Special Needs Conference Focuses On Balance For Families

By Christina Elston

Special Needs Bring Balance Conference

Navah Paskowitz, left, and husband Matt Asner, worked together to craft the Bringing Balance conference. Their blended family of six – Willy, left, 12; Jakob, 15; Wolf Hawk, 11; Avivah, 18; Max, 16 and Eddy, front, age 6 – includes three children on the autism spectrum. PHOTO COURTESY NAVAH PASKOWITZ

For Navah Paskowitz, “Bringing Balance,” the theme of the conference she is organizing for parents and siblings of children with special needs, is personal. “It really came out of my own family,” Paskowitz says. “We have a heavy load, my husband and I.”

Paskowitz, executive director of corporate development and program director of The Friendship Circle By the Sea, is married to Matt Asner, executive director of the Southern California chapter of Autism Speaks. Their blended family includes five boys and a girl, the youngest three of whom are on the autism spectrum, so it’s no surprise that the conference workshop Pasowitz is looking forward to most is “Experience the Power of Three Circle Flow,” conducted by yoga teacher and transformational breathing therapist John Sahakian. The workshop will cover breath work, meditation and mindfulness, the types of things moms with special-needs kids rarely indulge in. “It really is a tool that I can give myself,” Paskowitz says.

The Balance Conference for Special Needs Families, presented by The Friendship Circle By the Sea and Westside Regional Center, takes place Aug. 16-17 at Chabad Jewish Community Center & Campus (17315 Sunset Blvd. Pacific Palisades), and the first day is dedicated to fathers and siblings. There will be a welcome reception at 1 p.m., workshops for fathers (run by Asner) at 2 and 4 p.m., and a 3:30 p.m. workshop for siblings (ages 12 and up) of special-needs children that includes a drum circle and a beach walk. Paskowitz, who has two typical teens, says she knows teens can feel “shelved” while their parents deal with the needs of a sibling with autism, and she wanted this workshop to be special. “I wanted to create something for them that I know my own children would love,” she says. The day will end with a barbecue dinner.

The second day of the conference is for moms, and begins with Sahakian’s breath and mindfulness workshop at 9 a.m. At 11 a.m., mothers can “Experience the Miracle of Being Heard,” through an intensive roundtable discussion with Katie Luckerman, MFT. The lunchtime program includes pampering booths and music. Moms will finish their day with “Experience Your Best,” a 2-4 p.m. workshop by nutritionist Mady Wolf, focusing on types of foods that boost moms’ energy reserves, with a full menu and snack plan. “Her class was packed in the last conference,” Paskowitz says. “People loved it.”

With divorce rates among parents of children with autism hovering around 85 percent, Paskowitz says that supporting parents as the foundation of the family, and siblings as well, is the focus of the conference going forward.

And this year, for the first time, Regional Centers are allowing parents to attend this conference free as part of their allotment for conference reimbursement. Registration otherwise is $195 for the Complete Family Conference Experience, or $100 for each individual day. For registration information, contact Paskowitz at Navah@chabadpalisades.com or visit www.fcbythesea.com and click “FC Family Conference” under the “FC Families” tab.

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