It is hard to believe this month marks three years that I have been the Executive Director at INCLUDEnyc, and 35 years that our organization has been helping families create networks of support, obtain services, and navigate systems.
As part of our celebratory year, we collected and told #35Storiesfor35Years about our work and the impact it has had on young people and their families, members of our community, and on ourselves. Mine is our final story; I invite you to read, watch, or listen to them all.
Mothers and fathers, staff and board members, community professionals and funders, as well as young adults who are advocates themselves, all shared their stories. Just as I contribute both as a parent and a community professional, many of those who told their stories did so from multiple perspectives.
Our storytellers spoke about their struggles and triumphs, their fears and joys, all with a sense of honesty, openness, and good humor. While each story is personal and unique in its own way, there is a common thread woven throughout each one. No matter how difficult the path, our storytellers all expressed a deep gratitude for what their journey taught them. Their journeys made them stronger, more resilient, and helped to shape them into their best selves.
DaNeen shared her story with us this year. She called INCLUDEnyc after her son was diagnosed with autism, not understanding her rights, the special education jargon, or how to advocate for her child. “The school could have told me anything and I would have accepted it,” she said. INCLUDEnyc walked DaNeen through the special education processes and provided advice on appropriate school placements. “You can’t buy the wealth of knowledge you get here. I always tell parents, ‘INCLUDEnyc helps you talk it out, rant it out, or cry it out.’ You cannot lose with this place.”
I feel honored that so many parents, like DaNeen, have chosen to take their journey with INCLUDEnyc over the past three decades. In 2018, we touched more families than ever before in a single year, reaching more than 100,000 people. We met families at outreach and annual events, taught workshops, coached parents on our Help Line, and delivered services to youth and family members in the community.
I am proud of INCLUDEnyc’s history and excited for our future. There are so many stories yet to be written and so much still to be learned. INCLUDEnyc will remain dedicated to being a partner with young people with disabilities and their families today, tomorrow, and always. Join us.