A message from the Director of the Special Needs Program
I am filled with pride and excitement, and gratitude, for this opportunity to introduce myself and welcome you to a very different year of Special Needs programs at the Shames JCC.
As the Director of Special Needs Services at the Shames JCC, I have the privilege of overseeing all agency special needs and supportive services programming, enhancing the quality of existing programs and developing future programming. The JCC’s commitment to serving this community is of high importance, especially this year. The mental health impact COVID-19 has had on many individuals due to social isolation and lack of daily structure is immense. We understand the dire need to
reestablish our special needs services with a new service model and deliver programming within our capacity to the special needs community.
My own commitment to this community is also very strong and personal. My initial career plan as an undergrad was to be a teacher. The semester before my graduation, a chance encounter with one child on the autism spectrum diverted me from this path and shaped what I have found to be an extremely rewarding career filled with diversity, inclusion, and enhancing experiences for people with various needs. So, I went back to school and received an MSW degree from Hunter College.
Prior to coming to the Shames, I spent 6 years at the 14th Street Y in New York City as their first Director of Program Support, building their special needs program from the ground up. We created a series of parent workshops on such topics as navigating the school system, managing behavior, handling financial issues, and more. I started the first recreational program for children on the autism spectrum and related developmental disabilities and began the Y’s first inclusion component within their existing day camp, and we additionally provided professional support and guidance to all the departments at the 14th Street Y.
Like the child who changed my career path, there are so many individuals in need of professionals to provide comfort and guidance. While at times it may feel tumultuous, the impact we can have is astounding. That is my hope for the Shames JCC: where challenges are outweighed by milestones achieved to enhance social and overall life skills.
Director of Special Needs