Longstanding Partnership Has Generated New Opportunities for People on the
Autism Spectrum

NEW YORK, NY, July 16, 2013 — Over the past decade, the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan (JCC) has become a mission leader in the development of inclusion-oriented programs for children, teens, tweens, and adults with special needs. The Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs is a standout local hub for holistic, participant-centered programs that welcome, engage, and support participants and their families.

The Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs works with and receives support from a vibrant network of collaborative partners, who join forces to bring the vision of inclusive programming from dream to reality. The Center has enjoyed a particularly productive connection with New York Collaborates for Autism (NYCA), whose Executive Director helped to create the JCC’s very first special needs program in 2003: a play-date program for siblings of children with special needs called SibFun that remains a robust and popular program to this day.

“We share a strong common belief that our entire community benefits from the meaningful and regular inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families – and by supporting these families, we make our entire community a better place to be,” said Allison Kleinman, Director of the Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs.

In addition to the SibFun program, NYCA and the JCC in Manhattan collaborated on the creation of BOOST!, a highly structured after-school program in which typically developing peer mentors interact with children with special needs in a recreational group setting, practicing social skills and learning more about the world around them. “BOOST! is a living example of the value of inclusive community settings for children across the spectrum of ability, and helps to shape what those communities can look like,” noted Melissa Lader, the JCC’s Director of Children, Tween and Teen Special Needs Programs.

Seeing a clear need for after-school programs for children on the autism spectrum, NYCA researched best practices of programs across the country, ultimately incorporating core elements of the Have Dreams program in Park Ridge, Illinois. NYCA worked with Have Dreams to develop core program and training materials, which were then shared with the JCC in Manhattan and other organizations in the NYC metropolitan area. NYCA then provided funding and technical assistance to support implementation of the BOOST! model.

Over the past decade, NYCA has provided almost $250,000 in total support of programs at the Jack and Shirley Silver Center for Special Needs – from BOOST! to Adaptations, the Center’s program for young adults with learning and communication challenges. This multilayered support has helped the Center to reach hundreds of children and young adults with special needs per year, bringing them more fully into the JCC community.

NYCA’s orientation toward systemic, far-reaching, yet fully tangible change has made an indelible positive impact on the lives of New Yorkers with autism, and particularly on the JCC in Manhattan community. Noted Kleinman, “We are honored and proud to stand with NYCA as they celebrate ten years of triumphs in autism, and look forward to continued collaboration that will help to make these groundbreaking programs available in more communities.”

About the JCC in Manhattan: Celebrating over 10 years on 76th and Amsterdam, the JCC is a vibrant non-profit community center on the Upper West Side.  The cornerstone of progressive programming in Manhattan, the JCC serves over 55,000 people annually through 1,200 programs each season that educate, inspire, and transform participants’ minds, bodies, and spirits.  Since its inception, the JCC has been committed to serving the community by offering programs and services that reach beyond neighborhood boundaries.  Programs at the JCC reach people at all stages of their lives, and serve the entire family and community.

About New York Collaborates for Autism: New York Collaborates for Autism (NYCA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 dedicated to creating innovative replicable programs that address the needs of individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) right now. NYCA accelerates change in the way autism services are provided by identifying national leaders to help shape state-of-the-art programs, partnering with leading community-based organizations, providing technical expertise, assisting in early stage management and raising seed money for these initiatives. NYCA develops comprehensive, evidence-based community services and resources that are nationally recognized.  NYCA is responsible for the creation of the NYCA Charter School, Hunter College Autism Center, BOOST! after school programs, Project SEARCH Collaborates for Autism and the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, a collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and its affiliated medical schools of Columbia and Weill Cornell.  NYCA sees the possibilities for people with ASD and creates the path to achieve them.



The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan:

Erica Werber, Senior Director of Institutional Communications: (646) 505-4493,


New York Collaborates for Autism:

Gillian Leek, VP, Communications: (212) 759-3775,