The mission of FLY (acronym for Functional Life skills for Youth) Center is to provide children and adolescents of all abilities a place to socialize and learn skills that will foster individual growth, functioning, and independence in their home and community. The center follows the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to teach skills that are relevant and meaningful to the individual in areas of communication, self-care, social, recreation and leisure skills.

My daughter has been diagnosed with a few disorders. While it is unsettling to mention, I do so with the hope of helping others. Having a child that is both special needs and intelligent is what is termed twice exceptional. These 2e children are gifted in many ways but far behind in others. Although she can multiply in her head at the age of 6, she struggles with regulating her emotions in social interaction. To find a knowledgeable therapist that is covered by private insurance is nearly impossible. We’ve come across numerous therapists that can, by law, see children but they only have experience with adults.

After some research, we came across the Fly Center, on 110th Street just across from Central Park. It seemed like a very fitting place for my little one. We haven’t tried the center yet but felt compelled to share it with parents as they are one of the few places that take some insurance and the out-of-network costs are rather affordable. I spoke with Virginia Wong, MS Ed., BCBA, LBA-NY Founder and Program Director of the Fly Center:

UB: Why was the Fly center started?

Virginia: As a resident of Harlem and working in the Upper West Side area, I saw the need for continuation of services outside of school for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities in the northern part of Manhattan.  FLY Center was started with the goal of supporting those individuals after school and weekends to help them carryover skills, specifically social and play skills, acquired at school. Learning doesn’t stop at 3 p.m. for them.

UB: How long has the Fly Center been in operation? What about yourself, how long have you been teaching/instructing?

Virginia: I started teaching in 2002 at a non-public school for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  FLY Center has been in operation since 2013.

UB: What services are offered?

Virginia: FLY Center offers social skills groups after school and Saturdays and 1:1 treatment sessions following the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as well as monthly young adult events.   

UB: Which insurances do you take? What about out-of-network?

Virginia: FLY Center is in-network with GHI/Emblem Health and Aetna.  Services require pre-authorization from the insurance carrier prior to start date. For out-of-network, FLY Center provides receipt of payment for families to file claims with their insurance carrier. We will provide additional documentation to insurance carriers as needed.

UB: We heard there was a picnic in June, are you having more like this?

Virginia: The picnic was one of FLY’s monthly young adult events as well as an end of the year farewell.  Our past events have included BINGO night, Dances, Karaoke Party, Cooking Competition, Movie Night, and Board and Video Games at the center.  Young adults who attend our events range in age from 14 through 22.

UB: What’s the best thing you’ve ever accomplished at the Fly Center? Any moments you’re proud of?

Virginia: Every day I have a proud moment and that is the truth.  Individuals who take classes at FLY Center struggle with social and communication skills. Any time I see a child initiate interaction, attend and respond to another individual, or ask to join in a group to play, I get excited and feel proud of the work the teachers, instructors and I do.  The best thing I have ever accomplished at FLY Center is starting the first class in 2013.

To read more or to enroll: Click the links under the “programs” tab for details on services.

Michelle Caines
Author: Michelle Caines

Co-creator of Uptown Birdies, Michelle is a Harlem-born mother of three with a passion for anything educational and mindfulness. She enjoys hunting down affordable kid-friendly events within upper Manhattan and teaching mindfulness. Social handle: @mscaines & @tlbmindfulness