How the Child Care for Working Families Act Benefits Children With Disabilities and Their Families

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A child in a wheelchair at the park with his mother

By MK Falgout and Katie Hamm 

More than 1.1 million children under age 6 in the United States receive services for a disability,1 while 2.5 percent of parents of young children have a disability that affects their workforce participation.2

All families, including those with disabilities, benefit from access to affordable child care that will support their children’s development in inclusive and enriching environments. These programs also provide parents with the support they need to thrive. But the dearth3 of inclusive, affordable child care options causes job disruptions for parents of disabled children at twice the rate of those whose children do not have disabilities.4 This fact sheet highlights how the Child Care for Working Families Act provides a comprehensive solution to meet the child care needs of all families.

Families of children with disabilities and the current child care system

The current child care system requires additional public resources to reach all the families who need high-quality services. This lack of public investment results in a mostly private-pay system that marginalizes historically underserved communities.

  • Although 1 in 8 children ages 3 to 5 who is enrolled in an early childhood program has a disability or significant social or emotional challenges,5 nearly 1 in 3 parents of disabled children report that finding available slots is a primary difficulty in accessing child care, compared with 1 in 4 families with nondisabled children. 6
  • Nearly one-third of children with disabilities live in poverty,7 making most licensed child care options nearly impossible to afford.8
  • Children of color are underrepresented in early intervention9 programs through infancy and toddlerhood for reasons pertaining to disproportionate lack of access to quality health care.10
  • New data suggest that in all but six states, no more than 2 percent of children who receive a child care subsidy have a disability.11*
  • Children ages 3 to 5 who have disabilities are 14.5 times more likely to face suspension or expulsion than children without disabilities,12 due in part to the fact that only 1 in 5 early childhood educators and providers report “receiving training on children’s social and emotional development.”13
  • Child care workers, primarily women and disproportionately women of color, earn on average less than $12 an hour,14 and only 1 in 5 early childhood educators receives training on children’s social and emotional development.15 Both of these realities contribute to the inadequate support for providers caring for children with disabilities, given that nearly 10 percent of the early childhood workforce works mostly with children who have disabilities.16

The Child Care for Working Families Act benefits children with disabilities

The Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) creates a new standard for inclusive and accessible child care by investing in communities historically underserved by an underfunded child care system dependent on parental fees to cover the high cost of care.17 Just as importantly, the CCWFA ensures that providers are appropriately compensated for providing quality child care. More specifically, the bill has the following benefits:

  • The CCWFA prioritizes policies and funding that serve disabled children in high-quality, inclusive early learning environments by:
    • Affirming the importance of child care in supporting children with disabilities by setting benchmarks that ensure the system provides care for children with disabilities alongside children without disabilities.
    • Investing in expanding the supply of high-quality, inclusive child care for children with disabilities and infants and toddlers with disabilities.
    • Requiring states to consider the additional cost of providing high-quality and inclusive care to children with disabilities when developing child care provider payment rates, as well as requiring that parents of disabled children are consulted in the process of developing these rates.
    • Requiring states to provide training opportunities for child care providers so that they can learn how to care for children with disabilities and conduct developmental screenings.
    • Prohibiting the use of suspensions, expulsions, and adverse behavioral interventions in all child care settings receiving public funds.
    • Establishing a new funding stream to provide early intervention services in child care settings.
    • Allowing states to prioritize funds to construct or renovate child care, including for providers who are caring for children with disabilities.

Continue on to AmericanProgress.com to read the complete article and to view original sources.

The first IRONMAN with Down syndrome turns his winning moment into a growing movement for inclusion

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The first IRONMAN with Down syndrome races forward for inclusion

By Julia M. Chan, CNN

Chris Nikic’s journey to becoming an elite athlete began with a single step. What kept him going was a single recipe for success: get “1 percent better” every day.

“One percent — stick with that goal,” Chris says. “If you stick with that goal, (you) can succeed and be a successful person.”

Last fall, Chris showed the world the power of small but consistent improvement, setting a Guinness World Record as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, ending with a 26.2-mile marathon. But crossing that finish line was only the beginning.

Now, the 22-year-old Special Olympics Champion Ambassador from the Orlando area is on a mission to promote inclusion and highlight human potential.

Early hurdles

From birth, Chris faced a number of cognitive, physical, and sensory challenges, according to his mother, Trish Nikic. He underwent open-heart surgery at five months old and years of therapy to help with things like eating, speech, and balance.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle he encountered, though, was how other people perceived him.

“People treated me different,” Chris recalls. “They were telling me that I can’t do that or can’t do this.”

When Chris was eight, he and his family found a supportive and welcoming community in Special Olympics Florida. Inspired by his athletic older sister, Chris eagerly took to sports like basketball, golf, and track.

Their true benefits went beyond exercise for the growing boy. Athletics “gave him an opportunity to be socially included with others,” Chris’ father, Nik Nikic says.

Leveling up

As Chris got older, he became more sedentary while recovering from a series of ear surgeries. After Special Olympics Florida launched its triathlon program in 2018, Chris’ parents encouraged him to try it to get in shape and have fun.

“The first time he ever did a sprint with Special Olympics, he came in dead last,” Trish says. “But you know what? Chris was happy.”

Chris soon outgrew his first triathlon coach. Dan Grieb, the captain of a local triathlon club, came on board to help take Chris to the next level. In a year and a half of training, Chris went from the couch to a sprint 14-mile triathlon.

Chris set his sights on a half IRONMAN race scheduled for May 2020. When Covid-19 forced organizers to scrap the official event, Chris and his team held their own race. CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 followed Chris’ journey, ultimately ending with him qualifying to compete in the full IRONMAN competition in Panama City.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Next Big Thing: ‘Eternals’ Star Lauren Ridloff on Becoming Marvel’s First Deaf Superhero

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“I’m hoping that more people are going to be able to dream bigger,” says Lauren Ridloff of playing the first deaf superhero in a Marvel film. COURTESY OF ERIK CARTER

BY ABBEY WHITE, The Hollywood Reporter.

Being a superhero wasn’t part of Lauren Ridloff’s plan. The Eternals star wanted to be a children’s book author before an American Sign Language tutoring gig for the director of Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God led to a starring role in the show’s revival.

Theater, she says, is a “much more natural and inviting medium for deaf actors,” and the production came fully staffed with a toolbox ready to support its deaf and hearing artists. But coming off that critically praised performance in 2018, Ridloff wasn’t sure she wanted to keep acting. TV and movies weren’t a place she had seen herself represented growing up, instilling the idea that it couldn’t be part of her dream.

Yet, after scoring The Walking Dead as her first TV role, Ridloff found herself in demand. Now, she’s set to star in the Chloé Zhao-directed Marvel movie that will take her and deaf representation to marvelous new heights when it releases on Nov. 5.

During her transition from stage to screen, Ridloff says she’s felt like she wanted to prove she’s easy to work with, something that has led to her not always advocating for what she needed as an actor. But being on this massive Marvel production full of A-listers who “know exactly what they want” helped change her outlook.

Ahead of The Eternals’ anticipated release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Ridloff about her journey from stage to screen, how working on a blockbuster as an emerging actor changed her perception of self-advocacy on set, and why the Eternals cast wasn’t sure what to expect in the final cut.

Your journey to acting was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. Before that Broadway break-out, what were your acting ambitions and how have those changed?

My goal growing up was to write a book. That’s why I studied English and creative writing in college, and that is a big reason I started teaching. I wanted to write children’s books. I felt that the best way to understand how a child thinks in their mind is to be with them all day. So I started teaching because of that. I didn’t dream of acting. I didn’t want to pursue acting. I had some acting experience — your basic high school play, or I was a part of a performance group in college, a dance group. I just didn’t see enough people on the screen like myself. Every once in a while, like maybe Marlee Matlin, I saw on the big screen, and then years went by, and you would see somebody appear on one episode of a TV show or another episode there. Acting on Broadway came so completely as a surprise to me. It wasn’t part of my plan.

And, yes, absolutely, my goals have changed since I’ve gotten into acting. When I was on Broadway, my manager was interested in pursuing and looking for other projects, and I told him to then I didn’t know if I wanted to continue acting. Maybe this was just a one-time thing. I wasn’t even sure if it was my thing. But then, when I saw the theater audience full night after night, and I saw the lines forming at the back door, I realized that my classroom just got a lot bigger. I made a bigger impact here. It seems like I can act, and I enjoy the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a character, which is very connected to reading and writing. When you write, you need to drop into that character and how it represents itself on the page. So I felt like it was a very natural leap into acting because of that.

Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.

Disability Advocate Chelsie Hill Has the *Best* Advice for Fending Off Fitness Class Intimidation

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Chelsie Hill seated on a wheel chair in front of a pool with yellow digital background surrounding her

By Zoe Weiner, Well + Good

When Chelsie Hill was in a car accident at age 17, her “whole world was flipped upside down,” she says. A spinal cord injury left her paralyzed from the waist down, but as a lifelong dancer, she refused to let the fact that she was in a wheelchair get in the way of her passion. So two years later, in 2012, she started a wheelchair dance team called “The Rollettes.”

Hill connected with a group of women through social media who, like her, were in wheelchairs and wanted to dance. “I wanted to meet girls like me and find friends… I wanted to just feel a sense of normalcy, and feel like I wasn’t the only person in my community or in the world who got in the car with a drunk driver or became paralyzed,” she says. “When you’re by yourself and you’re alone and you’re trying to figure out life, it can be very lonely—it can feel like you’re the only one. And for me, being around these girls helped me gain a sense of confidence that I never thought I would ever get.”

In the near-decade since the Rollettes conception, the group has performed all over the world, introduced the “Boundless Babes Society” mentorship program to connect women and girls living with a range of disabilities, and grown its platform to increase visibility for people with disabilities. “I have so many little ones who come to Rollettes Experience and they look on TV and they don’t see anybody like themselves,” says Hill. “And so for us, representation and education are the two biggest things that we’re very passionate about in every way.”

Hill’s role as the team choreographer has given her the opportunity to take the dance moves she loved when she was younger and make them accessible to people with differing abilities. “I love going to dance classes and adopting the choreography from an able-bodied choreographer to make it work for me,” she says. “That’s when I get the most creative, because I am forced to do moves that my body naturally wouldn’t know how to do… but I can translate them in a way that looks similar because my body is used to all of the moves from when I was a little girl. That’s kind of the advantage I have as a wheelchair dancer: I know how all these moves are as an [able-bodied person], so I just make them work for what my ability is now.”

Even with decades of experience under her belt, though, Hill is no stranger to the oh-so-relatable experience of entering a dance or workout class and immediately feeling intimidated—something many of us can relate to. “I was always so intimidated to go into any class, especially in Los Angeles with some of the top dancers in the industry, top choreographers and me and my wheelchair rolling in and people looking at me like, ‘What is she doing here? Does she know where she is?'” she says. “So I can totally empathize with that feeling of not feeling like you’re ready.”

Click here to read the full article on Well + Good.

Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

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Senate will grill tech execs after report that Instagram can harm teens’ mental health

By Lauren Feiner, CNBC

A Senate panel plans to bring tech executives back to Capitol Hill following a revealing report from The Wall Street Journal about the impact of Facebook’s Instagram platform on teens’ mental health.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, announced the hearing in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Blackburn said the hearing would take place in a couple weeks and would include representatives from Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snap and Google-owned YouTube.

A spokesperson for Blackburn said a hearing date and the specific attendees from the companies have not yet been confirmed.

The Journal’s report, which the outlet said was based on internal documents from Facebook, revealed that the company had been aware of significant negative impacts of its photo-sharing Instagram app on teenage girls. At a March hearing, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in response to a question about children and mental health, that research he’s seen shows that “using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits.”

While the research cited in the Journal’s report did not show entirely negative effects, it seemed to cut against Facebook’s narrative about mental health. That angered several lawmakers across parties and chambers of Congress, some of whom called for Facebook to abandon plans to create a child-focused Instagram product.

“What we know is a lot of this anecdotal information that we had from parents, teachers, pediatricians about the harms of social media to children, that Facebook was aware of this,” Blackburn said. “They chose not to make this public.”

Blackburn said her staff met Friday with a whistleblower who has worked for Facebook, and who had access to documents on which the Journal reported.

Although both the House and the Senate have hauled tech CEOs to Congress several times over the past couple years, Blackburn said she expects this hearing to stand out because of its bipartisan nature. She said she is working with the subcommittee’s chair, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on the effort and the two will look at rules around how social media is able to market to children, as well as statutes meant to protect them online, like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA) Rule.

Representatives for Blumenthal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are determined to do something in a bipartisan way that is going to protect our children in the virtual space, that will allow them to be able to use the internet, do Zoom school if they need to, do research, but to be protected and to have their privacy protected when they are online,” Blackburn said.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

He’s 72, an amputee, and won 6 medals at National Veterans Wheelchair Games

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Patrick Terry is 72, an amputee, and won 6 medals at National Veterans Wheelchair Games

By Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press

At first, the bad news hit Patrick Terry hard: His right leg would have to be amputated below the knee due to an infection.

“I cried for about half an hour that day, sobbing,” he said.

Then he remembered something a mentor taught him: the Serenity Prayer.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

That was 2009. Terry, a U.S. Navy veteran and longtime Union Beach resident, accepted his condition. Then he sought to make the best of it by participating in adaptive sports. His quest reached an apex last month, when he won six medals — three gold, one silver and two bronze — at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in New York City.

At age 72.

“My family and the people that know me are proud of me and just overwhelmed that I could do this,” he said.

From addiction to adaptive sports
Originally from Yonkers, N.Y., Terry competed in football and track in high school and enlisted in the Navy in 1969, serving aboard the USS Albany. He later served in the U.S. Navy Reserve and worked for New York City’s Department of Transportation, paving and milling roads.

By 2005, he was in need of help for alcohol and drug addiction. A sponsor in a 12-step recovery program introduced him to the Serenity Prayer.

“That freed me to be the person I am,” Terry said. “I now have 16 years clean and sober. I used to blame everybody else for my problems. The problems, they were with me.”

In 2009 he joined the East Orange Thunder, an adaptive sports team comprised of veterans and founded by Ralph Jones, a recreational therapist with the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System.

“He picked up on all the adaptive sports quickly,” Jones said. “He’s just a natural athlete.”

Click here to read the full article on Asbury Park Press.

Paralympian Sophia Herzog has a mental health coach and psychologist ‘to get me prepared and healthy’

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Sophia Herzog smiling at the camera

By Cindy Augustine, Yahoo! Life

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Sophia Herzog may be a Paralympian bound for Tokyo and determined to win a medal in swimming, but in many ways, she’s a lot like her 20-something peers: focused on her future. The Colorado native, who was born with a form of dwarfism, has been steadily training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, prepping for the Tokyo games — but she knows she can’t swim forever.

When Herzog, 24, isn’t training or obsessing over her dog, Odie, she’s been thinking about what lies ahead after swimming — and choosing to make her education a priority. As a graduate from DeVry University, an official education provider of Team USA, Herzog was able to get her degree on her own terms (mostly virtual), and showed off her ability to juggle her athletic training and career training.

Herzog will be competing in freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly heats as the Paralympic Games get underway on Tuesday. Before taking off for Tokyo, the athlete caught up with Yahoo Life and shared how she stays focused and mentally prepared.

How do you approach taking care of your mental health?

We saw how much pressure athletes are under from the [Tokyo] Olympics, and I think it’s really important. I have a mental health coach and a psychologist that I work with almost weekly to get me prepared and healthy, just like my gym coach and swim coach. It’s nice to shed a light on the pressure — Olympic superhero athletes are just like every other human.

Aside from being in the pool, what else brings you joy?

We adopted a dog last June, and he’s been [helpful] in disconnecting from swimming. Getting outside and watching him be joyous over the littlest things has been a huge help for me. He’s now my child [laughs], Odie. I’m only 24 years old now and this is what I’ve done professionally for 12 years. I haven’t really experienced life outside of swimming and I’m looking forward to finding what brings me joy — besides my dog.

Click here to read the full article Yahoo! Life.

Midlothian boy born with rare condition gets a special escort on his first day of kindergarten

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Midlothian boy born with rare condition gets a special escort on his first day of kindergarten Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.

By Lori Brown and Shannon Murray, Fox LA

MIDLOTHIAN, Texas – Midlothian police officers and firefighters helped make the first day of kindergarten special for a little boy who is facing some challenges this school year.

Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.

Then at Mountain Peak Elementary, classmates and teachers gave him a warm welcome.

Last week, Michael’s mom, Brittany Denison, made a plea on social media for kids to be kind and asked parents to educate their children about people who are different.

Michael was born with a rare condition called Treacher Collins syndrome. All of the bones in the lower half of his face are smaller than they should be just like the boy Auggie in the movie “Wonder.”

“We’ve had multiple instances where people have used the words scary, monster or weird and that’s really uncomfortable,” she said. “When you’re in a room with Michael for two minutes you understand immediately that he is just the same as every other kid.”

Midlothian’s fire chief said as the story spread on social media, his firefighters knew they wanted to do something to help. So they reached out to the family and school to coordinate the special escort.

“My name is Dale, I am the fire chief,” Dale McCaskill told Michael. “We heard you might be a little nervous going to school your first day so we are going to give you a ride on the fire truck.”

Michael’s mom said when she made that plea on social media she had no idea it would lead to so much support in both the community and from people all across the world.

“To see him smile like that, that was once in a lifetime. That was amazing, unforgettable,” she said after dropping him off for his first day. “He’s an extraordinary kid so I wanted him to have an ordinary year. But I can’t imagine this will be an ordinary year for him anymore. The welcoming experience of the kids being outside, the waves and the smiles, that’s what you want for your kid to be welcomed with open arms.”

She hopes that it creates an even bigger conversation for all families and all students about accepting each other despite differences and standing up for one another.

Click here to read the full article on Fox La.

Photo of Braille-etched Railing at Italian Castle Describing Stunning View Goes Viral

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Braille-etched Railing at Italian Castle

By News 18

Often the internet tends to shine a light on something beautiful and fascinating and a recent photo of a railing on a window in a castle in Italy has gone viral. And it has happened for a good enough reason. Sitting atop a hill that overlooks the Italian city of Naples is the Castel Sant’Elmo (St Elmo Castle) which is a popular tourist haunt.

Hundreds walk up to the top of the castle to enjoy the view but there is yet another attraction on display in the castle. A 92-foot-long piece of stainless steel is attached to the wall fence of the castle of one of its large sized windows and it has a poetic description of the view in Braille. The unique railing was installed by artist Paolo Puddu in 2015 and titled ‘Follow the Shape’ and has been a permanent fixture at the castle since 2017, a report on Ozy.com said. The art had won the fifth edition of the ‘A Work For the Castle’ contest.

Visitors are encouraged to feel the installation wherein they run their hands on the rail and those who can read the Braille script can ‘follow the shape’ on the railing to read the verses from Italian author Giuseppe de Lorenzo’s ‘La terra e l’uomo’ or the ‘The Land and the Man’.

Click here to read the full article on News 18.

Biden admin says ‘long COVID-19’ could qualify as a disability

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Biden pictured with the american flag. The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

BY Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice rolled out guidance making clear that symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the federal civil rights law.

The guidance makes clear that long COVID-19 is not automatically a disability and that an “individualized assessment” is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term symptoms or condition “substantially limits a major life activity.”

The Administration for Community Living at HHS also released a guide outlining services provided by community-based organizations to help individuals experiencing long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Additionally, the Education Department released a resource document including information about the responsibilities of schools and public agencies when it comes to providing services and “reasonable modifications” for children and students for whom long-term COVID-19 symptoms qualify as a disability.

Finally, the Labor Department launched a new webpage that includes information and links for workers experiencing long COVID-19, like information on employee benefits.

Most individuals who contract COVID-19 recover and see symptoms dissipate within a few weeks of experiencing effects from the virus. However, some individuals who have contracted the coronavirus have reported experiencing new or ongoing symptoms a month or more after testing positive for the virus.

Research released by the nonprofit FAIR Health last month found that a quarter of people who had COVID-19 sought care for new medical problems at least a month after being diagnosed with the virus.

Replay Video
The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice rolled out guidance making clear that symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the federal civil rights law.

The guidance makes clear that long COVID-19 is not automatically a disability and that an “individualized assessment” is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term symptoms or condition “substantially limits a major life activity.”

The Administration for Community Living at HHS also released a guide outlining services provided by community-based organizations to help individuals experiencing long-term symptoms after contracting COVID-19.

Additionally, the Education Department released a resource document including information about the responsibilities of schools and public agencies when it comes to providing services and “reasonable modifications” for children and students for whom long-term COVID-19 symptoms qualify as a disability.

Finally, the Labor Department launched a new webpage that includes information and links for workers experiencing long COVID-19, like information on employee benefits.

Most individuals who contract COVID-19 recover and see symptoms dissipate within a few weeks of experiencing effects from the virus. However, some individuals who have contracted the coronavirus have reported experiencing new or ongoing symptoms a month or more after testing positive for the virus.

Research released by the nonprofit FAIR Health last month found that a quarter of people who had COVID-19 sought care for new medical problems at least a month after being diagnosed with the virus.

Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act
French parliament approves COVID-19 passes for restaurants, domestic…
The White House announced the new resources on Monday morning, before Biden and Vice President Harris were slated to deliver remarks in the White House Rose Garden commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Then-President George H.W. Bush signed the sweeping civil rights act into law in 1990. Biden, who at the time was a Democratic senator representing Delaware, co-sponsored the legislation, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in a wide range of settings, including places of employment, schools, community living and transportation.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

NYC Ballet hosts disability-friendly workshop for young people

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Contributed participants in Saturday's Workshop for young people with disabilities

By Allison Collins, The Daily Star

New York City Ballet dancers raised the barre for young people with disabilities during a Saturday, July 17 workshop hosted by the company, Saratoga Performing Arts Center at the National Museum of Dance and the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York.

Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky, Pediatric Orthopedist with Bassett Healthcare Network, has been involved with such New York City Ballet workshops since their inception roughly seven years ago, at which time he worked part time downstate. The workshops began, Dutkowsky noted, after a mother of child with cerebral palsy approached the company asking for disability-friendly instruction.

Today, Dutkowsky said, the annual NYCB workshop at SPAC is one of “10 or 12” held “all year long,” though Saturday’s marked the first in-person workshop since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event included roughly 20 young people from 4 through 22 and was led by NYCB corps dancers Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara and Davide Riccardo, who demonstrated warm-ups and choreography inspired by the company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The one-hour workshop was free to participants and included tickets to day-of SPAC performances.

Dutkowsky credited the workshops’ impact with ensuring their continuation.

“I thought, ‘OK, this might go on for a year or two,’ but the ballet has absolutely gone head over heels for this and totally fallen in love,” he said. “The dancers fight over doing these classes. These are professional dancers used to always being judged — on the stage, in rehearsal or in the mirror — and it can be a very self-absorbing life. But these kids don’t judge them; these kids give them a respite where they don’t have to be perfect … and that’s why they crave doing these classes. The love and care they have for these kids is absolutely genuine, and that’s why it works.”

Such rewards, Dutkowsky said, are reciprocal.

“It’s a very inclusive place and a very welcoming place,” he said. “It’s strength and diversity, because you have these dancers with the greatest control of their bodies … and some kids who’ve never taken a single step without assistance, but where some people see divergence, I see glorious convergence. There’s something wonderful when they come together, and each will tell you the other gives more than they receive.

“Art, in this case dance, is uniquely human,” Dutkowsky continued. “It’s part of us, and people with disabilities have the same desires for love and intimacy and they get angry and sad; art helps to bring that out. With this, they’re not just passive observers, they’re active in the art and they’re feeling it in themselves as they try to do things and explore their own bodies.”

Otego resident Ruth Modinger and her 22-year-old daughter Marybeth, whom Modinger described as “multiply disabled,” attended Saturday’s workshop. The opportunity, Modinger said, proved “amazing.”

“We did it because it was an activity that Marybeth could participate in and be normal,” she said. “She could fit in with her peers. She loves to interact and she loves other people, but she isn’t always appropriate with other people. With the children there, everyone was special … and she just fit in, and it was beautiful. Everyone could fit in, doing what they were doing, and there was a mutual understanding that you didn’t know what was going to happen, but it was going to be something special.”

According to a release from the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York, to regulate attendance of this year’s event, parents and guardians were encouraged to participate alongside their children, instead of occupation and physical therapy “buddies.” This modification, Modinger said, only enhanced the experience.

“With Marybeth being nonverbal, she was not able to communicate, but I was able to help her do the movements,” she said. “She could reach toward a toy that she wanted and that was her way of doing the movements; other children got really, really into it and were dancing and doing what the dancers were doing.”

Encouraging such differing levels of participation, Modinger and Dutkowsky said, underscores the program’s mission.

“The two dancers were leading, and one would always model while standing, doing it able-bodied, and another would model from a seated position,” Modinger said. “So, you were always doing what was appropriate for you, and that made it so inclusive. It was just adorable, and the emotions were so real and the kids just truly participated to their ability.”

Click here to read the full article on The Daily Star.

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Disability Awareness Month

national disability awareness month

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Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022