Co-founder Jamey Wolff recalls that few people had even heard the name of the disorder back in 1976 when she and Susan Butler started the Children’s Annex to work with a couple of children in a church basement. Who might have imagined the phenomenal growth of the program that would include operation at two facilities, one in Kingston and one in Ellenville, with a wide range of services including a diagnostic and consultation clinic? Who would have thought that the lives of so many individuals with a condition once thought to be mysterious and frightening could be so impacted? Certainly the founders and staff of CSS have always held these possibilities as achievable.
This month, as Autism Awareness is promoted across the state and the nation, they present the proof of possibility in the release of a DVD titled The Asperger’s Difference: A Film for and about Young People with Asperger Syndrome and with a special photography exhibition of works done by former and current students called “Through the Lens of Autism.” Under the guidance of DeGraffenreid, cameras were put into the hands of ASD students, whose resulting images are beautiful and complex. “I am still surprised by the many ways these kids connect visually with their surroundings, themselves and with each other. Not only do they produce photographs, they also present ideas, questions and stories relating to the photographs they make,” says DeGraffenreid.
An exhibit of 25 photographs starts with a private showing on Tuesday, April 26 at the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce membership breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Kingston. It then goes public at the Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art (KMoCA) on Saturday, April 30 from 2 to 8 p.m. through Sunday, May 1 from noon until 4 p.m. Some of the photo artists will be on hand at the Sunday afternoon show with written verbal descriptions of what they were shooting.
Framed and unframed copies of the photographs will be for sale at all exhibits. All profits will benefit programs at CSS. KMoCA is located at 103 Abeel Street in the Rondout district of Kingston. The exhibit is free to the public.
Plans are in the works for the exhibit to travel to the Empire State Plaza in Albany, where the photos will be hung on a wall of the legislative office building there, sponsored by New York State assemblyman Marcus Molinaro. In September, they will hang in the Ulster Savings Bank lobby in Kingston on Schwenk Drive.
To celebrate CSS’s 35th anniversary in style, a classical music gala benefit concert, “Artists for Autism,” will be held at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts’ Sosnoff Theater at Bard College on Saturday, May 7 at 7 p.m. Internationally acclaimed performers will honor CSS’s contribution to children, their families and the greater community with an evening of music. The Shanghai Quartet will be joined by flautist Eugenia Zukerman, pianist Navah Perlman, soprano Arianna Zukerman, cellist Sophie Shao and flautist Tara Helen O’Connor in performing works by Frederic Chopin, Franz Doppler, Franz Schubert, Leonard Bernstein and others.
“We are very excited about this event,” says Laurie Rich, director of the Spectrum Services Foundation, the fundraising arm of CSS. “We are delighted and grateful that artists of extraordinary caliber have offered to donate their talent and time to make this event possible.” Funds raised at the event will help support CSS’s many vital programs, the completion of the expansion of its Kingston campus facility and the purchase of state-of-the-art playground equipment specially adapted for children with disabilities. Artists for Autism is being co-chaired by New York State assemblyman Kevin Cahill, Christy L. Cocker Molinaro and assemblyman Marcus Molinaro. Tickets are $60, $75 and $100, and may be purchased by calling the Richard B. Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900.
“Our families are some of our most dedicated supporters,” adds Rich, describing another upcoming fundraiser called “Autos for Autism.” It’s a classic car show that will take place on Monday, May 9 at 5 p.m. at Two Brothers Pizza on Route 32 in Saugerties. Organized by Doug Smith, the grandfather of a Spectrum student, the show will include trophies, raffles and a “50/50” with deejay music provided by House of David. Contact Smith at (845) 430-4382 for more information about this event. And visit www.centerforspectrumservices.org to learn more about ASD and the Center for Spectrum Services.