AHRC New York City

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Students of AHRC Middle / High School Begin PowerPoint Primer

 

AHRC New York City’s Middle/High School students have begun participating in staff training at Maiden Lane. Students are learning how to create PowerPoint presentations and acquire computer skills that they can utilize in school. While in the training room, all students were able to follow along each step and required little assistance from staff.

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The students did not require any modified or adapted instruction to be able to successfully follow the lesson. This is a great step in generalizing skills learned in school and applying it to outside opportunities. The students traveled to Maiden Lane using public transportation with minimal support from MHS staff.

Derek Smoak – A Brooklyn Success Story

Derek Smoak walked in to Urban Vintage, a boutique café and concept store where young artists using laptops can be seen working on their newest projects over gourmet coffee and pastries. He approached the kitchen, smiled, and delivered a box of crackers he had bought nearby to one of the employees. Then he stopped and greeted the others behind the counter with a familiar hello. “It’s like my family here,” Derek said, shortly after he sat down over coffee, hot chocolate, and homemade desserts. Derek lives in AHRC NYC’s Brooklyn Apartments and receives MSC Services, but he navigates his life and his community completely on his own, rarely requesting or allowing staff at his residence to assist him or to be involved in his plans. He has been working at Urban Vintage for several years, and he helps the owners in a variety of ways, from cleaning to maintaining the gardens in the front of the store and around the corner. Clinton Hill, the neighborhood in which the café is located, has become something of a second home for Derek.  He’s also been able to participate in many interesting events that have been held at the cafe. “I’ve had so many fun experiences [at Urban Vintage]–I’ve met actors because there have been movie filmings here,” Derek said.

Derek Smoak picture

In addition to his involvement with Urban Vintage, Derek has also gotten to know the neighborhood through riding his bike everywhere he goes, and he prefers this over taking public transit. This makes his newest job as a bicycle carrier for Postmates, an app that allows people to order anything they want to be delivered by bike, particularly fitting. Derek learned about the available position through a coworker at Urban Vintage. When his residential staff offered to assist him with this project, Derek replied that he could do it on his own. He attended an information session, applied to be a carrier, and got the position in March 2015. Though it has only been a few weeks since he began, Derek already has stories of delivering unexpected items from one place to the next, and proudly carries around the Postmates debit card that he uses to make purchases for people who order deliveries from the app. “It doesn’t have to be food either,” he said. “If you leave your keys somewhere they can bring them back to you.” So far, Derek likes that he gets to set his own schedule and added “I like seeing people smiling…maybe helping others will help others to see the real me too.

While Derek likes his part time jobs and the community he has built for himself for now, he has much bigger dreams for the future. “I want to move to Florida one day, probably to Miami,” he said. Derek has fond memories of Florida from when he was younger, and hopes to get back there to be among friendly faces and warmer weather. He also hopes that once he moves there he can get married and live in a house of his own. The first step, he feels, is to get a car so he can make more deliveries for Postmates. “I need to start saving now to buy a used car to make more deliveries.” Derek’s independent nature and resourcefulness have allowed him to build his own community and create a meaningful life for himself in Brooklyn. The determination in his voice made it clear that we’ve only seen the beginning of his success.

Luncheon Held to Commend Social Work Interns

Kathy

AHRC New York City thanked its social work interns with subs, snacks, and sodas at a luncheon on Wednesday, April 22. Additionally, the interns were given personalized letters and small gifts to thank them for their hard work and dedication. The interns come from universities all over the city and work in various capacities at AHRC NYC, including residences, schools, and adult day programs. In addition to the interns, the luncheon was attended by AHRC NYC leadership and staff, as well community and university partners, and was organized by Seth Krakauer, Employee Development Manager.

Speakers

What social work is all about in our field is challenging perceptions on what it means to serve people with developmental disabilities,Gary Lind, Executive Director, said. He added that social work is especially important to him because he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in that field. “For the first time in decades issues around social justice and economic justice are coming to the political forefront, and what all of you do is so important to that,” he said.

Michael Rublin and Daniel Campana were two of the interns honored. Together, they helped to establish an integrated basketball team at St. Francis of Paola Early Learning Center, building on a project Daniel had begun at Brooklyn Blue Feather. “I’ve worked with people with developmental disabilities in the past, but there’s no sense of real integration,” Michael said. They developed a pilot project together that fosters a feeling of equality among people with disabilities and people without disabilities, and also “is practice for the real world-job building skills and social skills,” Mike added. “Having them become a team and experience bonding with one another is so important,” Daniel said. In the future, Mike and Dan hope to branch out and expand into an integrated softball team.

Gary Congratulates

Dr. Raymond Franzem, Supervisor of Social Services, thanked all of AHRC NYC’s educational partners in the internships, including Fordham University and Mercy College, and recognized AHRC NYC staff members who have been instrumental in assisting the social work interns. He also reiterated an important point for them to take into their future careers.  “Don’t accept [the attitude] ‘He can’t do it, that’s the way he is, that’s what he does.’ Look at what’s possible. And because all of you have seen what is possible the lives of the people we work with have been enriched. So truly I am proud of you.

Wings for Autism Takes Flight

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Oftentimes, visiting the airport can be unpleasant to say the least. For children with autism, the long lines, constant noise, and other stimuli can be completely overwhelming and make travel impossible. To help combat this, on April 18 AHRC New York City took part in the Arc of the United States’ Wings for Autism program at LaGuardia Airport.

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Wings for Autism is an airport “rehearsal” specially designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families, and airline professionals. The program is intended to reduce some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. Families from AHRC NYC’s school age programs arrived at LaGuardia at noon, and proceeded to get their own boarding passes, go through security, and even get on an airplane!

 

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This was very exciting!Andrew Winfrey, Principal of AHRC NYC’s Middle High School, said. “And it’s been really helpful to a lot of the parents. The airport staff was very helpful and made us feel welcome. We helped a lot of families be able to travel and have trips.

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Taking Nicholas out in public, it’s always questionable how he’ll behave,Ray Ferrigno, Third Vice President of AHRC NYC’s Board of Directors, said. “So to go into a novel setting like this and have it run so smoothly is wonderful. I really want to thank Homeland Security and Delta for treating us so well.

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AHRC NYC thanks the following for their efforts in organizing and facilitating this rehearsal, for all of the support that they have provided to families: Joanne Feltman of LaGuardia Airport, Guy Lainis and Veda Simmons of the Transportation and Security Administration, the staff of Delta Airlines, The Arc of the United States, and the staff of AHRC NYC’s Educational Services.

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(view larger versions of these photos: FamiliesAHRC NYC StaffLaGuardia Airport Staff)

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Additionally, CBS2 News came and documented the day’s events! You can view the video below:

Willie Mae Goodman, Annual Dinner Honoree – A Profile

Willie Mae Goodman won’t tell you what her job title is. “I’m a mother and a parent – that’s my title,” she says emphatically. With a soft Southern drawl that belies a fiery passion, Ms. Goodman has been an advocate for people with disabilities for decades. On May 16, at AHRC New York City’s Annual Dinner, Ms. Goodman will be receiving the Anne Kraus Award.

WillieMae portrait

Ms. Goodman was born on May 11, 1931 in Durham, North Carolina. She came to New York City when she was 21 years old. “I loved ballroom dancing and the jitterbug,” she remembers fondly. “I wanted to go to dancing school up here.” A year later, on October 26, 1955, her daughter Margaret Theo Goodman was born. But at four months, Margaret began experiencing seizures. Ms. Goodman took her daughter to a medical center where she was told that her daughter would be permanently disabled. Four years later, on the advice of a doctor, Ms. Goodman moved her daughter into the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island. “The doctor told us that they could teach Margaret to walk or talk,” she says. “We agreed to let her go. I said to myself that if they taught her to do one of the two I would take her back home. She didn’t do either one though.

In 1965, Robert F. Kennedy, then one of New York’s senators, visited Willowbrook and declared “it wasn’t fit for animals to live in,” in Ms. Goodman’s words. Margaret and approximately 200 other  individuals with multiple disabilities were moved out of the facility and into Gouverneur Hospital at 621 Water St. in Lower Manhattan. “The state expected them to die because of their medical problems and they hadn’t been receiving the very best medical care,” Ms. Goodman says. “But our individuals did not die because the direct care workers did what they could do to care of them. They had no training but they had the love and the patience and the understanding, but most of all they had a gift from God.

Willie Mae Dickson Goodman Site

By 1970 New York State declared it had a budget crisis and that Gouverneur Hospital would be closing. Goodman, along with community organizations such as Two Bridges and Henry Street Settlement and famed New York politicians such as Miriam Friedlander, Roy Goodman, and Percy Sutton, rallied against the state’s position and forced them to come up with a better solution than sending Margaret and many others back to Willowbrook. They succeeded, having them moved to Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospital. This period was a formative time in Ms. Goodman’s life. “We as parents, along with others, fought for our children to live a fruitful life,” she says. “And we have always resented the mindset that people like my baby should die and not live, that they don’t deserve a right to live. Even today, children with disabilities have been the last to be thought of but the first to be tossed aside. But the parents of yesterday and today have always said our children are to be thought of but never tossed aside.

Margaret now lives in a group home on 119th St. in Manhattan with 24 other individuals, and has been there for over 20 years. Ms. Goodman says that she visits Margaret every Sunday, and takes her home four times per year. But while her own daughter is in a safe, comfortable environment now, Ms. Goodman still works tirelessly for the rights of others with disabilities. “Many years ago, I went to visit a person I represent who was in a nursing home,” she says. “And it was bad, something I don’t want to see anymore.” This spurred her to contact OPWDD and become a driving force behind the development of AHRC NYC’s Dickson-Goodman Residences, which serves people with 24/7 nursing needs. Ms. Goodman was supported in this endeavor by Marie Dickson, a member of Community Board 11, which was essential to helping bring the facility to Harlem. “Without Ms. Dickson, we wouldn’t have been able to build that site,” Ms. Goodman says. Ms. Dickson will be posthoumously honored at the Annual Dinner as well.

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Ms. Goodman with Michael Goldfarb, AHRC NYC’s Executive Director for 36 years

Ms. Goodman continues to advocate for people with disabilities as part of the Gouverneur Parents Association, and despite the immense progress she has helped spur, there is still more work to be done. “My fear now is that we are going backwards instead of forwards,” she explains. “Services have decreased-people are waiting months to have their wheelchairs repaired. We aren’t providing enough to staff to give good services. There is no integration in the community in a normal fashion. They have chopped the system in so many ways that people just don’t know where they’re going. Communication is not the same the way it was 40 years ago,” she says.

Through her decades of advocacy work and being a parent of a person with developmental disabilities, Ms. Goodman is a fountain of wisdom. “My message to parents is that we must and we should organize and join together for the benefit of our kids to make sure they get the services they deserve and need,” she implores. And for the younger generation, she gives an important and beautiful piece of advice. “When you’re out speaking, say what you have to say in any way you have to say it and know why you’re there. You’re there to speak out for those who often cannot speak for themselves. Never think of yourself–think of them first.