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March 2011



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‘We want continuity. We want our children with their friends they’ve worked so hard to bond with over these six years,’ said Denise Ingrassia, a parent of a fifth grader in the Nest program. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)

Published: Friday, March 18, 2011, 6:28 PM

By Deborah E. Young

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As their hard-earned friends in general education are already imagining life next year at Paulo Intermediate School, the fifth graders with Asperger’s Syndrome in the first graduating class from PS 4’s Nest program have yet to learn where they will spend their adolescent years.

For these youngsters with autism, who are prone to struggle with even the smallest transitions, it is unacceptable not to be heading into adolescence with familiar faces from elementary school, said parents, who are demanding the link to Paulo be established now and maintained for future classes.

Shouting “Nest is best” and “Our students will thrive at IS 75,” nearly 100 parents from the program and their supporters today gathered outside the Arden Heights school alongside Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) and City Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore) to push the city Department of Education to quickly make what they characterized as an intuitive, humanistic and educationally sound decision.

“Middle school can be a land mine for even the most well adjusted child. For a child with any social deficiency it can be ten times as difficult to navigate,” said Terry Ballou, whose fifth-grade son, Ryan, has been in the Nest program since kindergarten.

“We want continuity. We want our children with their friends they’ve worked so hard to bond with over these six years,” said Denise Ingrassia. “Our children need to be primed to transition,” she said, describing her son, one of six fifth-graders in the school with Asperger’s in the school’s Nest program.

Most children with Asperger’s Syndrome perform on grade level and are often intellectually gifted, but require instruction in the every day interactions that come as second nature to most people, such as making eye contact and engaging in the give-and-take of conversation.

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