​​​Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Visits a Birch Family Services School​​ 

Students at the Pelham Bay Early Childhood Center had a very special guest for Autism Awareness Month: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez! The Congresswoman, who represents the school’s District, stopped by to learn more about Birch Family Services, the school, and meet some of our students. While the Congresswoman was there, she also read the book “All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism” by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer. The book teaches students to embrace not only who we are, but also embrace the people around us who are unique due to their own amazing stripes.  

Earlier this year, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez successfully proposed and funded a project to train Birch Family Services educators and staff in PECS (“Picture Exchange Communication System”), a communication system designed for nonverbal children and adults. Our Pelham Bay Early Childhood Center is a preschool for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in the Bronx. Many students have limited language skills, which can make communicating their needs and desires difficult. Educators at the Pelham Bay Early Childhood Center and eight other Birch Family Services schools will receive training in PECS to be able to better understand the needs and desires of their students. The educators will also train parents and caregivers in the method as well.       

Birch strives to promote a community based on access, equity, and inclusion, where all individuals are empowered to speak for themselves. Every year, more and more children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental and language impairments. PECS allows children to find their voices and the sooner they can express themselves and engage with others, the greater the chance of achieving their dreams. This program will make an immeasurable difference in the lives of young people supported across Birch’s education services, providing a profound effect on the children, their families, and their communities as they grow. 

We thank Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez for lending her voice to ensure children with autism and other developmental disabilities have an opportunity to be successful and thrive.