AHRC New York City is contracted through the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, to provide home and community-based services and supports to youth, (ages 3 to 21, with developmental disabilities) who are in foster care. The program, Bridges to Health (B2H), pairs AHRC NYC professionals with children in their homes and communities, working toward goals including:
– skills of daily living
– adaptive skills
– communication and socialization
– motor skills
– community safety
A great example of B2H success is Joey:
When he was only an infant, Joey was placed in a hospital setting as he was medically fragile; he ended up spending the first six years of his life within hospital walls. Joey was born with a genetic disorder called DiGeorge Syndrome. In Joey’s case, this disorder presented with a missing heart valve at birth, a poorly functioning immune system, low muscle tone, and other health issues; he was a very sick baby.
At the hospital, he had a special education teacher, Debbie, who developed a meaningful relationship with Joey. At the time, Debbie was told by professionals all the things he couldn’t do; walk, talk, or have his trachea removed. Debbie’s response was, “why not?” With no clear answer, Debbie advocated for him with his therapists to help him learn to walk, consulted with speech therapists to get his trachea removed, helped him learn to eat by mouth, and even bought him toys.
With Debbie’s love and connection, Joey began to blossom. In 2008, Joey was well enough to leave the hospital setting and Debbie decided to become his foster mother.
In May 2009, seven-years-old Joey entered the B2H Day Habilitation program at AHRC New York City. Joey’s diagnoses include Autism, Congenital Heart Disease, DiGeorge Syndrome, and asthma. He is also non-verbal due to severe Apraxia of speech, which is a motor speech disorder. Samantha Holloway was assigned to support him three days a week in his home. When Samantha met Joey, he was only able to communicate using a few basic signs. He seemed shy and did not make eye contact with people he didn’t know. Samantha quickly noted how intelligent Joey was and how much potential his future could hold. She worked with his family to establish goals such as communication, socialization, and self-care. Little did she know that she would remain supporting Joey and his family for almost six years.
In 2011, Joey was officially adopted by Debbie and he continues to blossom. Today, Joey is 13 and his progress is astounding. He loves going to Barnes and Noble, the movies, riding the subway, using the computer, and recording his favorite experiences. He enjoys expressing himself through his iPad especially to tell mom he loves her. Samantha and Joey spend their time doing yoga, socializing, bowling, going to museums, and exploring Joey’s sense of identity. He walks independently and now makes eye contact with people he engages with. We have every reason to believe that he will soon be independently making friends and holding conversations in his community.
Kids in our Bridges to Health Program have lives, journeys, and needs that are very unique. Most of our kids have faced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which makes building and maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships with adults a crucial part of their success. At B2H, we take the unique needs of our kids into consideration every step of the way. Our staff are not only providing day habilitation, but they are also letting each child know that they can rely on, trust, feel fulfilled, and get support from the people in their life.
Did this story resonate with you? We’re always looking for excellent staff throughout the five boroughs for our growing wait list of B2H kids. Contact us!
Over 300 staff, families, and people receiving support from AHRC New York City marched from Madison Square Park, traveling down Broadway to Union Square Park, to support disability rights in the city’s first annual Disability Pride Parade on Sunday July 12, 2015; all five boroughs were represented. AHRC NYC was one of the largest contingents in a group of thousands who came from all over the city and as far as Canada. Many newspapers and TV stations were also present to report on the event. (Check out the article published by DailyMail).
The parade coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which opened doors for people with disabilities across the nation. Former U.S. Senator, Tom Harkin, who sponsored the bill in 1990, marched as the Grand Marshal. Smiling faces filled the streets while people held up signs and marched with pride. Fordham Independent Residence Alternative (IRA) resident, Jackie Butler, proudly marched with AHRC NYC in the parade: “[It was the] most enjoyable thing I have done. It was nice to see people [being supportive] and raising awareness. It should be done more often!”
The Parade culminated with an extravaganza on the big stage featuring luminaries and performances from musicians, dancers, comedians, and others stars on TV who have disabilities. AHRC NYC’s Director of Individualized Supports, Dr. Carole Gothelf also marched in the parade. Dr. Gothelf said, “The parade represents people coming out of the shadows into the center to be seen, be proud, and to celebrate their individuality while [being a part of] the community.”
After the parade, AHRC NYC’s Associate Director of Residential Services, Craig Becker organized a social gathering at the Fineson IRA.
Thank you to the main parade organizers for making AHRC NYC part of such a memorable event:
Nick Legowski, Self-Advocacy Advisor
Darinka Vlahek, Community Inclusion Initiative Adult Day Service
Beth Ann Silvestri, Residential Associate Director
The President of AHRC NYC’s Board of Directors, Angelo Aponte also marched in Sunday’s parade with his family: “It was an incredible day for everyone. A special shout out to our extraordinary staff.” Events like these are important for they emphasize that disabilities are under the umbrella of diversity and we should accept and support each other regardless of what category of diversity we fall into. Here’s to next year’s Parade!”
On June 23, 2015, the AHRC Middle/High School celebrated the end of the school year with a second prom. The prom was sponsored by the 86th St. Bath Beach Kiwanis Club and it was attended by students and staff from Brooklyn special needs high schools. It was an off-site evening affair held at Sirico’s Catering Hall, complete with music, a DJ, limos, a photo booth, food, and dancing. The prom had 17 attendees with escorts and it was a rousing success. The students from different schools interacted, danced together, and had a great time.
A special thanks Susan Esposito and the 86th St. Bath Beach Kiwanis for their generosity and for putting on a great event!
On June 24th, 2015, AHRC New York City’s Employment Business Services (EBS) marketing department hosted a networking event at Pera Soho, a Mediterranean restaurant in Manhattan. Not only was the EBS staff in attendance; there were current and potential employers as well as Karen Taylor and Alex Taylor from WE Energy, the company that sponsored the event.
Employers who are partnered with AHRC NYC like Barnes and Noble, CVS, Walgreens, Applebee’s, Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, and Veteran Affairs Hospital were present and eager to learn more about AHRC New York City and to talk about employing people with developmental disabilities. Angelo Cervone from New York State Industry for the Disabled (NYSID) also attended to network and showed support.
The networking event created a comfortable atmosphere for people from different companies to come to together, raise awareness, and discuss a common passion: Employing people with developmental disabilities.
It was certainly a successful evening thanks to Shauna Lozada and the Employment and Business Services team.
On June 29, 2015, friends, passionate people, and smiles filled P.S. 79 in the Bronx. AHRC New York City’s Self-Advocacy Advisor, Nicholas Legowski and his team set up wonderful presentations regarding civil rights, the history of self-advocacy, housing options, and self-empowerment. People with developmental disabilities also spoke about what they have experienced, desire, and how they are proud and expect others to except them for who they are.
Around noon, speeches were made by candidates running for the Self-Advocacy Board of Directors. Later on, there were musical and theatrical performances.