Donations from Pincraft
After 2 summers of fundraising postponement, we were pleasantly surprised by a call that changed everything. Vahe Asatourian of Pincraft made a donation to AAOP in the amount of $13,000 on behalf of countless family and friends! We want to thank Vahe, Henrik, and all their friends for their support in the efforts of AAOP and the impact we make in the community.
The ripple effect of your donation is greater than you can imagine. This donation will go toward updating the website to better support families with a more in-depth resource directory, conducting programs that were awaiting funding, hosting events for the families of AAOP and the education of inclusion within the Armenian community.
Photo’s with Santa
AAOP invited families for a photoshoot with Santa at a private residence in Pasadena with a scenic front yard. Adequate time was allotted for each child and teenager to feel comfortable with Santa, smile, and make eye contact with the photographer for memorable photos with their families. In total, 12 families came to the photoshoot.
Afterwards, a cardstock photo was printed with a frame and mailed to each family. Following the event, moms said that these photos had special meaning to them and even asked for some extra prints to share with their family members. Some of them shared these photos on their social media.
Visit to the Prelacy
On December 10, 2021, the AAOP Board of Directors made their first official visit to Bishop Torkom Donoyan, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. The board was elated to hear of Bishop Donoyan’s familiarity of the needs of those with differing abilities and the desire to have all Armenians participate in the community.
After the AAOP board shared the breadth of their work, His Eminence Bishop Donoyan gave his blessings for their dedication and impact on the community. The board also had the opportunity to share their appreciation for all that Rev. Fr. Ghevont Kirazian has done for the community by offering adapted services for those that need such accommodations. We discussed ways to collaborate and reach even more families that may benefit from the support of AAOP, as well as ways on expanding the church program.
On Sunday, December 19th, the visit was announced on the Western Prelacy TV Program (Episode #51).
Mom’s Night Out
This December, the Moms of AAOP took a night off from being moms, wives, daughters, and working women to just be friends! Seventeen moms met up for dinner, wine, and dancing at The Stage in Burbank. It was a night to remember for us all, as it had been 18 months since many of us had seen each other. We toasted to our resilience through online learning, virtual therapy, and Zoom support group meetings. We also toasted to turning 50 gracefully and facing upcoming challenges together. We welcomed new moms to our group and look forward to seeing those who could not make it at our next event!
Presentations to LAUSD
By invitation from the TRiEE / Early Education Centers and Community Schools Initiative of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), AAOP board members Taleen Khatchadourian, Independent Facilitator & Parent, Sonia Konialian-Aller, PhD CCC-SLP, Allison Phillips OTD, OTR/L, and Gayane Kadzhikyan, parent, presented to LAUSD families and professionals.
The series included 2 presentations – one to teachers and paraprofessionals about the basic signs of developmental delays, where to refer families and most importantly how to address concerns about a student with Armenian parents. The second in the series was to parents of early education students. Our presenters provided families with information on developmental milestones, developmental disabilities, autism screenings, diagnosis, and the importance of early intervention and treatment. They also shared some vital resources and encouraged open dialogue with teachers and school administration.
AAOP is looking forward to continuing its partnership with LAUSD to further educate and support families in the greater Los Angeles area.
IEP/RC/New Family Assistance
As part of AAOP’s mission, the board of directors have been busy quietly helping young families address the needs of their toddlers and young children. We receive calls and emails from parents who are in the process of addressing the needs of their children. Many are not sure what to do, others are overwhelmed with the weight of a diagnosis. We work closely with these families to help them help their children and face the vast world of Special Education, and navigate the regional center system. Our thanks go out to the unsung heroes – the Moms and Dads of AAOP for joining us in helping these new families face the unknown. Having a mentor family means they have someone to call with questions and just to know they are not alone in this new world.
AAOP is proud to announce the continuation of Parent Connect – monthly parent meetings facilitated by Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Valentina Ogaryan.
Topics include: Creating a supportive community, healthy coping skills for stress, nurturing relationships, self-care, community education, self-advocacy, mindfulness, and extending help to others. The meetings will be held over Zoom, February to June, 2022, first Monday of each month at 7:00pm.
AmazonSmile is a no cost to you program which donates 0.5% of your eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice from on Amazon.com. Please follow the instructions in this link to set up AmazonSmile on your account.
Monday, September 13th, marked the beginning of the Fall 2021 cohort of the AAOP Parent Connect. If anyone is still interested to join, we have 1-2 seats available. Please contact Kristine@ArmenianAutism.org for more information. For the confidentiality of our parents and their choice to share their personal experiences, this is a closed group. Therefore, the Zoom link will only be shared after registration.
September Church Service
AAOP hosted a successful Summer Picnic on Sunday, September 5, 2021 at Johnny Carson Park in Burbank. The event was well attended by over 70 people, including 5 new families in AAOP.
Atlas Behavioral Services generously provided 5 volunteers who work as interventionists with the company. They were extremely helpful with the activities and families who required extra support.
After 2 years, the AAOP families were excited to be united once again to socialize, share a meal, engage in bubble fun by Bubblemania and play on the playground together. AAOP also showcased art collages that parents created over Zoom during the pandemic as a form of self care and fellowship. We appreciate the work that Nina Rostamian from 2BHappy did to make this project come to life.
Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ (Vartavar)
On July 11, the special church service at the CV church marking the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, and popularly known as Vartavar, was doubly special: for the first time since January 2020, it was held in person, with pandemic precautions. Forty-plus attendees, including parents, children and grandparents participated. Readings and Der Ghevont’s sermon were delivered in English as an accommodation for the children and the youth. After speaking about the religious significance, Der Ghevont explained the pre-Christianity seasonal tradition of celebrating with water. Following the thirty-minute service, the children and youth had a great time outdoors, tossing water balloons, and spraying each other and all those in their path with water.
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The feast of the Annunciation of Mary Mother of Jesus (Sourp Asdvadzadzin)
On August 15, the second in-person special service of the year, celebrating the feast of the Annunciation of Mary Mother of Jesus was held at the CV church. As per tradition, the ceremony included the blessing of grapes, during which two youth participated with Der Ghevont who led the service, accompanied by the choir.Following the service, the attendees were provided with boxed blessed grapes, and specially prepared meal of meat and rice, per tradition.
The last of the five major feasts in the Armenian Apostolic church calendar for 2021, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, was again celebrated in a special, in-person service, on September 12, 9:30-10:00. The service was followed by a craft activity – constructing crosses with the design materials kindly provided and led by Nina Ristomyan a long-standing AAOP supporter and arts educator, of ‘2 B Happy’ (www.2beehappy.org).
The next celebration in the Church calendar, Christmas, will be the first of 2022, on January 6th. AAOP extends its appreciation to the CV Church for its special outreach.
On Sunday, May 2nd, the young adults of AAOP had a unique opportunity to learn how to work in a restaurant. Family and friends enjoyed delicious Shawarma while the young adults took orders, prepared meals and served the guests. Families gathered at the tables and encouraged the participants to do their best. Some worked in the back on supplies, others plated the meals while the others served the plates to the customers. We even had new families join us for the first time, too!
When we heard of this fun project, we did not envision the great opportunity that had been offered by our very own board member, Holly and her amazing family. The owners of the restaurant worked tirelessly to make this a successful endeavor, and for that we are extremely appreciative. We hope that this serves as an example to others that inclusion, supported employment and fair wages are to be the future of our “kids” as they enter adulthood.
Chef’s Shawarma is a family owned Mediterranean grill in Van Nuys that serves kebabs, shawarma, falafel & gyros sandwiches, wraps and salads. In addition to their generosity with not charging the families for their meals, the Kazarian family made an additional donation to AAOP. We cannot thank them enough for opening their doors for our growing kids.
We hope that our AAOP family supports Chef’s Shawarma, as they continue to stand by AAOP and our families. http://chefsshawarma.com/
Nora Chitilian, AAOP Board Member and a Psychotherapist, hosted Instagram live on April 28 inviting Kristine Aslanyan, parent of 2 teenage boys with ASD, to talk about the experience of raising her sons. Kristine shared the resources that her boys received throughout different developmental stages of their lives, starting with Early Intervention, Speech, OT at Schools and at Private Agencies, Feeding Therapy, ABA, Floortime, Social Skills, Individual Psychotherapy, and Community Integration. To one of the questions posed by the attendees asking which therapy has been the most effective, Kristine chuckled and replied “I had to be patient, therapy takes time, if I saw one of my boys struggling, I changed the medication, his behavioral therapy techniques, and prayed. I had to ride the waves and have faith that with all the resources and support that we had at our disposal good days were ahead of us.”
Kristine mentioned the profound impact of AAOP in her family’s life, as she saw how Autism can be an isolating factor from the Armenian and the larger community. AAOP’s Social Events, such as Bowling, Picnic, and Christmas parties, have provided a sense of belonging and community for her and her family. Her motto is “Advocacy Through Education.” She is on her personal journey to educating her extended family, friends, and community of the effect of autism on her family for the bigger vision of meaningful inclusion in society.
Easter Sunday 2021
The Armenian Apostolic Church of Crescenta Valley (CV Church) in La Crescenta , in partnership with AAOP, held a special Holy Easter service on April 4th, 9:30-10:00 a.m., as had been the tradition since July 2019 to celebrate five major Armenian Apostolic Church holidays (Daghavars).
Continuing in the ‘pandemic’ mode, this service was held live via the church’s Facebook page. The service was once again led by Rev. Pastor Der Ghevont Karazian, spiritual leader of CV Church, and accompanied by beautiful Sharagans performed by the choir and soloist Berj Karazian. Following the service, Holly Kazaryan, a parent and AAOP board member, wished the parishioners and their families Happy Easter, thanked the CV Church for its continuing special outreach, and encouraged families to reach out to AAOP for support.
Holly also reminded the audience that April is Autism month, and stressed that while efforts for increasing awareness and education need to continue, the work towards promoting and practicing acceptance and inclusion, remains critical. Holly suggested that everyone has a role to play towards this goal- families, Armenian community members, organizations, and cultural institutions – consistent with AAOP’s stated vision.