The students of Mill Neck’s Deaf Education Center (DEC) experience hands-on learning at its finest this summer. From touring the Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay to volunteering at Sunrise of Glen Cove Assisted Living Facility to meeting the Stony Brook University football team, students have the opportunity to discover their interests while engaging in experiential learning.
New York State has approved a new graduating credential for special education students. The Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential is a certificate that is intended to indicate a student’s readiness for entry-level jobs. Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf has created a comprehensive summer program where students have the opportunity to participate in work-based learning experiences, including job coaching, shadowing, community service, internships and more.
Taking trips all over the island, DEC students have enjoyed learning about possible future career paths. A tour of the Planting Fields Arboretum was given by Director Vincent Simeone, who welcomed the students as neighbors from a fellow Gold Coast Estate and explained the various jobs and responsibilities. Students toured the green houses, grounds and sensory garden, where they planted seeds that will grow in the fall. The students were very encouraged to hear that the Planting Fields has already employed a past student of Mill Neck. After the tour, they enjoyed a picnic on the grounds.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, the DEC students volunteer their time at Sunrise of Glen Cove Assisted Living Facility. The residents’ faces lit up as they saw the students walk through the doors. Some students stayed on the ground floor, where they set up a nail painting station for the women of the facility to enjoy a nice manicure. Others went to a different floor to engage the residents diagnosed with dementia, where they played games and danced Zumba.
“It’s so great for our residents here to have young kids come and volunteer their time,” says Diana Blacharski, Life Enrichment Manager at Sunrise. “They really enjoy it.”
The students also took a trip to Stony Brook University to meet players on the Seawolves football team: they have been studying American Sign Language as a Foreign Language. The students and players communicated with each other, throwing footballs and high fives.
A Safe Place for all Deaf Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
Individuals who are Deaf with developmental disabilities often have a hard time feeling like they belong. It isn’t as easy to socialize with friends or participate in meaningful group activities within the comfort of a safe environment.
Because of this, Mill Neck Services, Inc.—whose main goal is to empower Deaf and developmentally disabled individuals to become more independent—created a one-of-a-kind project called Signs with the Times Café. Mill Neck Services recently received a $5,000 grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries to help with program funding.
This Café—the sole program of its kind on Long Island—opens its doors to all individuals who are Deaf with developmental disabilities throughout the community. A variety of activities are offered on- and off-site that engage and connect not only the Deaf population, but the community at large.
Under the direction of two extremely passionate coordinators—Diana Pelchuck, who has been Deaf since she was three years old, and Nicole Shaw, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies and a master’s in Teaching ASL as a Foreign Language—the program’s participants enjoy casino night, movie night, visits to museums, sports and more.
Offering a sense of comradery and an inviting environment to individuals who daily face adversity and social isolation, this program breathes new life into a once stagnant feeling of belonging.
While the impact of the program on these individuals is significant—gaining confidence, exploring new experiences, establishing friendships within the Deaf culture and more—hearing individuals are also profoundly affected just by simply engaging with and being introduced to Deaf culture.
The Cafe is currently held at Mill Neck Services’ Day Habilitation Center every Wednesday evening and one Saturday a month.
Lutheran Friends of the Deaf is pleased to announce that a new interpreted worship service opportunity will be available to people who are Deaf through a new partnership. Beginning on Sept. 11, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection (420 Stewart Ave., Garden City, N.Y.) will have an American Sign Language interpreted service each second Sunday of the month at 11 a.m.
Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf goes beyond in-classroom learning and provides their students with real-life learning opportunities. This summer, Deaf Education Center students went on many experiential learning excursions. One of which was learning how to cook. Each week, the students, along with staff, would go to different grocery stores to practice shopping following an itemized recipe list. Once they have purchased their items, they would then head to the school’s Life and Sciences kitchen to cook and eat together as a group.
“I want them to learn how to make simple recipes that they can do on their own,” says Maria Limperis, a teacher at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf. “There are so many learning factors that play into this activity, including literacy skills by writing and following a list; learning about reusing ingredients to make another meal; navigating directions to each grocery store; working on cooperation and team building; learning how to use equipment and more.”
Joel Pastrana, a high school student at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, finds this particular activity to be extremely enjoyable. “We all get together and work as a team. When we go home we can cook because we have done it already in school.”
Lutheran Friends of the Deaf (LFD) Reverend Thomas Dunseth recently traveled to the city of Macau, China. Rev. Dunseth’s first stop was at the graduation ceremony for the Concordia School for Special Education in Macau where he is currently the President of the Board. He was responsible for presenting certificates of merit to three Concordia School teachers.
For the next stop, Reverend Thomas Dunseth visited the Pu Choi Center of Fu Hong Society for Special Needs in the city of Macau. The Pu Choi Center provides comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services for adults with mild or moderate mental handicap (some of their clients are Deaf). With financial aid provided by the Social Welfare Bureau, the center is able to cater for up to 100 service users. Using diversified working modes, one-stop services including workshops, supported employment, on-the-job training, and programmed trainings, the center gradually enhances the work skills and adaptive capacities of the service users and finally helps them get engaged in open employment.
Rev. Dunseth’s final stop was with the Lutheran Social Services (LSS) in Hong Kong. LSS is an agency of the Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod which is a long time church partner of both the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and LFD. The Hong Kong Synod Lutherans operate the only Deaf school in Hong Kong (Lutheran School for the Deaf), and the LSS operated several Deaf centers. Rev. Dunseth took the time to visit with one of the centers in Hong Kong where Deaf people are served. LFD/Mill Neck Foundation for Deaf Ministry gave a grant during the 2015-2016 grant cycle called ‘Get Moving Healthy Life.’ This was to encourage Deaf people in Hong Kong to be mindful of their bodies and souls which God has given them. Highlighted in this project was focus on care for the whole person: eating right, getting plenty of exercise, as well as church going and Bible study.
LFD develops and disseminates resources for deaf ministry, congregations and training for religious interpreters. Originally founded in 1947, LFD is a Recognized Service Organization within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. LFD is the founding organization of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations.
Two Young Brothers Set up Shop to Help Students with Disabilities
When Amanda Cerami, an employee of Mill Neck Services‘ Community Habilitation program and Medicaid Service Coordinator, met blind 6-year-old Anthony Dones in 2008, her life was changed forever.
Anthony didn’t grow up like other children his age. Diagnosed legally blind and with osteoporosis, he wasn’t focused on life’s superficial offerings. He didn’t fret over video games, or beg to stay up past his bedtime to watch his favorite cartoons. Anthony, who was receiving services from Mill Neck at the time, learned at an early age what is really important in life: the intangible.
“Anthony taught me how to appreciate the simple things that most people take for granted, like being able to see what he wears every day, knowing what he looks like, and when he visits a beach being able to see what’s in front of him,” Amanda said. “This 6-year-old boy taught me how precious life can be and inspired me to want to help others.”
From there, Amanda began working at Mill Neck Services in the Community Habilitation program, which is designed to help individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing and have other disabilities, to learn independence skills and improve their socialization skills. She also works as a Medicaid Service Coordinator for Mill Neck, a program that helps hearing children and young adults who have intellectual disabilities adjust to life and build long lasting relationships. “I enjoy encouraging our individuals, supporting their participation in recreational activities and watching them get excited when they learn something new or master a task,” she explained.
Amanda’s passion and dedication for her work naturally spilled over into her family life. “One day, I told my family that I would like to help put a group together that would benefit both groups of individuals in Community Habilitation and Medicaid Service.” Amanda’s brothers, Tyler, age 9, and Nicholas, age 5 – who previously attended Mill Neck’s Early Childhood Center for speech – both jumped at the chance to help. “It was important to me that Tyler and Nicholas understand that not everybody has the same opportunities as they have,” Amanda explained.
Amanda, Tyler and Nicholas decided to set up a lemonade stand to help such an important cause, raising around $160 for the individuals at Mill Neck. “They really enjoyed running the lemonade stand, and would like to continue to do it. Thanks to their efforts we are putting together a fishing trip outing for the group in July.”
A special thank you to Owen and Michael Perfetti for also participating in the lemonade stand.
For Vincenza and Daniel Garcia: it was simple. When their one-year-old niece, Giuliana Fullone, was diagnosed with severe hearing loss, they knew they wanted to do something special for her—give back somehow. But just mailing a check wasn’t going to cut it. Instead, they decided to make an impact—run 6.2 miles through the most magical place on Earth: Disney World.
It’s been said before that bringing a child into this world is one of life’s greatest miracles. The melodic purity of their laugh; the high-pitched squeak of their first word; the soothing wave of comfort splashed on their face at the sound of a familiar voice. These gifts are ones that play on a blissful loop; engrained memories for parents that make it all worth it—make it all tangible.
But for some, those tangible gifts turn to intangible fears when things don’t go as planned. And for the Fullone family, those fears became an earth-shattering reality the very day they found out their daughter, Giuliana, was unable to hear.
“The first thing I felt was shock—sort of like a trauma,” Carolina Fullone, Giuliana’s mother, explained.
With a trauma of this kind, it usually bleeds into the hearts of anyone in arm’s length. In this case, it was Carolina’s sister, Vincenza. “Our family was extremely worried for Giuliana. I remember thinking, ‘Are her peers going to make fun of her or bully her because of her disability?’ and ‘What do we do now?’”
Numerous physician visits, inundated with new research and unfamiliar information, hearing aid trials, constant speech therapy—all of which failed to improve Giuliana’s hearing—started to take a toll on everyone involved.
But Vincenza was behind them every step of the way—she knew that her sprightly, bright-eyed niece would come out of this stronger than ever. “Giuliana is extremely caring and thoughtful,” she said with a full heart. “When I saw everything she had been through, I knew that she would emerge determined and strong-willed.”
Because Giuliana’s hearing aids failed, she became a candidate for cochlear implants. She was enrolled in the Nassau BOCES Hearing Services Infant Program five days a week and underwent two cochlear implant surgeries—all before the age of two. Giuliana then moved on to attend Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, and this is where things began falling into place.
“When Giuliana first came to Mill Neck, her speech was nowhere near the level it is today,” recalled Vincenza. “Now she has more than 100 words in her vocabulary and has no signs of a speech delay. She speaks in complete sentences and communicates very clearly.”
Inspired by the sheer strength Giuliana possesses, Vincenza and her husband, Daniel, decided to participate in an event called runDisney, allowing participants the unique opportunity to run through Disney Theme Parks. In February of this year, Vincenza and Daniel ran the Disney Princess Enchanted 10k race at the Epcot center in Orlando, Fla., to raise money for Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf and to raise awareness for children who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
“Completing this event was a huge accomplishment and knowing that it was being done to thank Mill Neck Manor’s teachers was the motivation behind it all,” Vincenza continued. “Our hope is that Giuliana learns that through determination, perseverance and faith, she can achieve anything.”
Established in 1951, Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf provides the highest quality of services to children who are deaf and have other special needs from all social and economic backgrounds. Children are bused to Mill Neck daily from 49 Long Island School Districts, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan with the hope that one day they will have an opportunity to leave their mark on the world, just like everyone else.
For more information on how to help children at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, please contact 516-922-4100.
“Gospel Hands” Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an exciting 4-day program being offered this summer by Lutheran Friends of the Deaf. Free of charge to Deaf children and their siblings (ages 6-12), this unique VBS will be held at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Garden City on August 16-19, 2016.
Since 1947, Lutheran Friends of the Deaf (LFD), the founding member of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations has made it their mission to serve the spiritual needs of those who are Deaf, locally, nationally and around the world. And while they serve Deaf individuals as far away as Ethiopia, LFD’s first and foremost priority is to serve individuals right in their backyard of Long Island.
With a generous grant from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), LFD was able to develop and launch this special program. LFD also teamed up with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), who awarded a grant that funded the development of “Bible Story Books”—a series of 12 written and ASL Bible Stories for children. Using the Bible Story Books as the basis of the VBS curriculum, LFD will bring the Gospel into the lives of children by combining American Sign Language, expressive artwork, the written word and video.
Language and cultural barriers have often left the Deaf population in isolation, especially when it comes to learning the Gospel. Christian Deaf ministries estimate that only 1 percent of Deaf adults will attend a Christian church. Through “Gospel Hands” VBS, as well as other programs and social events, LFD aims to reach hundreds of Deaf individuals on Long Island, greatly increasing the percentage of those who attend an LCMS church and also actively participate in this community.
Advance registration is required to attend the “Gospel Hands” VBS. The program’s hours are from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Lunch will be provided and financial scholarships for public transportation are available for those with a demonstrated need. Please visit millneck.org for more details or contact Deaconess Tiffany Manor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-628-4229.
Mill Neck Services
Center for Hearing Health
is celebrating hearing health all month long! Call 516-628-4258 today to reserve your spot at these FREE events.
May 4 & 5
This Mother’s Day, why not give the gift of better hearing?
Free hearing screenings and hearing aid cleaning will be available. Refreshments too!
“Good Neighbor” Days
Hearing screenings open to the community. All ages.
Civil Service Day
Hearing screenings for civil service employees.
The Center for Hearing Health is a full-service adult and pediatric audiology facility. Most insurances accepted.
Mill Neck Services Center for Hearing Health
40 Frost Mill Road
Mill Neck, NY 11765