Celebrating Art Therapy with “Unity” & “Conversations”

This month we celebrated artwork by individuals enrolled in our adult programs with two art shows: Unity and Conversations. Our Art Therapist Kristina Baktis worked with Art Therapy Interns Kateleen Foy, Cara Lampron, and Julia Marcus to organize the events.

These shows marked the end of Kateleen, Cara and Julia's internships, and they gave everyone a chance to reflect on the work they created together these past few months. Artists' family members, peers, and staff came together to view the work, and they created collages reflecting the themes of the shows. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to show their support!

We're proud of our art therapists and the work they do with the people enrolled in our programs. Art therapy is one of the core services we provide to individuals who attend our adult programs, as well as students at League School and JFTN. To learn more about our adult art therapy services, please contact Kristina Baktis.

Introducing Mark Handelman, CEO

League Education & Treatment Center Appoints Mark Handelman CEO

Our board of directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Handelman, LCSW, ACSW as Chief Executive Officer.


Mark Handelman brings a wealth of non-profit experience to the position. He previously served as the Chief Executive Officer at The New York Association for New Americans (NYANA), the Northern Home for Children in Philadelphia, and most recently Hamilton-Madison House, a historic settlement house addressing the needs of immigrant and minority communities in Lower Manhattan. Other past positions include Assistant Professor of Social Work in Administration, Community Organization and Social Policy for the Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University and Director of one of the first New York City funded methadone maintenance clinics at Jamaica Hospital in Queens.

Our Leadership Looks to the Future

"After an extensive search for the most qualified person to be our new CEO, we are very excited to have someone with Mark's knowledge and experience on board to lead the League Education and Treatment Center into the future," said longtime Board Member Elaine Brodsky.

"People who have worked with Mark know that he is someone who builds partnerships and gets things done," added Board Member Alan Gallo. "We are thrilled to have someone of his experience and expertise at the helm of LETC."

Board President Julie Ratner stated, "I am very pleased that Mark Handelman has accepted the position as CEO of the League Education and Treatment Center. With Mark at the helm, I believe that the agency is poised to reach new heights in the service of our clients who all have psychiatric and developmental disabilities."

Mark Handelman, LCSW, ACSW

Mark Handelman, LCSW, ACSW

I’m privileged to be part of the caring and committed team of League staff and board who are engaged in the work of healing and transformation.
— Mark Handelman

The Department of Education Visits JFTN

The NYC Department of Education regularly reviews 4410 preschools like JFTN. The DOE’s audits ensure that schools are providing the education and services that students need. 

We recently had our annual audit, and it gave us a chance to reflect on the positive changes at our preschool. The visit helped us see our school with fresh eyes, and we'd like to share some highlights with you.

Open-Ended Questions & Children’s Choices

The auditor met with our school’s leadership team, observed classrooms and met with teachers. She was impressed with the way our staff uses open-ended questions to encourage children’s language development. The more opportunities children have to develop their language skills, the better they will succeed in school in the years ahead. The auditor was also happy to see that our staff found every opportunity to let children make choices for themselves, which leads to greater confidence and independence. 

Visual Learning

Our guest was also impressed with our school’s use of visual supports to help students better understand directions and activities. These include daily schedules, first-then boards, positive reinforcement charts and social stories. We distribute visual supports to parents so that the lessons learned at school can be reinforced at home. For example, social stories like our Food for Friends and Green Meadows Farm are now available in print and online. 

Introducing Conscious Discipline

Another recurring topic during the visit was how well our teachers and clinicians work together to help each child realize their individual goals. Since our last audit, our treatment coordinators have introduced Conscious Discipline principles to our teachers and clinicians. Conscious Discipline helps children achieve their individual goals by creating an environment that promotes emotional regulation and safety. 

The auditor was impressed with how many classrooms have adopted Conscious Discipline strategies. Our staff have come together to develop creative environments that are conducive to learning. Using Conscious Discipline has enriched our teams’ shared vocabulary in helping children with their social and emotional development.

Strengthening Family Services

The auditor also met several of our students’ parents and gathered feedback about the school and its staff. We’ve seen more parents attending our Monday morning parent group than ever before. They told us that participating in the group meetings and staying tuned in to our weekly newsletter have helped them better understand our school’s academic and social-emotional curricula.

Make Your Voice Heard

We’re grateful to everyone who welcomed the DOE to our school and provided feedback.

If you haven’t yet taken the DOE’s family survey, you can do so online. You’ll need to enter your unique code to complete the survey, which we distributed at parent teacher conferences. The deadline to complete the survey is April 1st. 

Your feedback helps our school grow. Thank you!

A Picture Worth a Thousand Hugs

Our friends at Morgan Stanley shared a favorite hug on Twitter for National Hug Day. The photo captures a group hug with Prime Brokerage Associate Dean Fabrizio during our first Fitness Fest event last spring. It was named Volunteer Picture of the Year in 2015 with $5,000 in proceeds donated to our preschool as part of Morgan Stanley's Giving Back philanthropy campaign

After posting the picture on Twitter, Morgan Stanley Executive Director Jeremy Welles surprised us by accepting donations for JFTN for every hug Dean received from his colleagues.

600 Morgan Stanley employees hugged Dean last Thursday. And our staff stepped up with matching donations, giving hugs to every student. 

Thanks to the Prime Brokerage team, we've hugged our way to more than $900 in donations!

This is a picture worth a thousand hugs. Help us reach our fundraising goal of $1,000 by supporting our preschool with a donation. For every dollar you donate, a child at JFTN will get an extra hug.

Update: We exceeded our goal of 1,000 hugs! We're grateful to everyone who donated and helped us give so many extra hugs to our students this week. Thank you!

Google Brings Holiday Cheer to League Adult Programs

Earlier this month a team of about 30 people from Google visited our adult programs in Fort Greene. Many of the guests traveled to see us from out of state. Jessica Fennimore and the rest of the Google team visited with the individuals who attend the adult programs and distributed gifts to all. The individuals were excited to host with snacks, as well as show off their holiday decorations, and even gave a special preview of the upcoming talent show, which was enthusiastically received! We all enjoyed and appreciated the visit very much, and we look forward to seeing them again.

Special thanks to our board member Elaine Brodsky, who joined us for the event and made the day possible by connecting us with Google and Jessica!

Acts of Kindness

At JFTN, this month’s unit of study is Acts of Kindness. Our teachers and staff have created lessons and activities to help students develop a greater appreciation of Kindness.

We’ll explore the importance of friendship, helping others and sharing. Some classrooms will sing songs and give gifts to friends in neighboring classrooms. We’ll read books about spending time with family and friends during the holidays, and we'll decorate donation boxes for our Food for Friends food drive. 

JFTN parents can help reinforce lessons from our Acts of Kindness unit by donating non-perishable food items to our Food for Friends event. Filling your child's donation box is a great way to encourage and affirm your child's efforts, while also helping families in need.

If you're a JFTN parent, you can also read our Food for Friends Social Story with your child. We've made this story to help your child understand why we're doing a food drive and to develop their understanding of concepts like kindness, friendship and generosity.

Cool Culture Returns

We're pleased to once again offer Cool Culture cards to JFTN parents and staff. 

To receive your free Cool Culture pass, parents may attend our Cool Culture orientation during Parent/Teacher Conference night on December 10th.

For those who can't attend the orientation, you may review our online Cool Culture Guide. Play the game at the end, and your family pass will be available for pick up at our 3rd floor reception desk.

Sesame Street's Autism Resources

Illustration: Marybeth Nelson/Sesame Workshop

Illustration: Marybeth Nelson/Sesame Workshop

Meet Julia

We’ve got a lot of Sesame Street fans at our preschool, so we were excited to see that a new character with autism named Julia has joined their cast of characters. Children and parents can read the interactive story that introduces Julia on Sesame's Street's new autism website.

The story shows how Julia behaves and processes information in ways that are different from other children, and it encourages children to respond to those differences in positive ways. 

Interactive Resources

The new website also includes lots of videos for children with autism. We recently shared their Sibling Story video on our blog to prepare brothers and sisters for our annual Sibling Day event. 

But the best part of the website might be the daily routine cards. These interactive cards help kids navigate common activities like brushing their teeth, crossing the street and going to bed.

The new Sesame Street autism website features big buttons and simple navigation, making it easy for little fingers to find their way.

The new Sesame Street autism website features big buttons and simple navigation, making it easy for little fingers to find their way.

Visual cue cards like Sesame Street's daily routine cards can help children focus on concepts and recognize patterns. At JFTN, we use similar visual supports to help students identify and express their feelings using Conscious Discipline’s How Do You Feel? Chart. These visuals also play a key role in our Toolbox Program, developed by our Preventive Behavioral Specialist, Dr. Christie Sosnowski.

Breathe, Think, Do — And Learn

The Toolbox Program has a lot in common with Sesame Street's Breathe, Think, Do — an app that gives children tools to calm down when they're feeling stressed. The app reminds kids to practice a deep breathing technique and to focus on a plan when they’re feeling frustrated. Here's a preview:

We know that when children are frustrated or stressed, they're less able to learn. That makes a tool like Breathe, Think, Do a great way to encourage learning  — whether your child is at home or at school. You can download it for free on the iOS App Store for iPhone and iPad or on the Google Play Store for Android devices.