grantee spotlight

Creating an Inclusive Community for Autism Awareness Month

Three Organizations Making Strides for Inclusivity for People Living with Autism

One in 36 children in the United States has been identified as having autism spectrum disorder, and of New York City’s roughly 830,000 public school students, 25,656 receive special education services or support for autism. While a large number of the young population lives with autism, the disorder is still generally misunderstood, which negatively impacts how those living with autism are taught, receive medical support, and more.

This Autism Awareness Month, we want to bring attention to a few of our grantees that are offering programs and services to advocate for people living with autism and educating the community to foster an encouraging environment for all.

Organizations, including Adaptive Design Association, Heartshare Human Services of New York, and The Nicholas Center, are implementing innovative services statewide for New Yorkers of all age groups with autism.

Adaptive Design Association

For over 20 years, Adaptive Design Association has helped improve the functional capabilities of children and adults with disabilities in New York City by creating thousands of adaptive design solutions, including home chair modifications, wheelchair transfer steps, and clear face masks. With the Foundation’s support, the organization expanded its Made-To-Learn program, which provides hands-on, skill building programs in local schools for students. Throughout the school year, teachers and students visit Adaptive Design workshops weekly to experience a real work environment, to refine and learn new skills and to partner with the Adaptive Design fabrication staff to make custom adaptive design pieces for classmates. With all of its programming, Adaptive Design believes in the untapped potential of those with autism or physical disabilities and aims to nurture a community that thrives in diversity.

HeartShare Human Services of New York is an agency that cultivates a heightened sense of self in the minds of the people it supports. Now in its 109th year, bridging two centuries and two millennia, HeartShare has longevity and very many stakeholders: children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families; foundation, corporate, and community partners; individual benefactors and volunteers; and the wider community. Together with affiliates—The HeartShare Education Center, HeartShare Wellness, and HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services—it provides a robust array of programs and services for the betterment of the human condition, for people who are, or might otherwise be, marginalized, such that they can step into the space called “mainstream.” Currently, HeartShare Human Services supports nearly 3,500 people who live with I/DD and their family members across better than 115 program sites in three New York City boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island). HeartShare St. Vincent’s supports an additional 6,500 children and families in crisis. Most recently, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation has supported the transformational work of multiple specialized classroom, clinical, and residential staff across four HeartShare preschools, and a children’s residential program—such that 331 children and young people who live each day with intellectual and developmental disabilities can also live their very best lives.

The Nicholas Center

The Nicholas Center (TNC) is revolutionizing employment opportunities for adults with autism. With a grant from the Foundation, TNC regularly coordinates a group of volunteers with autism to support Port Provides, Powered by The Nicholas Center, a program that provides a sustainable distribution program for food, diapers, and other vital personal care products for over 1,400 residents in Nassau County. Through additional community partnerships, TNC provides 140 young adults with year-round, full day programming, and services across two counties in New York State, offering individuals a robust schedule of opportunities to foster meaningful and personalized growth and prepare them for employment.  

Autism Awareness Month is an important reminder for all to create a welcoming and empowering community for those living with autism. We’re honored to support grantees that are paving the way for a more inclusive New York and to highlight a number of summer opportunities in New York for children with autism: New York Special Needs Summer Camps.

Below is a video from HeartShare Human Services of New York, Jump into the Paint, a look at Artist Terrell Livingston and his relationship with DSP Matt Hansen and Teaching Artist Halladay Williams.