking, crafting and all things Muppets.

Latest posts by Alison

Individualized Education Plans for NYC Kids with Special Needs: One Mom's Insights into Getting an IEP

With the Department of Education set to roll out its Special Needs Reform this September, many families with kids in public school are wondering about its implications. While we won't know how it will impact schools until later this academic year, one thing that isn't supposed to change is the process for obtaining an Individualized Education Plan, better known as an IEP.

The IEP process can be daunting. From the moment parents are told their child may need special services to sitting at a table with a roomful of experts mapping out the individualized education plan, families may be dealing with a lot of emotions as well as questions about how best to navigate the system to make sure your child is getting the right help.

As the mother of a child with autism, I've been through this process firsthand and have shared experiences with many other parents who have requested IEPs for children with various needs. Below are some of my insights into how to navigate the system as well as what to expect and when to ask for help.

NYC Sports Programs for Kids with Special Needs

For this edition of my series of special needs posts, I'm taking a look at sports programs for children with special needs. As the mother of a son with autism, I am consistently amazed by the ingenuity of parents, teachers, therapists and sports enthusiasts who manage to adapt traditional athletic activities to accommodate kids like him.

I've seen firsthand how hard it can be for kids with special needs to engage in sports. For my 10-year-old son Jake, sports present unique challenges. Like many kids on the autism spectrum, he requires one-on-one support to remain on task and to manage frustration. The programs below are some of our favorites, and I've added a few we're looking forward to trying. While some of the organizations offer drop-in or one-off sessions, keep in mind that advance registration is often required.

Awesome Apps for Kids with Special Needs

Apps—is there a parent left who doesn't love 'em? Regardless of what your kid's into, there's probably an app or two or 100 out there for them, and chances are it's inexpensive or even free.

Of course for kids with special needs, apps are more than just a fun pastime. Apps can be a lifeline that helps them connect to the outside world and allows them to pursue interests they didn't even know they had. So for the April edition of my monthly special needs posts, I decided to share some apps that have really engaged my son Jake, who has autism, and other children with special needs.

NYC Special Needs Playgroups and Ways to Help Special Needs Kids Socialize

For this edition of my monthly special needs posts, I decided to write about ways parents can help their special children make friends. As the song says, "You gotta have friends," but for kids with social disabilities, meeting new pals isn't as easy as saying "hi!" to their peers in the playground.

Since making friends and maintaining healthy relationships can be difficult for children with special needs, parents must often take a unique approach. Thanks to the Internet and a few dedicated relationship therapists, there are many ways special needs families can help their kids socialize in New York City and beyond.

Special Needs Museum Programs for NYC Kids

My second post in Mommy Poppins' special needs series focuses on museum programs for children with autism and other challenges. A number of New York City museums have modified their educational offerings to accommodate special needs kids like my nine-year-old son, Jake, which is wonderful since he loves to get his creative juices flowing.

Recently, Jake and I went to the Children's Museum of the Arts in Hudson Square, and I was really impressed with the way the staff immediately cued into his needs. I find that the children's museums in particular are very good about catering to their young visitors, and go above and beyond to make all kids feel welcome, stimulated and safe.

Read on to find out about our great day playing, learning and creating at the Children's Museum of the Art, and for information on other local museums that offer classes and activities for kids with special needs.

Sensory-Friendly Movie Screenings for NYC Kids

[UPDATED: July 19, 2012]

Like any parent, I’m always on the prowl for cool things to do with my kids. However, as the mother of an autistic son, our activity choices have to fit certain sensory criteria. My 9-year-old son Jake can't be exposed to overpowering or sudden noises, and he doesn't do well in very dark rooms. He also jumps up and flaps his arms when he's excited, so he needs a good amount of personal space.

Unfortunately, this means that going to the movies—one of Jake's favorite activities—isn't as easy as buying a ticket. Luckily, AMC Theatres has partnered with the Autism Society to offer monthly sensory-friendly family film screenings throughout the U.S., including three theaters right here in New York City.

Read on for details about how these special screenings accommodate children with special sensory needs, and find out about upcoming films in NYC.