Creating meaningful opportunities that enrich the lives of people with autism, their families and their communities.

Autism Services Inc.

 

COVID-19 Information Page

Last Updated August 24, 2020 – new information is shown with NEW! so you can more easily find it.

Letter to Families Regarding Re-Opening Programs

July 17, 2020
Dear Families and Guardians,

I wanted to give you an update on the status of programs and services. The last several months have been very challenging for all of us, and we have done our best to provide virtual services as much as possible and remain connected to all of our folks during this unprecedented time. We have been following state and local guidance in developing re-opening plans while waiting for notification from OPWDD on when services can resume.

On July 10, 2020, OPWDD issued several memorandums outlining opening guidelines for suspended programs. We have been working to update our re-opening plans to accommodate these guidelines and are pleased to report that we will be resuming some in-person services in the coming weeks.

Effective July 15, 2020, the folks in our residential program are allowed to participate in some limited community outings. This includes people going to work, going on home visits and participating in service type outings. Our interim Visitor Policy has been updated, and many of our families have already contacted us to set up visits. We are excited that our residents and their families will have the opportunity to connect in person again after so long.

Our Employment Department is working on plans for some of our folks to return to work. At this time, not all employers are ready for their workforce to return, but we are happy that some of them are ready to move forward and we will be working with our folks to ensure they will remain safe when returning to their jobs.

Additionally, we will resume In-Home Respite Services as well as In-Home Behavior Supports, for those families who are interested. The re-opening plans for these programs are being finalized and we should have a tentative start date by early next week. Program staff will be contacting families enrolled in these services soon. We are also planning to hold a Vacation Camp Respite Session for the end of August. This will be a very limited number of children but will give us an opportunity to evaluate our processes and procedures to ensure health and safety before we resume with more capacity.

Per OPWDD’s July 10 memorandum, Day Services are allowed to resume effective July 15, 2020. However, guidance documents continued to be issued through July 16, 2020, with changes each time as additional feedback was provided to the state. It is important that our re-opening of Day Services be a slow and well-planned process so that we can ensure the health and safety of our staff and our folks. We have developed the following phase for re-opening:
• Phase 1: Tentative start date August 3, 2020
During phase one, we will open day services to those folks who live at home with their family members. We know that our families have been without any supports for such an extended period of time and felt providing services to them first was important. We will be serving a limited number of folks at South Long, Hertel and in Without Walls. As we are starting off with a smaller number of people, we will be able to monitor the transitions, modify our systems and ensure safety guidelines are met. At this time, due to restrictions on transportation outlined by OPWDD, we will be asking families to transport their family member into the program when possible.
• Phase 2: Tentative start date TBD
In the second phase, we will serve the residents from our group homes. The timeline for this phase will be dependent on the success of phase one and our staffing situation. As you know, we were experiencing a staffing crisis before the pandemic began, and the situation has not improved. Due to this, we will need to transition slowly.
• Phase 3: Tentative start date TBD
In phase three, we will serve those folks who live in group homes operated by other agencies. Again, we will proceed as soon as we are able to safely do so.

I am excited that after so many uncertain months, we have a plan to move forward and welcome our folks back. I understand that the opening timeline may seem slow, but it is important to us to proceed with caution and ensure all safeguards can and will be maintained.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me via email or at 716-631-5777 x 318.

Sincerely,
Veronica Federiconi, Chief Executive Officer

Letter to Families regarding Summer School

June 16, 2020

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Family Members:

We are sending this letter to you to address questions that have risen concerning our summer school programming. As you may be aware, Governor Cuomo announced in May that there would be no in-person summer school this year, and that all instruction would be provided remotely.

However, on June 5 Governor Cuomo issued an Executive Order pertaining to summer school (Order No. 202.37). This order allows for, but does not require, the provision of in-person summer schooling for special education students this year. This is also only allowable if there are no significant barriers to doing so, and if our school could be compliant with published health guidelines.

Autism Services quickly began evaluating our ability to meet the applicable health and educational requirements and guidelines. Additionally, Autism Services has sought the guidance of an independent medical consultant to help us gauge our readiness to open our program safely. After considering all factors (including the input of our independent medical consultant), we have determined that we cannot safely provide in-person summer school this year.

Our priority remains the health and safety of our students and staff. Without having the confidence that we can faithfully follow these guidelines, particularly with the short lead-up time to prepare, we cannot in good conscience open for in-person summer school.

We will continue with our plan to provide distance learning to students through access to online content and virtual video conferencing to students. Remote therapies will continue to be offered through a distance learning model as well.

Please know that as this situation progresses, we will continue to keep our families informed regarding any changes to student programming. It is our hope that, in time, we will be able to fully meet the safety, health and education requirements and guidelines. Until then, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Veronica Federiconi, Chief Executive Officer
Andrew Shanahan, Education Director

Update Letter to our Families

May 13, 2020

Dear Families,

As you know, OPWDD issued directives effective March 18, 2020 that suspended all day programs and prohibited visitors at our residences, except when clinically or medically necessary. Additionally, another directive effective March 25, 2020 suspended all community outings and home visits for all residential sites. I know that these last two months have been challenging for you. They have been for me as well, as I miss seeing our folks too.

In an effort to keep everyone connected with their family members, I issued iPads to all of our homes so that Facetime could be utilized for communication. Additionally, I provided iPads to families who requested them because they did not have the equipment of their own to communicate in this way. I, and other administrative staff, have also been reaching out to family members to offer assistance in any way we can. If we have not connected with you yet, please feel free to reach out to me directly if there is anything we can assist you with. I can be reached via email at vfedericoni@autism-services-inc.org or by phone 716-631-5777 ext. 318.

We have also been holding weekly Zoom meetings with our movement and Yoga instructor, our Day Hab Without Walls team, and our self advocates. It has been wonderful to see everyone interact in this new way and be able to connect with their friends during this difficult time. We have talked about the current situation, what we can do to protect ourselves, and how we can keep busy while at home.

Staff at the homes have also been encouraged to safely take people out into the community for walks where social distancing can be maintained. While the weather has not cooperated for this to be a daily occurrence, I know that staff are doing their best both in the home and outside to keep our folks engaged and active while at home.

As parts of the state get ready to re-open on May 15, we are also getting ready. Our Crisis Management Team continues to meet regularly to review all directives from the state and local level. We are examining ways to ensure our programs offer a safe environment in this new normal. We are reviewing our COVID-19 Response Plan to identify everything necessary to keep everyone safe and healthy when our programs do re-open. Lastly, we are actively monitoring our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies to ensure we can provide the necessary equipment for staff and individuals if masks will continue to be required.

I cannot express how much I appreciate your patience as we have navigated this crisis together. It has not been an easy time for anyone, and we are all doing our best, and will continue to do so. I look forward to when I can notify you that our programs are opening back up and we will all be together again. I will be monitoring the directives issued by OPWDD closely so that as soon as we can re-open safely, we will.

Lastly, I wanted to acknowledge and recognize our staff. From our DSPs, nurses, facilities team, and management, I have never been more proud of the dedication of our employees. In big and small ways, they have stepped up to this challenge without hesitation and I have taken comfort knowing that our all of our folks are in such great care.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Sincerely,
Veronica Federiconi
Chief Executive Officer

ASI needs Face Masks and Aprons!

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. We are seeking volunteers who are able to donate their time and resources to help us by sewing masks for our dedicated Direct Support Professionals and other support staff.

Please visit this link for additional information and instructions for sew and no-sew instructions. If you are able to help, please leave us a message at 716-631-5777 ext 380 and a member of our team will reach out to you.

PPE Gowns are in short supply. We are looking for volunteers to make aprons that our staff can wear instead of gowns. For more information, please call us!

Status of Programs and Services

Education program closed until the fall.
NEW! Download our 2020-2021 School Calendar here. Updated August 24, 2020.

FSS Programs – TRAC, After School, In Home Respite: In Home Respite services are resuming as of July 20, 2020. A Vacation Camp session is being planned for August, 2020.

Social Skills will remain remote for the time being.

In Home Behavior Support is resuming in person services as of July 20, 2020.

Supplemental Day Hab services will remain remote for the time being.

Day Habilitation: Hertel, South Long, Without Walls will re-open in phases beginning August 3, 2020.
• Phase 1: Start date August 3, 2020
During phase one, we will open day services to those folks who live at home with their family members. We will be serving a limited number of folks at South Long, Hertel and in Without Walls. At this time, due to restrictions on transportation outlined by OPWDD, we will be asking families to transport their family member into the program when possible.
• Phase 2: Tentative start date TBD
In the second phase, we will serve the residents from our group homes. The timeline for this phase will be dependent on the success of phase one and our staffing situation. As you know, we were experiencing a staffing crisis before the pandemic began, and the situation has not improved. Due to this, we will need to transition slowly.
• Phase 3: Tentative start date TBD
In phase three, we will serve those folks who live in group homes operated by other agencies. Again, we will proceed as soon as we are able to safely do so.

Employment Services – services are resuming as employers are allowing.

Residential – visitors allowed as of June 19, 2020. Please contact the manager of the site to schedule a visit with your loved one. Guidelines will be in place for all visits, including, but not limited to, masks, social distance, screening questions and temperature checks. Home visits resumed effective July 15, 2020.

ASI Staff

Please check Paylocity for communication and updates from the Crisis Management Team throughout this crisis.

Resources for Families

Our teachers are working on videos for families to watch with our students. Please visit our Educational Videos page to view.

Find Speech Therapy Resources here

Find Occupational Therapy Resources here

Social Stories
Social Story about Wearing Masks (pdf)
Social Story about Distance Learning (pdf)
Social Story about Distance Learning (powerpoint)
Social Story about COVID-19 school closure
Overview of COVID-19 describes what COVID-19 is and how to protect yourself and can be used to help your loved one make sense of what is happening in the world right now.
Staying Home for Now can help you explain to your loved one why it is important to stay at home during this crisis.

Useful Links

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
World Health Organization (WHO): https://www.who.int/
Department of Health: https://www.health.ny.gov/
Erie County Department of Health: http://www2.erie.gov/health/index.php?q=coronavirus
New York State Education: http://www.nysed.gov/
Office for People With Developmental Disabilities: https://opwdd.ny.gov/
American Sign Language videos from the CDC regarding COIVD-19:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvrp9iOILTQatwnqm61jqFrsfUB4RKh6J

NEW! Feeling Stressed?

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations like COVID-19. You may feel anxious, mad, sad, or overwhelmed. Find ways you and your family can reduce stress.
• Learn the common signs of stress.
• Make time to unwind and do activities you enjoy.
• Talk with family and friends by phone, text, or email.
• If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed, get support 24/7 by calling 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
Learn more about stress and coping during the COVID-19 outbreak: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

Questions? Contact our Crisis Management Team

If you have specific questions, please call 631-5777 x 380 and leave a message or email us. Thank you again for your patience as we continue our attempts to provide consistent messages during an ever-changing crisis situation.

ASI’s Crisis Management Team has developed and implemented a COVID-19 Response Plan which can be downloaded here. Please note that information is ever changing and this document will be updated as needed. All information is only accurate up until the date and time indicated on the top of the Plan.

Initial Letter to Families and Staff of ASI

March 14, 2020

Autism Services, Inc. is carefully monitoring the developing situation regarding COVID-19. We recognize there is a great deal of fear, anxiety and uncertainty regarding the virus and its effect on our region. We share your concerns and are working hard to minimize the risk of infection. The safety of the people we support, their families, and our employees is of the utmost importance.

We have mobilized our Crisis Management Team to ensure we are taking appropriate action based on the current situation, and to develop a response plan for any future possibilities. We are carefully reviewing guidelines and recommendations from the Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Office for People with Development Disabilities and the State Education Department, as well as other state and federal governmental agencies.

We have already implemented the recommended prevention activities across all of our locations to pre-screen non-agency staff, encourage infection control and cleaning/disinfecting procedures. We have developed resources for our staff to use with the people we support who may be experiencing concerns or anxiety over what they are seeing or hearing about the virus.

We are asking all staff and families to use an abundance of caution and refrain from coming to work or program if they:
– have traveled to any country designated as Level 2 or 3 by the CDC in the last 14 days
– had contact with any Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, OR with anyone with known COVID-19
– have any symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g., cough, sore throat, fever, or shortness of breath)

We will continue to monitor this situation and will make decisions based on the best and most current public health guidance available, and will keep you informed of any changes that may be implemented.

During this time we ask that you contact our Crisis Management Team if you have any questions rather than asking our program staff. You can email us or call 716-631-5777 ext 380 and a member of the team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you for your patience and consideration as we work through this ongoing situation.

Veronica Federiconi, Chief Executive Officer

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