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December 2015 Newsletter

Up to the Challenge

INDEPENDENCE: A blind boy with other disabilities learns to walk independently using a cane on the grounds of VISIONS Center for Blindness.

A GIFT OF SPEECH: Parker W. Barnum stuttered when he was young. With help, he controlled the stutter and went on to be a successful factory owner in Westchester. A year before his death in 1975, he created a fund in The New York Community Trust to help young people overcome speech problems.  

Speech pathologist Etoile LeBlanc of the Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery at the NYU School of Medicine provides speech therapy to a 6-year-old girl born with a cleft palate. This work is possible because of our grant to the nonprofit myFace. Photo by Rosemary Peralta

Giving young disabled New Yorkers tools to succeed

Disabled kids face challenges at every turn. That’s why we’re making three new grants to help young people deal with multiple disabilities, get what they need to graduate, and make their voices heard.

  • In New York City, less than a third of students with disabilities graduate from high school. Although schools are required to provide services, many students don’t get what they need. “It’s common for these kids to be left out of their own education planning meetings with therapists, educators, and parents,” says Anishah Cumber, a program manager at IncludeNYC (formerly Resources for Children with Special Needs). The Trust helped start the group, which assists families of young people with disabilities.

    Two years ago, we worked with the organization to create a program to teach disabled middle-schoolers how to identify services they need and speak up. Now we’re providing $80,000 to expand the program to ninth-graders. “A disabled student’s ability to self-advocate is a great predictor of finishing school, getting a job, and living independently,” says Rachel Pardoe, Trust program officer for health and people with special needs. 

    An example: A girl with a learning disability had trouble with reading comprehension. She realized that having her tests read aloud could boost her scores on the State’s Regents exams. She fought for the accommodation; now she’s in college.
  • Children who are blind and those with limited vision often face multiple challenges: 50 percent also have physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities. Many come from poor homes or speak English as a second language. Educational and therapeutic programs exist, but they’re run by a variety of agencies, each with its own eligibility requirements. Two years ago, we helped VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired create a coalition of more than 40 groups to streamline services and list them online. Now, with an additional $100,000 from The Trust, VISIONS will strengthen the coalition’s connection with eye clinics, hospitals, and nonprofits serving minority communities. It also will help families access services for children with both developmental and visual disabilities.
  • Most children born with a craniofacial disfigurement have speech problems. This can limit their functioning at school, at play, and at home. MyFace (formerly known as the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction) will use a new grant of $50,000 from The Trust for intensive speech therapy to help young clients speak clearly and confidently.

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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.