“Of all the places I’ve been, INCLUDEnyc was the place for me to call. Anytime I had a question, they would tell me what to do. INCLUDE gave me the support that I needed throughout my son’s school years—and we needed a lot of support because every time I tried to apply for [social] services, we got turned down. I can’t say enough about INCLUDEnyc and how you really give support.”
VALINDA BROOKS, MOTHER
Young people with disabilities seek the same social and recreational experiences that all young people enjoy. Zack, a teenager with a disability, wanted to go to camp with his peers and find some engaging afterschool activities in his neighborhood. His mom, Ellen, could not find them, until she connected with INCLUDEnyc.
"Zack really doesn’t get a lot of socialization at home,” Ellen explained. “He’s with me and his caregiver a lot, and I want him to be with other kids and model after them. It’s good for him, and it’s good for me.” Which is why she felt that finding a new summer camp and afterschool activities was very important.
Zack has a disability that causes seizures, developmental delays, and mobility issues requiring him to use a wheelchair. Zack loves to engage with the world and models his behavior after those around him. Ellen wanted Zack to be in an inclusive environment and knew it was important for him to spend time with an appropriate group of peers.
“Zack is always happy, he is always full of love and pure sweetness, and he is empathetic,” Ellen explained. But because of the unique characteristics of his disability, Ellen found it challenging to find social opportunities for him that met his specific needs.
Zack’s grandfather signed Ellen up for INCLUDEnyc’s weekly Navigator email of news, resources, and upcoming events, where she learned about INCLUDEnyc’s annual Summer Fun & More fair. Ellen loves the Navigator. “It keeps me informed,” she said. “It is very nice to have one place to access all that information with my busy life.”
Ellen said the two fairs she attended “were wonderful.” At the fair, Ellen found a cooking class in her neighborhood where Zack learned to make pie, sushi, and pizza. “Their entire lives shouldn’t be just school and therapy. Zack is just a sweet kid who wants to have fun,” she explained. INCLUDEnyc also helped Ellen find a new, more inclusive summer camp for Zack where he will have the opportunity to interact with with a wide range of peers.
“INCLUSION IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT,” Ellen said. “Just because somebody is different than you — even in the disability world — doesn’t mean that you can’t help them. Zack’s new camp gets that every kid is different and has their own needs. I’m so excited, I want to go
“What I like most about INCLUDEnyc is the people here. I have been involved with this organization for many years. Trust me, it’s a difficult time when these kids age-out of school. I am constantly sending parents here. The parents I’m talking to are not being helped by the schools that their children are aging out of, so there’s this big chasm and nobody helps you across, and that’s what INCLUDEnyc does.”
LESLIE JAROWEY, MOTHER
“Before getting my degree, it felt like there was this whole chasm in front of it, and INCLUDEnyc helped me across it. They made a bridge, you could say. The best thing about this program is the feeling of accomplishment I get after it. It’s like, ‘Yeah. I did it!’"
MAX J., PROJECT POSSIBILITY YOUTH
“My daughter, Crystal, had been living upstate in an OPWDD (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) facility where she had been placed through ACS (Administration for Children’s Services) and the foster care system. I was talking to my son Jay and I said, ‘What are we going to do about Crystal? I’ve heard about this place [INCLUDEnyc]. Let's just go walk in.’
We didn't even call or have an appointment. From walking in the door, it was literally two weeks, and Crystal was home and out of that place where she had been languishing for the last eight years. That would never, ever have happened if we hadn’t walk through the door.
It’s been a life-changer. During that time, [INCLUDEnyc] just kept advocating. They’d say, “I’m going to do this,” and within two seconds, it was done. It brought our family back together and changed everything.
Crystal now has a life. She actually gets to have dreams, and start making them come true. She gets to get to the top of the pyramid. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for INCLUDEnyc. We walked through these doors and now all the doors are opening up for us. That’s really exciting.
My advice for other families would be to walk through the door. Pick up the phone. This organization is amazing, with people who live it as well. This work touches their lives and their families. They have personal experience and they understand why it is so important. You can’t pay for that. Walk through the door!”
DENISE, CRYSTAL'S MOTHER
”I wanted to thank you so very much for your sage advice and guidance. Because of you, I was able to get the best possible package of services for my son. The wonderful package of support services [we receive] would not be possible without your help. Thank you, thank you!’"