While in-person learning has resumed for many children and teens in New York state, some special-needs students continue to feel the residual effects of Covid-19 in an academic setting.

Because of this, Cornerstone Behavioral Services – a Wantagh-based agency that offers services to children with developmental disabilities – has adjusted its programs to benefit patients during the pandemic, said founder Nicole Iannarone.

“We are specifically targeting things that we wouldn’t have in the past because they weren’t an issue [then],” Iannarone said. “I don’t think we’ll be back to normal anytime soon, and we need to navigate this in a way where we can be functional, and the students can learn to cope and tolerate this new normal.”
Iannarone is a board-certified behavioral analyst who’s worked in the field since 2010. Her agency offers in-home services to individuals with autism, ranging from preschool children to adult learners. Cornerstone’s staff comprises bachelor’s-level behavioral therapists, registered behavioral technicians and board-certified behavioral analysts.

Typically, Cornerstone’s therapists visit a patient’s home on an individualized basis — depending on the level of care they need — and work one-on-one with the client, Iannarone said. Services are primarily offered through insurance.

“Some of these kids are ecstatic working from home,” said Joanna Wohlfarth, a registered behavioral technician at Cornerstone. “Others are happy initially, then a week down the line their mood shifts and they don’t like being home. Even if they’re not verbalizing it, it’s not the best thing for them.”

But how can families ensure their special-needs children are receiving the resources they need during the pandemic? Know what’s available, Iannarone said. “I can’t tell you how many families I work with that didn’t even know they could access any resources through their insurance,” she added.

In the meantime, Iannarone recommended parents create a schedule for their children to instill a sense of structure and consistency, as outside-of-the-home activities are crucial for future development.

A Merrick mother, who the Herald is not identifying because of HIPAA laws, has partnered with Cornerstone since August 2019. She said the at-home program helped her 5-year-old autistic son challenge himself.

Finding the right services for her son, a preschooler in the North Merrick School District, was no easy feat, she said. But from the moment she spoke with Iannarone over the phone, the mother said she “knew instantly that this was who I wanted to work with.”

“The relationships that he’s developed with his at-home therapists are amazing,” she added. “When he is pushed and challenged to do things that are hard for him, rather than getting overwhelmed or flustered, he falls back on the relationship with them. . . They really motivate him in that way.”

For more information about Cornerstone Behavioral Services, call (516) 993-7844 or email Iannarone at