Eight-year-old Max Mascia enjoys spending time on Sundays at Kids’ Connection Corner – a new, free program offered by JF&CS that provides children with autism the opportunity to participate in creative activities and make friends. His older brother Vincent, 11, is equally pleased with the chance to spend rare quality time alone with their parents, Jessica and Chris Mascia, while Max is happily occupied.

“It has worked out really well for all of us. We never get to spend time alone with Vincent since our family time generally involves accommodating Max’s needs,” said Jessica, of Bedford.

According to Kids’ Connection Corner Program Coordinator Angela Waring, parents of kids with autism like the Mascias don’t often get a break. This new program serves the dual purpose of providing a social skills program for kids ages 7-14 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and of being a well-deserved respite program for their families.

The idea for the program was formed by donor Nicole Casty in conjunction with JF&CS staff as a way to directly reach people and provide a service that insurance does not cover.

Casty, of Newton, is the mother of two young boys. “I know how much of a handful that is and I have a lot of empathy for parents who have a bigger challenge,” she said. “As a former teacher, I have encountered many children who have to be approached in many directions. I wanted to create something that would give parents a break.”

Started in May 2016, Kids’ Connection Corner launched through a donation from the Ronald G. Casty Family Foundation. Additional support is welcome as the program continues to grow.

Kids’ Connection Corner takes place a few Sundays per month from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton. Children, who are screened by Waring, are divided up according to their abilities and participate in a range of activities involving gross motor skills, art, a sensory table, and snack making, with time for free play and lunch. The program can accommodate 15 kids on any given Sunday on a first come, first served basis. The ratio of children to staff is 3:1 and enthusiastic volunteers add to the experience.

“This is an opportunity for kids to make friends, develop connections, and practice the social skills they need in the community in a safe space,” said Waring.

Nicole Casty is thrilled that children with autism and their parents are showing interest and benefitting from the program. “I am so happy that it is making a difference in parents’ lives,” she said.

For more information about Kids’ Connection Corner, contact Program Coordinator Angela Waring at awaring@jfcsboston.org or 781-697-7232.

Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.

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