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Starr Summer Youth Festival Receives $5000 Foundation Grant

Detroit, Mich.

A new initiative designed to promote the resilience of Detroit’s children, families and communities has been boosted by a grant of $5000 from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan.

The Art of Resilience Project and its main event, the Starr Summer Youth Festival, are designed to capture stories that reflect the strengths of the region’s young people. The project is led by Starr Commonwealth, a social services nonprofit with over 100 years’ experience of supporting Detroit’s youth.

The festival, which is to be held on Sunday August 10th at the Carr Center and in Paradise Valley Park (formerly Harmonie Park), will see hundreds of Detroit youth using music, dance, theatre, visual art and spoken word to demonstrate their resilience.

John Hollingsworth, director of the Starr Summer Youth Festival, said: “We want the festival to be the culminating event of the summer for young artists across the city – a space in which a diverse group of young Detroiters come together to demonstrate the creativity and strength that defines the city. We invite people from across the community to come and enjoy this great celebration – a day dedicated to the positive stories of our youngest residents.”

“Starr has successfully used art and creativity in its youth development programs for decades, and we know that many other community organizations and leaders are having this kind of impact across the city. The festival provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate this work. We want the positive stories of children and their families to be recognized more than their challenges, better reflecting the communities of Detroit,” he added.

Youth program directors are invited to submit applications for their young artists and performers by visiting the event web site at www.artofresilience.org  or calling 313-923-7353 and proposing a performance or exhibition around the theme of resilience.  Performances may include music, dance, theatre, short film, visual arts and/or written and spoken word. A Youth Arts Market will also enable young artists to sell original artwork.

The festival is a free event with family-friendly activities including make & take art stations and face-painting.  Starr is partnering with Samaritan Homes to provide a free meal to all children 18 and under who are participating in or attending the festival.

Transportation to and from the event may also be provided to groups that demonstrate the need.  In addition to certificates of participation, all young artists will also receive free t-shirts and wristbands. They will also be connected with representatives from arts programs with opportunities for continuing their artistic pursuits during the school year.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan is a full service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations committed to the future of southeast Michigan, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefitting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed more than 615 million through nearly 48,000 grants to nonprofit organization throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St Clair and Livingston Counties. For more information please visit www.cfsem.org

For more information on the Art of Resilience Project and the Starr Summer Youth Festival, contact John Hollingsworth: 517 630 1504 – hollingsworthj@starr.org

Calling all Detroit summer youth programs!

Starr Commonwealth is launching a new event that celebrates the resilience of Detroit’s young people and their neighborhoods.

On Sunday, August 10, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Starr will host the first Starr Summer Youth Festival, a new one-day event designed to spotlight youth, ages 6-18, attending summer arts programs throughout Detroit. Plans are taking shape for the festival to include three performance stages presenting 30 to 40 performances, and to exhibit dozens of visual arts projects. A Youth Arts Market will feature young artists selling their original artwork.

The event, which will take place in and around Paradise Valley Park and the Carr Center along E. Grand River and Centre Streets in downtown Detroit, is part of Starr’s Art of Resilience Project, an initiative designed to promote positive stories that demonstrate the resilience of young people and the neighborhoods of Detroit.

Program directors are invited to submit applications for their young artists and performers by visiting the event web site or calling 313-923-7353 and proposing a performance or exhibition around the theme of resilience.  Performances may include music, dance, theatre, short film, visual arts and/or written and spoken word. The Youth Arts Market is for original artwork only.

The festival is a free event with family-friendly activities including make & take art stations and face-painting.  Everyone is invited to attend the festival and support young people from across the city as they express the festival’s theme of resilience through their art.

Transportation to and from the event may also be provided to groups that demonstrate the need.  In addition to certificates of participation, all young artists will also receive free t-shirts and wristbands. They will also be connected with representatives from arts programs with opportunities for continuing their artistic pursuits during the school year.

“We want the festival to be a forum for creative expression, with young people demonstrating their resilience and the community celebrating their achievements,” said John Hollingsworth, director of the festival.

“Starr has successfully used art and creativity in its youth development programs for decades and we know that many other community groups and leaders are having this great impact in communities across the city. We want the positive stories of children and their families to be recognized more than their challenges, reflecting a more genuine image for our city.”

 

For more information about the Art of Resilience Project and the Starr Summer Youth Festival visit www.artofresilience.org  or call 313-923-7353.

 

Starr Commonwealth launches its Art of Resilience Project

By C. L. Price
First printed in the Michigan Chronicle

Art of Resilience

The Art of Resilience Festival will be held on August 10, 2014 at the Carr Center in Detroit.

Resilience is a major part of Detroiters’ DNA. That’s the premise of Starr Commonwealth’s Art of Resilience Project focused on showcasing the strength and creativity of young Detroiters.

The campaign will kick off this summer when it launches the Starr Summer Youth Festival.

This new one-day event is designed to showcase visual and performing arts projects created by young people, age 6 -18, attending summer youth programs throughout Detroit.

The young performers will tell their stories of resilience through the visual and performing arts. The festival will take place on Sunday, Aug. 10 at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center and nearby Paradise Valley Park.

With more than 100 years’ experience in serving as an advocate for children, Starr Commonwealth is uniquely suited to head the effort.

“We believe it’s time to recognize and celebrate young people and the many acts of resilience we witness every day. We want to help them tell their stories and that’s why we are proud to introduce the Art of Resilience Project,” said Dr. Martin Mitchell, president and CEO of Starr Commonwealth.

The multimedia effort, aimed at showcasing the artistic efforts of Detroit’s youngest residents, promises to feature a cross-section of artists, musicians, dancers and poets who, together, create a canvas that is uniquely Detroit.

“Art serves as a creative expression of our inner soul, showcasing our inner strength, determination and grit,” said Oliver Ragsdale, president of the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center, one of the largest minority arts organizations in the state of Michigan.

The Next Chapter

The Art of Resilience Project represents a long-term storytelling initiative, said to John Hollingsworth, project director and communications director at Starr Commonwealth.

“In addition to the Starr Summer Youth Festival, which we hope will become a much-anticipated annual event, the
project will feature ongoing activities that will chronicle and promote the strengths and resilience of Detroit’s young people, neighborhoods and community advocates,” he said.

Though Starr Commonwealth conceived of the Art of Resilience Project, Dr. Mitchell doesn’t view it as a one-organization initiative.

“In order for the Art of Resilience Project to be successful, we need the participation of like-minded community partners – individuals and organizations who like us see, and want to encourage, the best in young people,” he said.

“We have really just started The Art of Resilience. Already we have some great partners on board and are open to others who would like to support the project.”

To date, ARISE Detroit!, New Detroit, Inc., City Connect Detroit, the Michigan Chronicle, the Carr Center and the City
of Detroit Recreation Department have joined in supporting the initiative.

“Given all that Detroit has gone through this past decade, it’s important that we pause to recognize and celebrate our tenacity,” said Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit! and an Art of Resilience advisory group member.

“While the media often focuses on the negative challenges Detroiters face, this campaign provides an opportunity for the community to tell its own unique stories.”

Luther Keith is also former editor of the Detroit News in addition to being an accomplished musician.

Ultimately, organizers hope to further unify Detroiters under a banner of hope, progress and celebration.

“There are some great things happening with young people across Detroit,” said Hollingsworth.

“Hundreds of inspiring community organizations and programs are empowering young people to make positive, often very creative, contributions to their neighborhoods and the city.

“By highlighting their stories of resilience we hope to tackle some of the negative stigma our young people can come up against. Together, we can make a real difference.”

How to Work on Your Child’s Social Skills During Everyday Life

Social skill deficits may be a large barrier for children with autism spectrum disorders in their future lives. Developing social skills — the ability to understand and use specific and general communication and interaction skills to develop interpersonal relationships — can be accomplished through group therapeutic interventions. But, even if you can find an adequate social skill group for your child, his or her learning experiences in that group will not apply to the real world without natural “real world” experiences.

So how can a parent or other caregiver help? Just like with any new skill, practice makes perfect. Make sure your child has opportunities to work on social skills with peers or siblings. Help your child join small group activities or set up play dates with other children with whom they can interact. Find a common ground that all the children involved may like. This can be the cement that holds the event together, even if the specific interactions are not occurring as desired. In the early stages of a child’s social skill learning, you (or an older sibling or friend) may have to hover a bit to help keep things rolling, but care must be taken to avoid being too present and potentially stopping the natural flow between the children.

Setting expectations and practicing before any event happens is always a good idea. Explain to your child the purpose of the event, what he or she is expected to do socially, and then practice the specific skills to see if they can carry out your expectations. For example, if you are hosting a holiday dinner, make sure that your child knows that he or she must speak to everyone there, at least to say “hello.” Also rehearse a few topics to discuss at dinner, and remind your child that they are expected to ‘chime in’ (even if you give them some pat answers before hand). After the event give the child feedback regarding how they did and ways that they can improve. Praise any and all attempts at being social descriptively so that they know what they did correctly. Finally you may want to give a tangible reward (such as a special outing, privilege or a “point” on their point system) for exemplary performance. Don’t save these strategies for just special occasions. Use the basic strategy above anytime that you would expect your child to interact with others. Remember, practice makes perfect!

 

Gary Carone, M.S., L.L.P., L.M.S.W., B.C.B.A.
Co-Executive Director of PsychSystems, a program of Starr Commonwealth

Being Safe Around Water

Many children with autism and other developmental disabilities are powerfully drawn to water but do not understand the dangers. Parents and caregivers can help protect their children by assisting with the development of proper water safety skills.

Here are a few things parents can do with their children:

  • Take adaptive swim classes with your child at an early age at a local YMCA or other recreational facilities in your community. If he or she cannot learn conventional stokes, have the child learn “drown proofing,” a water survival technique that will help him or her stay afloat until help arrives.
  • Find the correct life jacket that best meets your child’s needs to wear anytime the child is near water such as a pool, lake, river, fountain, pond, hot tub or any other open water.
  • In a lake or pool, make a rule that they cannot go past their “water marker,” i.e. their belly button or navel – whichever one is appropriate to their level of swimming ability.
  • Always be within arm’s reach of the child when he or she is in or around any open water.
  • Be sure to drain bathtubs and other small containers of water when you are finished using them. If your concern is serious, consider putting safety locks on toilet seats if needed. Put motion detector alarms/safety locks on all hot tubs, landscape ponds or other water sources around your home.

Remember that safety is essential when dealing with potentially dangerous situations. There will be several opportunities at teachable moments, which can help you show your child or other children with autism how to remain safe in and around water.

Alison Donigan, M.S., L.L.P.
Co-Executive Director of PsychSystems, a program of Starr Commonwealth

Incidental Learning: How Parents Can Use Everyday Experiences to Help their Children with Autism

At PsychSystems, our behavioral health organization and division of Starr located in Wayne, Mich., we frequently meet families who have a child with autism who has developed many useful social and communication skills. At times, we find that these children were exposed to only a small amount of professional interventions but have progressed beyond what might be expected given the amount of treatment they have experienced.

When this occurs, we usually find that their parents, teachers and other caregivers have taken every opportunity to use natural experiences as teaching times. Children with autism who are involved in opportunities to learn, speak and interact during day-to-day activities show an improved skill foundation, better “real world” use of skills and a more natural style of relating to the world around them.

With what we know about learning and teaching, this makes sense. Even when we use Discrete Trial training models — one of the key Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strategies for teaching children with autism — we practice small parts of skills over and over again, praising successes and helping with near misses or mistakes. Life presents our children with autism many different opportunities to try various skills in ways that are meaningful to them. For example, a child with autism may be learning to make requests for certain items. Practice with his or her ABA tutor is helpful, but there are many natural situations where a child will desire a particular item, event or the attention of a person. Parents and caregivers who use incidental learning will only respond to the correct request — or at least some approximation of this request — rather than a “grunt” or an incorrect response. I remember seeing a child who asked his parent for milk when he saw her take a Pepsi out of her bag. She waited, held the Pepsi up away from the child’s grasp a bit, and asked, “What do you want?” The child became a bit impatient and did not ask correctly, at which time his mother began to say the first few sounds of the word Pepsi. The child immediately got the idea and said “Pepsi,” at which time she gave him a drink and said, “That’s right, Pepsi.” She then did another “trial” and said, “What do you want,” again holding the drink just outside of her son’s reach. This time, he said “Pepsi” without any clue. She again gave him a drink and enthusiastically praised him.

Imagine this type of interaction occurring during all waking hours of a child’s life. There will be countless opportunities to teach specific words, concepts and other things, and putting all of those experiences together creates a wealth of skills that help the child later in life. Even for children who are able to have intensive ABA therapy, skills learned at the therapy table do not have real world value unless they are practiced at home or school.

How can you provide incidental opportunities for your child?

1) Realize that every moment is an opportunity for a “teachable moment.”

There are so many things out in the world a child can see, taste and experience that help promote learning. Labeling items the child can see and getting him or her to try to make the sound that approximates the name helps put a word with an object or event. As time goes on, expectations for the responses get more exact, thereby teaching the child to speak and pronounce words more clearly. If a child wants something, this desire should always be paired with an expectation to use a form of communication — words if possible, if not, sign language or a symbol like a picture or PECS card avoid anticipating the child’s needs.

2) Don’t worry if your child becomes a bit frustrated.

Learning anything can be frustrating at first, but as we get better and better at a skill, it becomes easier, more satisfying and more useful to our everyday life. Remember a skill that you learned? Wasn’t this your experience? While we don’t want to make things toofrustrating, we need to accept that this is part of the learning experience. Accepting approximations of the skill we expect, then “raising the bar” as time goes on ensures that the child will learn without getting frustrated.

3) Don’t forget the “payoff.”

We know that any new skill needs to be strengthened or reinforced. Without such a payoff, the skill will never be truly learned. While praise and other social forms of feedback are important, it may also be important to use other things that the child is interested in to reinforce a particular skill. For example, if a child is learning about colors and is interested in cars, walking through the parking lot and identifying each car’s color may be a way to pair learning with a rewarding activity that motivates a child to work on the task. So, a child can go to a car and be asked “what color is this car?” Have the child identify the color, praise and allow some time to look at the car, then move to the next car and repeat.

The world is filled with opportunities that children, regardless of their current ability level, can learn about. Remember that you as a parent or caregiver are a teacher and the world is your classroom. Both you and your child will benefit.

Gary Carone, M.S., L.L.P., L.M.S.W., B.C.B.A.
Co-Executive Director of PsychSystems, a program of Starr Commonwealth

Words on Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month, and our students have been working hard to find new ways to teach the world what it is like to have autism. Today, we wanted to share some words from one of our students in Montcalm School.

Everyone who has been diagnosed with anything has had their psyche and self-esteem damaged, no matter who they are. No one plans on being diagnosed with any form of autism. Most kids that already have been diagnosed will blame their troubles on their ‘problems’. But autism is never a problem, it is a gift. Autistic students are first-class because with weakness comes strength, and with strength comes greatness!

Self-esteem issues because of autism can eat away at a kid’s heart. The issues can also make a kid think that no one is listening. The more awareness that is spread about autism, the more people, like our parents, can understand that a negative view on autism can cause a negative spiral throughout their life.

"Seeing the world from a different angle" is written on the wall of our Sensory integration Room.

“Seeing the world from a different angle” is written on the wall of our Sensory integration Room.

 

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