Ideas for Staying Cool AND Having Fun This Summer!



Photo of Shipwrecked Miniature Golf, by Sai Mokhtari

OK…it’s starting to get hot, and it’s only going to get hotter. You’re in your little (hopefully) air conditioned apartment wondering how you and your family will be able to play and enjoy your day without melting into a puddle. You’re sick of the local playground water feature and need a change. What to do??? Here are some ideas, including awesome public pools and for those SUPER hot days…indoor play spaces!


Shipwrecked Miniature Golf: Right in our back yard of Red Hook, take the family out for a fun day of miniature golf (perhaps followed by a seafood lunch at Brooklyn Crab – also in Red Hook)! This place is indoor, has 18 holes and even theatrical lighting and special effects as you travel through the different themed areas of the course! They also host singers, magicians, jugglers and more. 621 Court St, 2nd Floor.

City Treehouse: For those who are adventurous and are willing to take your child into Manhattan, check out the City Treehouse. Inside this play area is an interactive water play, a treehouse themed indoor play area, even a cavern illuminated by stars! It’s in Chelsea at 129A W 20th St. (between 6th and 7th Ave), Manhattan.

Lefrak at Lakeside: You probably know about the amazing splash pad with 41 jets (AMAZING)…but, have you considered the other activities here? Rollerskating of course… and what about renting a single or double surrey bike for your family, and go explore Prospect Park? OR, go on a pedal boat where they allow one lap child. You could spend an entire day here, there is so much fun to be had!

Brooklyn Public Pools: There are a plethora of free public pools right here in Brooklyn. A few of the favorites are the Red Hook Pool, the Sunset Park Pool, the Brooklyn Bridge Pop-up Pool and the Double D Pool in Gowanus. Remember to read all of the rules before planning your trip (check out “Know Before You Go” section here:

The NY Transit Museum: This underground super COOL museum is where you can sit on a vintage car, sit at the wheel of a city bus and check out a real subway platform and tracks with cars from different times in history. The interactive exhibits are so exciting for the little ones. Boerum Place at Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn.

NY Beaches: Of course there is Coney Island, but how about Jacob Riis in Queens? There’s a playground, concession stand and a boardwalk. Or maybe try Cedar Grove Beach in Staten Island, known as the cleanest of the Staten Island beaches.

SeaGlass Carousel: Pretend you’re underwater and check out the new SeaGlass Carousel, where you sit on an iridescent fish, instead of a horse – and “swim” up and around in all different directions. It’s amazing and such a quick subway ride on the R to Battery Park.

American Museum of Natural History: Check out those dinosaurs and explore and discover in the “Discovery Room”, where kids can dig for dinosaur bones or search for animals in a baobab tree. Microscopes, animals and other fun things are there for your child to explore. There’s even a story time here on Monday mornings for preschoolers!

NYC Water Taxi:  Thinking about going into Manhattan with the family?  Instead of the usual subway ride, get a little creative and take your family on the NYC water taxi from Red Hook into Wall Street!  Best part…it’s free on Saturdays and Sundays.  See the beautiful views of the NYC skyline while you cool off in the summer breeze.   After, head over to Pearl Street where you will find several restaurants with outdoor seating.


While you’re at it, treat yourself to a gelato or an ice cream. The best ice cream in town can be found at Ample Hills Creamery, which has a location in Gowanus that includes a rooftop deck with chairs! And check out L’Albero Dei Gelati in the Slope for some incredibly yummy gelato.  Bring on the heat, this can also be the most fun time of the year here in Brooklyn. Enjoy!!!

Dear Mom: I’m Sorry, Thank You…and You’re Totally Amazing


written by jen valu


Dear Mom:  I’m Sorry, Thank You…and You’re Totally Amazing


I want to start this letter to you with an apology.  I often tortured you as a teenager.  How could I be so mean to the sweetest, most kind, loving and giving mother a girl could ask for.  I was insensitive and incredibly mean to you at times.  I remember purposely making you cry, telling you I hated you over and over again.  I wish with all of my being that I could take back those hateful words and replace them with what I was really feeling at the time:  “I’m miserable.  I’m depressed.  I’m hormonal.  I’m bored with life.  I want to be somewhere else. I’m not happy and I don’t know how to handle anything right now, I feel out of control”.  But instead, I turned my anger and frustration at life onto you, the one person who devoted her life to keeping me and my sister fed, keeping us safe, and most importantly – loving us unconditionally.    I’ve apologized for this behavior later in life, but again mom…I’m so sorry and I hope I’ve made it up to you since.

Now that I’m a mother of two, one being a little girl, I cringe when I fast-forward ahead 10 years.  Is that what my future will hold as well? Now she is only 4, and full of love.  “You’re my best friend, mommy”.  “You make my heart so happy”.  “I love being with you, I always miss you when I’m at school”.  “I wish you could snuggle with me ALL night”.    How do I make sure the transformation never happens from the sweetest little girl to a miserable teen full of angst like her mommy?   I don’t think you could have done anything differently, you did everything right.

Moving on…I’m writing this letter to also say THANK YOU mom.  Thank you for all the time you devoted to me and my little sister.  For how unselfish you always were.  For letting us rule the radio stations in the car, for driving us sometimes 20 minutes to a friends’ house.  Thank you for making the most incredible meals…so good that my friends were begging to have dinner at our house.  For always letting me eat all the leftovers, and accepting my apology when I ate them and it was meant for dinner the next night.  Thank you for always having the most comfortable shoulder for me to rest my head on.  Thank you for taking me to soccer, to ballet and to too many New Kids on the Block concerts.  Thank you for laughing when I made fun of your “bumble bee” glasses or how you pronounce “latte” like “la- tey”.   Thank you for always being so encouraging when it came to the clarinet.  Tryouts upon tryouts, concerts, rehearsals every Saturday morning.  You made sure I never missed one.  Thank you for driving us to all of the colleges and tours, and allowing us the means to go to the schools we desired.   

Most of all, thank you for showing me the most unconditional love.  Thank you for loving me even when I didn’t deserve it.   Thank you for everything.  

Before I end this letter I need to give you some much needed praise.  I’m not sure you fully understand just how proud my sister and I are of you.  Not only did you take such amazing care of us, but thank you for always taking such special care of dad, especially at the end.  When he died 12 years ago, you unwillingly took over his company and with grace, helped it dissolve and eventually close after the worst economic periods (hopefully) in our country’s short history.   You managed to pick up the pieces, as painful as that was, and sold our home of 30 years .  You moved to a beautiful place by the sea and started a new life.  You became strong and independent.   You are now the lobster-roll connoisseur.   You fell in love again. You are happy.  

I love you mom, I’m eternally grateful for you loving me and my little sister so much, unconditionally, through the good and the bad.   Thank you for also being the most fun, silly and loving Gaga/Grandma our kids could ask for.  Dad sure is proud of you.





Fun-Filled Family Activities in the Slope!



Spring is HERE!!!!  And this upcoming month’s local Brooklyn events do not disappoint.  Celebrate the cherry blossoms, get your children’s voices heard in a  “Children’s March”,  explore a fire truck and more at Touch-a-Truck, and experience a live outdoor concert with your kids by the Brooklyn Bridge.   So many special memories to be made!

May 13th:  It’s BAAAACK!!!! The best kids street fair in Brooklyn, the PS 295 7th annual Touch-a-Truck Event is here!   SO many trucks to explore, bouncy houses, delicious food, music and MORE.  18th St between 6th and 7th Ave, rain or shine. 12pm-5pm.  Buy tix in advance to save $.  Check out the Make-a-Truck Art center, sponsored by your very own SSP!

Saturdays and Sundays through August 20th:  Come see “The Reluctant Dragon” at Puppetworks, the story of a dragon protesting the mistreatment of his species.  Adapted for Marionettes by Michael Leach. Ages 3+.   Shows are at 12:30 and 2:30pm.  Reservations are suggested!

April 29th and 30th:  From 10am-6pm celebrate traditional and contemporary Japanese culture during the cherry blossom season at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.    Sakura Matsuri events include dance and music performances, a flower hat procession, live martial arts and a magic show!

April 29th:  From 10am-4pm check out the Spring Carnival at PS 321 at 180 7th Avenue between 1st and 2nd St.    There will be face painting, nail art, food, bouncy castles, a book shop, games to enjoy…and more!

May 4th – 8th:  For ages 2-5, Olive & Pearl tells the story of a young girl being raised by her Granny.  Told through puppetry, theater, dance and live music, this tale takes the youngest theatergoers on a sensory journey filled with wonder, surprise and delight.  BAM Theater.

May 13th:  A truly remarkable event, this Children’s March gives our children the opportunity to stand up and speak out about the issues that are important to them.  Celebrating “independent thought, community, inclusivity, and their future”.  11am-2pm at Cadman Plaza.

May 20th:  Want to watch an incredible event and help cheer on Dr. Cao?  Come watch the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and high-five those runners as they pass by!  Show your support for those who have trained so hard, and share this inspiring experience with your kids.

May 20th and 21st:  Is your child obsessed with the “baa baas”?  Want to see those sheep get a haircut?  Look no further…come to the Prospect Park Zoo to enjoy some special wool activities and learn all about these animals and their coats at the 23rd Annual Fleece Festival.   On Sunday at 1pm you can even join a parade from the Zoo barn to the Lefferts Historic House as the fleece is transported, and see how it’s processed into yarn!

May 26th -28th:  Staying local this Memorial Day Weekend and looking for something fun to do?  Take your family to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum where you can play with imagination playground blocks (including Magnatiles) AND join in the “Can You Dig It” program, where your child can recover fossils, rocks and minerals on their own archaeological dig!

Every Saturday through August 19th:  Come experience a free 1 hour family concert starting 4pm on the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Beautiful music with a stunning view….this can’t be beat.

Interview with our Wonder Woman, Lorraine!

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We thought it would be perfectly appropriate this month to interview Lorraine Ruiz-Montgomery, who has been an integral part of the SSP team for 4 years now and has just won the latest SSP award for the Core Value “Good is the Enemy of Great”!  I’m sure almost all of you have had interaction with her, whether it is when she greets you at your little one’s visit with her welcoming smile, or when she helps you with your questions on a phone call.   Let’s learn more about our wonder-woman Lorraine in this month’s interview!

Can you tell us a little about you and your family?  Do you have children?  Do you have any special interests or hobbies you can share?

I am a mom of 2 boys: my oldest is 17 years and my little one is 8 years.  I have been with my husband for 26 years.  I consider myself to be compassionate, well-organized and hard-working.  A special interest of mine is comic superheroes.  My favorite superhero is Wonder Woman.  I have always looked up to her since I was little because she is a strong and fearless woman that I thrive to be every day. My hobbies are relaxing, watching TV and designing/polishing my nails.

Congratulations on your recent award!  What does receiving this mean to you?

Receiving the award for SSP Core Value #4 “Good is the Enemy of Great” is a great honor to me because I am always looking for ways to better myself and my team members.

What is your position at SSP, and what are your main responsibilities?

I am the Practice Manager at SSP.  My responsibilities consist of supervising/organizing the team, planning the appointment schedule for our providers, reviewing the medical records and opening accounts for transfer patients and assisting with billing.

How long have you been with the practice, and what did you do prior to this?

I have been with SSP since 2013.  Prior to joining SSP I was a front desk receptionist at a Veterinary Hospital.

What would you say is your favorite part of your job, and what is the most challenging?

My favorite part of my job is being able to help parents and my SSP family in the time of need.  The most challenging part of my job is building my confidence to present projects during our team meetings.

Is there a special experience at SSP that you’d like to share, perhaps something that is meaningful to you?

My special experience at SSP that is meaningful to me is working with such amazing team members.  I also want to thank Matteo and Dr. Cao for giving me the opportunity to flourish in an amazing company.

I think patients see SSP as an extension of their own home, a place for them to feel comfortable and part of a loving and supportive community.  You are a big part of this, always helping in any way you can. How do you personally see that every patient’s needs are met?

I try hard to listen to their concerns.  Being that I have 2 boys of my own, I feel that it is easier for me to relate to their issues.  We are all human and we can connect at that level.

How Do We Raise Passionate & Determined Children?


As parents, we are always striving to raise our children to grow up to be kind, helpful, generous and caring.  What is also important is raising passionate and determined human beings.  Tying into this month’s South Slope Pediatrics core value of passion and determination, let’s talk about ways we can help foster and nurture this within our children’s lives.

What is Passion?  Passion is defined as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something”.  Our children are naturally passionate.  Whether it be passion for all things Frozen, trucks, ballet, or soccer…our children often have very intense feelings (one way or another) towards things.  How do we encourage and support this passion?   

* Perhaps the #1 thing we can do as parents is to give our children opportunities.  Give our child that opportunity to try a new sport.  Give our children our devoted time to read and draw with them every day.  Introduce them to new places, new things.  Try a new food, go see a concert!  Try a new music class.  Go to the special exhibit at the Science Museum.  Allow them the opportunity to find their passions.

* Always encourage your child, no matter what the passion is.  Is he passionate about playing in the kitchen? How about spending time baking or cooking with him, allowing him to cook (or make a mess) with you!  Is she showing an interest in dinosaurs?  How about a family visit to the Museum of Natural History!  Discuss these topics of interest with them.  What do they want to learn more about?  Take lots of photographs so you can refer to them and talk more about what you see and did.

* Keep it positive.  I start each day with telling my 4 YO daughter “Today is going to be the best day”!  She repeats it back to me, excitedly and with conviction.  And when they have their lows, when they are frustrated because they can’t do something right, we need to let them know that failure is OK and a part of life.  Try again, they will do better!   Help them grow confidence and stay positive so they can find those passions.

Love and support whatever your child’s passion is.  Is your child obsessed with tennis, but you haven’t picked up a racket in decades?  Now is your chance.  Nurture their passion by showing how far you’ll go to support them.

What is Determination?  “A quality that makes you continue to do or achieve something that is difficult”. It is closely tied into passion in that the determination often comes from that passion.  Determination is key to a successful life…so how do we help develop determination in our children?

* Recognize when your child works hard at doing something.  Be their cheerleader, tell them how proud you are at their efforts, even if they can’t do exactly what they are trying to accomplish.  Acknowledge that they are persisting, and giving it their all!   Maybe try making the “trying” fun.  My daughter was finding it hard to figure out how to leap (trying to do a grand jete from ballet class).  She was very frustrated to the point she started crying and wanted to quit ballet class.  I set up some of her stuffed animals on the floor so she had to LEAP over them…this became sort of a game to her, and she kept doing it and doing it until she could leap over the pile of toys, instead of running around it.

* Support and join them in the different activities that might be challenging.   Perhaps it’s putting together a REALLY BIG puzzle, or riding your bike with them up the big hill in Prospect Park.    Tell them stories about how you once didn’t know how to do something, but you were so determined that you finally were able to learn it and how good that felt!  Let them know that the goal is attainable, and set up smaller benchmarks along the way so the goal feels less terrifying or intimidating.

* Lead as example.  Let your child in on your own struggles and how you want to overcome them.  Explain that you’re frustrated or upset with something, and what you are going to do.  Let them know that you will never give up.  Are you learning something new?  Let them watch and see how you are trying your best.

Bottom line…our children all have these qualities in them, it’s up to us as parents to help them reach their potential!

Family Events in Brooklyn!



Photo by Julie Larsen Maher © WCS.

Fun family events over the next month include rocking out to a Michael Jackson tribute, celebrating “Grandparents Day” at the Children’s Museum, and enjoying breakfast with penguins!  Check out all of this and more in this month’s roundup of fun family activities in the area.

It’s Grandparents Day at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum!  Celebrating grandparents and elders in our lives, on March 18th you can meet an artist, touch live sea creatures, go to an interactive story time, say “cheese” with the grandparents in a pop-up photo booth – then design a custom frame to go with your photo!  AND so many more fun activities.  To learn more, go to:

Say goodbye to winter and SPIRAL into Spring at Lefrak at Lakeside’s Ice Showcase, where you’ll see figure skating solos, duets and group numbers.  March 19th from 5:30-6:45pm.

From March 18th – 26th check out the Peter Pan Experience at BAM.  5 adult strangers find themselves in a world of nightstands and night lights, a world where your favorite forgotten toys appear out of nowhere, your favorite music thrills you to dance, and all of the joys of childhood come flooding back thanks to the invisible magic of Peter Pan.  Dutch’s theater company Het Laagland presents this formally innovative, effortlessly thrilling piece of physical theater about rediscovering the joys of play, shaking off the shackles of adulthood, and flying high with the kind of make-believe.  Ages 7+. Tickets: $15.

On March 25th at Littlefield Performance and Space (622 Degraw Street), check out “Kids Rock Michael Jackson!  A Tribute to the King of Pop”.  Doors open 11:45, show starts at noon.  10 Amazing young bands play tribute.  Tickets are $7, free for kids 5 and under.

Every Sunday through April 30th in Coney Island you can come experience an afternoon of fun and wonder at the Magic at Coney Sunday Matinee. There will be magicians, illusionists, escape artists and mentalists.  All ages.  $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

The Rock and Roll Playhouse at Brooklyn Bowl has some exciting shows coming up!    These are unique, interactive and educational live music experiences for children.  60 minute concerts, where children explore live music, movement and collaborative activity.   For kids 10 and under.  $10  person (under 1 are free). On March 19th there is a concert featuring the music of Prince, on March 26th there is a show featuring the music of Fleetwood Mac, and on April 2nd they will feature the music of the Grateful Dead!

Breakfast with the Animals: Penguins (New York Aquarium, Coney Island):  On April 1st from 9am-10:30am learn all about penguins along while having breakfast and enjoying  activities like learning to sing like a penguin and carrying eggs on your feet.  There will also be a live animal encounter! Ages 3-8 with caregiver.  $45 per ticket for non-members, $40 for members (ticket includes an adult and child).  Pre-registration is required.

Want to do something active as a family?  How about the Brooklyn 15k run, where you can sign up for a 15k, 10k, 5k or a kids 2k run!  It takes place in Prospect Park on Sunday, April 16th.

It’s Family Earth Day Celebration at the Prospect Park Zoo on April 22nd from 11am-12pm.  All ages, $25 for members, $35 for non-members (ticket prices include one adult and one child).  Come to the zoo for an Earth Day celebration to discover how the Wildlife Conservation Society is working to protect wildlife and how you can help!  Participants will meet animals up close, decorate a flower pot & other activities.  Refreshments will be provided.

And don’t forget…. the beloved carousel in Prospect Park reopens March 30th!!!

Interview with Roy Blumenfeld, Co-Founder of Solidaritees


On February 1st South Slope Pediatrics shared our cultures and promises with all of our patients and families, including our core value #7, being humble.  We’ve had such positive responses to this,  one of the most meaningful coming from SSP parents Justin and Kelly Brandon and Roy Blumenfeld and his wife, Lauren Links, who shared an incredible project they had just launched THAT week.  Their project, Solidaritees, ties in to SSP’s promise to always treating others how we would want to be treated.  Solidaritees is a non-profit t-shirt venture they started to show solidarity with the Muslim Americans and refugees after the current administration signed their executive order on the refugee ban.  These brave families decided to take their sadness and frustration and turn that energy into creating a t-shirt and movement with the most positive, inclusive message….hoping to create a dialogue and helping dissolve the fear of the unfamiliar.  Let’s learn more about this venture and how we can help support and get the word out about this amazing cause, started right here in the Slope.

SSP:  Before we dive into this awesome project you have just launched, can you please tell us more about yourself and the other SSP families who are behind this project?

This project was a joint venture of Roy Blumenfeld and Lauren Links (parents of Gabriel Blumenfeld, 22 mo old) and Justin and Kelly Brandon (parents of Ceci Brandon, 19 mo old). Lauren and Roy are both independent high school teachers (Lauren at Berkeley Carroll and Roy at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School). Kelly is a teacher at the Avenues school, and Justin runs a digital marketing company. Our families have been friends for a number of years now and the bond has grown closer since we have kids so close in age.

SSP: How did you connect and make this happen? What inspired you to do this?

Kelly and Justin organized a postcard making party the day after Trump signed his executive order on the refugee ban so folks could write to their members of congress. I was feeling exceptionally sad and frustrated that day. The immigration order, whether intentionally or not, was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day. I’m the child of four Holocaust survivors, so this day has always been challenging for me. I’m all too aware that refugee policy can be a matter of life or death. Sitting around the morning after, I had the idea of wearing a shirt with Arabic on it as a show of solidarity. Justin said he would do the same, and an idea was born. The seed is the shared belief that there’s nothing more important than standing up for those most vulnerable in our society.

SSP: Solidaritees is such a smart name for this venture. Can you please explain the phrase on the front, why you chose it and also the decision behind not including a translation?

The shirt says “ahlan wasahlan,” which simply means “Welcome,” and comes from a beautiful Arab tradition of welcoming strangers as family. We chose not to include a translation in order to encourage conversation. We hope people will wear the shirts in public and wear them often to encourage conversation with neighbors, colleagues, and strangers. We considered a number of possibilities for the shirt including American phrases like “this land is your land” written out in Arabic, but ultimately chose something that was both already familiar to the Arab community (and invariably elicits a smile from those who can read it) as well as something not overtly political. The shirt just says welcome — who could object to that? Only someone in the grips of xenophobia, which is what we hope to dissolve.

SSP:  I see on your website that you can opt to “buy one forward”. I love this idea, can you tell us more about this and why it is important to your cause?

This was Justin’s excellent idea. “Buying one forward” means you are paying the price of a shirt so that someone else can receive a shirt for free. This has allowed to give out shirts at rallies, such as the Yemeni bodega owners rally at Cadman Plaza. We’ve also given out shirts at Arab-owned businesses and to people who want to support the cause but cannot afford a shirt.

SSP: I understand that this is a non-profit project. Where are the proceeds going?

The first $1000 we raised is being donated to the Arab American Association of New York. All proceeds beyond that (we’ve raised close to $4000 so far) are being donated in equal parts to AANY, the IRC (International Refugee Council) and Immigrant Justice Corps, an organization that provides legal assistance for immigrants.

SSP: How has the response been so far? In addition to purchasing the shirts, how do we help get the word out and support this cause?

The response has been phenomenal. We’ve sold over 800 shirts across the country. You can see a map of where people have purchased shirts on our facebook page: . The next step of our project, now that many people have received their shirts and have been wearing them for a few weeks, is for people to start sharing their stories. Our hope is to create a Humans of NY-style account of people’s stories wearing these shirts across the country. We hope the conversation will spark into one that allows for understanding and acceptance. I firmly believe that people’s xenophobia is rooted in unfamiliarity; it’s easy to project when the issue is abstract. But when you’re talking about real people and real conversations, difference often melt away and people’s common humanity emerges. That’s the hope, at least. The best way to support the project is to tell friends and family about it across the country. Tell them to visit our facebook page and take a picture of themselves wearing our shirt! There’s already quite the gallery in the making at — we recently had someone take a picture in front of the White House!



Things to do this Winter!


Let’s all agree, this isn’t the most lively time of the year.  It’s cold, the excitement of the holidays is over, and the Spring seems so far away in the distance.  The sun, if it’s out, isn’t warming us as much as we want it to.  The playground is not usually the best option, unless we want to freeze and listen to our kids complain they are cold.  So…what do we do?  How about sampling some of the best hot chocolate NYC has to offer…or try out some origami?   Here are ideas which are fun for ALL of us (parents included)!

If you’d like to stay warm indoors…

* Try out the best hot chocolates Park Slope has to offer…Le Pain de Quotidien on 5th Ave let’s your child swirl the dark chocolate syrup into the frothy milk themselves (what kid doesn’t LOVE to mix everything)!  There’s also The Chocolate Room and Colson Patisserie, both serve up a yummy cup of chocolate goodness.

* Check out the Brooklyn Children’s Museum pop-up exhibit, Industry City, at 274 36th Street in Sunset Park.  Through February 26th you’ll be able to check out an interactive art exhibit, which will ask kids what it takes to create a happy and healthy neighborhood.  There are interactive programs for families with children 1-8 YO. Thurs-Sun.  Free!  

* Go to a book reading at Powerhouse or Barnes and Noble in the Slope! 

* Try your luck at bowling at Melody Lanes in Sunset Park or Family Bowl on Saturdays at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg.  A major draw for Brooklyn Bowl is that you can enjoy some of the best fried chicken around, brought to you by Blue Ribbon.  It’s SO good.

* Get crafty at Taro’s Origami Studio at 95 7th Avenue, between Union and President.  Follow directions on touch-screen tablets (fun for the little ones) or learn from the staff.  Make your origami flowers, spaceship or whatever you choose – and decorate with stamps and paint!  

* Check out a new puppet show at Puppetworks, right here in our hood of Park Slope.  Through April 9th, Puss in Boots will be performed!  Based on Charles Perrault’s 1697 French Fantasy, with an original score.

* Get that energy out at Bounce U, about a fifteen minute drive from Park Slope on 67th St and 9th Ave.  $16 per kid, reservation required (remember to bring socks).   There is a “preschool playdate” for kids 7 and under:  

* How about a little culture to brighten up that dreary cold day?  BAM offers theater and film with kids in mind.   On February 19th at 2pm check out a matinee of “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown” about Charlie Brown and the gang traveling to Europe for fun and adventure.  And for a live theatrical performance, check out Do Not Disturb (2/11-2/12), about factory workers assembling a giant wheel – combining dance, physical theater and a clown!  Ages 6+.

If you want to brave it and have fun outdoors…

* The Prospect Park Zoo is open year-round!  You can go celebrate the “Year of the Rooster” 2/11 – 2/12 from 11am-4pm.  There will be puppet performances, a scavenger hunt, fortune cookies and a calligraphy workshop!  

* Also in Prospect Park, go ice skating at the Lefrak Center at Lakeside!  There’s even a skate school and a hockey program if your child is interested.   Grab a hot beverage after at the cafe!  

* The next time it snows, have a plan as to where you are going to sled!  There of course is the big hill at 9th street in Prospect Park, but there are other spots in Fort Greene and Bay Ridge.  Check this list for top sledding spots in NYC.

SSP Core Value # 7: Be Humble


We are thrilled to share with you our Culture, Values and Promises. We want to make sure you understand what we stand for and what we promise to offer you.

So, first a little HISTORY:

Dr. Cao and Matteo opened South Slope Pediatrics in July of 2012 with the goal of offering a different patient/doctor experience and contributing to the growth of the local community.



At SSP we value relationships. Building strong relationships between patients, doctors and team members is at the center of our purpose and focus. We want to make sure that when you call us, come visit us or communicate with us in any way (email, social, verbal, etc.), you know that you are HOME and that we are here for YOU.

Our mission is to give you the best experience of your day. We are here to help you and most of the time we will go above and beyond what’s required or expected to do so. Our goal is to establish a strong and trusted relationship with you.



We promise to always LISTEN, be KIND, be HUMBLE and to be HELPFUL.


We simply ask you to reciprocate so we can work on creating a strong relationship based on trust and open communication.


Your SSP Team has established a set of 10 Core Values that we base our behavior and decisions upon. Every month we will unveil 1 core value to you and discuss it at the office and via social media.

We encourage questions about our values and we would love to hear your side of the story as well. Engage with your SSP team members when you see them and ask questions.


The February 2017 Core Value is:


(Core Value #7).

Here is what we mean:

“At SSP we believe that no matter what happens, we should always be respectful of everyone.  While we celebrate our individual and team successes, we are not arrogant nor do we treat others differently from how we would want to be treated.”

Please send us your thoughts, questions or stories about being humble.We would love to collect them for our Culture Book and for our social media stories.


Dr. Cao and the South Slope Pediatrics Team

Interview with Speech Pathologist, Rachel Cortese



According to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring, approximately 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder and around 1 in 6 children in the US have a developmental disability.   It’s critical for these children to have a strong support system in place, and that the child’s parents and caregivers be equipped with the proper tools as to how to best interact and communicate with their child.   Here is where Rachel Cortese, one of the awesome South Slope Pediatrics moms, comes into play.

Rachel is a renowned Speech Language Pathologist based out of Brooklyn with over 12 years of experience. This February she is introducing a parent-based intervention program for parents of children with Autism Spectrum and Social Communication Disorders at Brooklyn College, which will help provide parents with the tools they need.   Let’s get to know her and learn about her invaluable program in this month’s interview!


SSP:   Before we dive into this program you are launching, can you please tell us a bit about yourself and what it is that you specialize in?  


Sure! I live in Brooklyn with my husband and two sons. I am a pediatric speech language pathologist and behavioral therapist. I work with families in Brooklyn, Manhattan and East Hampton, NY. My expertise is in the evaluation and treatment of toddlers with delayed language development, children with stuttering disorders and speech sound disorders, and communication impairments associated with autism.

In terms of my training, I completed a Masters in Communication Disorders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and obtained a Masters degree in elementary education from St. Joseph’s University. I am currently working toward board certification as a Behavior Analyst and have completed advanced trainings in PROMPT, a specialized technique used to facilitate oral motor skills and to remediate speech production disorders, The Lidcombe program, an early intervention behavior based treatment program designed for preschool children who stutter, and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2), a standardized observation designed to assess behaviors related to autism spectrum disorders.

Prior to studying Speech and Language Therapy, I taught Middle School Mathematics for two years in Philadelphia as a Teach for America corps member. I am passionate about the outdoors and taught adaptive skiing to people with disabilities at The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado, and worked as a field guide at wilderness therapy programs helping teenagers who struggled with a variety of behavioral and emotional issues.


SSP: What is it about being a speech language pathologist that you are the most passionate about, and why did you choose to focus on this field and specialty?


Any parent can attest to the magic of watching their child learn new things and acquire new skills during their first few years of life. Speech and language is one of the first windows we have into the brain and the learning process. I’ve always been fascinated by this process and now as a mom of two young boys, “on the job training” has a whole new meaning!

Even though I have chosen to focus on the study of speech and language development, language doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is influenced by so many other things (a child’s attention, learning, temperament and environment to name a few). I work alongside and am always learning from brilliant colleagues who specialize in different aspects of child development and I get to wear so many different hats as I work to facilitate speech, language and behavior changes in a naturalistic and well-coordinated manner.

I am most passionate about the intersection between language development and behavior. Effective communication skills are central to a child’s overall wellbeing and when children don’t have a way to express themselves effectively or efficiently, frustration can set the stage for maladaptive behaviors. Although I see children of all ages (birth to seventeen), I find the early developmental period most interesting and ripe for change. I specialize in helping parents learn strategies to successfully shape their child’s communication and behavior skills.


SSP: What are some of the more common speech issues you encounter with kids on the spectrum and other social communication disorders?


Since no two children with a diagnosis of ASD or social communication disorders are alike, this a difficult question to answer. Some children have significant difficulties with speech production and expressive language and other children with ASD demonstrate advanced speech and language skills. However, although this will look different for every child, one thing that these children tend to have in common is some level of difficulty initiating interactions with others, staying in an interaction with others and difficulty with other aspects of social communication like turn taking or playing appropriately with others.


SSP: Let’s talk about the program you are launching February 9th, “More Than Words – the Hanen Program for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”.   What is this program and who is it for?


More Than Words® — The Hanen Program for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder®, is an evidence-based, twelve-week, program for parents and caregivers of young children (ages birth to six) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Social Communication Disorders. In a small group setting, parents and caregivers will learn skills to enhance back-and-forth interactions with their children, help improve their children’s social skills and their understanding of language.

The More Than Words® program consists of three individual family sessions and nine small group, parent/caregiver only, training sessions. By the end of the program, parents will know what to say and what to do to be their child’s most important communication teacher. The strategies will become a natural part of the way parents interact with their child.

During the 8 group sessions families will learn step-by-step, how to:

  1. Recognize their child’s stage and style of communication so that they know which steps to take next
  2. Identify what motivates their child to interact with them
  3. Adjust everyday routines to help their child take turns and keep interactions going
  4. Follow their child’s lead to encourage him or her to take turns in an interaction and communicate
  5. Implement strategies in their everyday interactions to help their child understand language
  6. Tweak the way they play and read books with their child to help him or her learn language.
  7. Learn to foster longer, more meaningful interactions and improved social skills


SSP: It seems like this is not only an opportunity for parents and caregivers to learn how to make their interactions with these children the most meaningful they can be, but it’s also a chance for them to meet and connect with other families struggling with similar experiences. Do you find parents and caregivers often are lacking the support they need and perhaps feel a bit of isolation?


Absolutely. Parents who have previously participated in this program report that one of the greatest benefits of the More Than Words Program is the opportunity it provides to connect with other parents. Parents and caregivers will meet other families in the same situations and will have an opportunity to share experiences, learn from each other and hopefully make new friends with other families who understand their unique challenges.


SSP: In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit for those that take part in this 12 week program?


Besides the connection with other families, the More Than Words program was developed by expert speech-language pathologists and is grounded in extensive research. The strategies parents will learn can be used naturally, throughout every interaction with their child. Since parents spend the most time with their child, this type of intervention can be way more effective than taking your child to speech therapy once, twice or three times per week. Actually research has shown that trained parents are more effective facilitators of communication development than weekly visits to a professional.


SSP: Is there a website one can go to for more information on this program? For those who cannot attend, what do you suggest they do?


Yes! For families who want to learn more about the upcoming program at Brooklyn College, they can check out the program details on my website:  Families are also encouraged to contact me directly by email or by phone for more information and for registration information.  My contact information is on my website and below.

For families who can’t attend, I’d encourage them to visit my website to learn more about the individual services I offer or to set up an individual consultation.
The Hanen Centre’s website also has a ton of amazing articles and accessible information for families. The Hanen Centre was founded in 1975 and is a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization whose mission is to provide parents, caregivers, early childhood educators and Speech-language Pathologists/ Therapists with the knowledge and training they need to help young children develop the best possible language, social and literacy skills.


SSP: Do you have any words of encouragement for those families who have a child with autism or another social communication disorder?


Many parents worry about what will become of their children, and when you have a child who has unique and special needs, it’s only natural to wonder about this. While none of us can predict exactly what the future holds, the good news is that the brain is plastic and has the ability to change structurally. This means that children continue to learn throughout the lifespan and research has shown that intensive, early intervention has can “re-wire” the brain. When parents learn strategies and learn to implement them consistently and effectively, they can successfully shape their child’s communication skills, positively affect parent-child interactions, and facilitate behavior changes.


Place: All sessions will be held at The Diana Rogovin Davidow Speech, Language, Hearing Center, 4400 Boylan Hall, Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210


Cost: $150 per family for the entire 12 week program

For registration and more information please contact:

Rachel Cortese, MS Ed, MS CCC-SLP


Phone: (347) 471-0596