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After-school Respite Gears Up for Another Year of Care

After-school Respite Gears Up for Another Year of Care

Nov. 11, '14
By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

It’s another afternoon in a large, airy and colorful room on the second floor of Hamaspik of Orange County’s cavernous Admin/Day Hab Building in upstate Kiryas Joel, and Mrs. Naomi Shalilof, the agency’s After-school Respite (ASR) Director for over a year now, is eagerly awaiting her charges.

Arriving shortly after their school day ends, the bunch of rambunctious little boys bounce off the yellow bus that rolls to a stop in front of the building, then barrel their way up the steps into the facility, where they make a beeline for the ASR room.

There, Mrs. Shalilof warmly greets them with a chuckle and a genuine smile, then settles them down, staff assisting, around their snack tables.  That’s the first order of the day.

Following that, the children will engage in two hours of educational stimulation, be it arts and crafts, books, or games that make players think—both of the physical and computerized varieties.

When the afternoon session ends, the boys will clean up (and be cleaned up by staff as necessary), don their coats and strap on their backpacks, and head out the door in an orderly fashion to the buses that’ll be waiting to shepherd them home.

That will be the scene each afternoon now for the rest of the school year.

Following last year’s successful curriculum, Mrs. Shalilof informs the Gazette that her group will be doing all the great things—and then some—that they did last year: Themed activities before each Jewish holiday, season-related games and pastimes with the changing weather, and min-curricula focusing on teaching the little tikes such life-skills basics as the daze of the weak, opposites like wet/dry, hot/cold and big/small, and, weather-permitting, outdoor ball games.

Of course, if the weather doesn’t permit, or if other circumstances change, Mrs. Shalilof says she’s ready to switch gears and deploy a different activity on a moment’s notice.  “It’s every day at a time,” she explains.

Down in Rockland County, Mrs. Shalilof’s counterpart Ms. Chaya Rivky Vogel will be presiding over a parallel program since early September.  Speaking to the Gazette, Ms. Vogel likewise talks about holiday-themed arts and crafts and other activities before each Jewish festival, as well as a weekly project revolving around the portion of the Torah (Bible) read that week in synagogues.

For the Sukkos holiday, for example, Ms. Vogel explains that her charges at the Hamaspik of Rockland County After-school Respite program will be making sukkah decorations and even cookies shaped like the lulav/esrog Biblical “bouquets” used by Orthodox Jews on Sukkos.

What’s more, to further augment the program’s efforts, the Director will be weaving a positive-behavior contest into the fabric of the goings-on all year long, she adds.

Ideas for the program’s curriculum come from education websites, she notes, as well as the program’s copious files of projects from years past.

“The kids love to come every day,” says Ms. Vogel.  “And I have fantastic staff!”

The After-school Respite Program, a long-running service of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), provides parents of children with intellectual disabilities with a self-explanatory after-school respite each school day—allowing them a precious hour or two to tend to their other children, housekeeping or even themselves.  (Special-needs parenting, needless to say, can be profoundly taxing.)

Hamaspik has partnered with the OPWDD for years now to provide After-school Respite to its constituent communities in the greater Hudson Valley—a service that has been critical to hardworking fathers and mothers in years past and, if last year’s record is any indicator, is bound to be a robust success this coming school year, too.