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Frequently Asked Questions
“Arc” echoes our continuing relationships with NYSARC (the statewide organization of which we are a chapter) and The Arc of the U.S. (the national organization with which we are affiliated). It also symbolizes our mission, which is to bridge gaps and build supportive connections between those we serve and their communities.
Many people with developmental disabilities feel that the term "mental retardation" has been stigmatized and they prefer the term "developmental disabilities." We also suggest the use of "person-first" language, which emphasizes the individual rather than the disability. "She has developmental disabilities," rather than "She is developmentally disabled." People with disabilities also do not wish to be described as victims, as "handicapped, "crippled" or "disadvantaged."
Arc of Westchester is the largest agency in Westchester County serving people of all ages having intellectual and developmental disabilities. Established over 50 years ago, Arc of Westchester is a family-focused agency offering opportunities to individuals who have disabilities such as autistic spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, mental retardation, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. The agency has long advocated educational and social inclusion for people with disabilities because of its wide-ranging benefits to the entire community. The agency is funded through both public and private means.
Our mission is to empower children, teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities including, individuals on the autism spectrum, to achieve their potential by strengthening families and encouraging personal choices, abilities and interests.
Our vision is a world in which children, teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities including individuals on the autism spectrum enjoy fulfilled lives and an inspired future.
The Arc of Westchester Foundation raises funds to support Arc of Westchester programs that require private charitable giving to supplement public support. The Foundation concentrates on major and planned gifts at the same time that it sponsors special events, launches direct mail appeals and authors grant proposals.
Arc of Westchester has long been an innovator in the delivery of services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Because of that, our programs are often ahead of public funding initiatives. The money raised through special events, as well as through other Foundation activities, is intended to ensure the long-term viability of these services.
Perhaps the most dramatic example involves our guardianship program. Advances in healthcare mean that individuals with developmental disabilities are outliving their parents. We provide a "surrogate family" to individuals whose relatives are no longer able to help them with life's daily decisions. We help them with medical issues, monitor their living situations, celebrate their birthdays and take them to the movies. This very personal attention shapes their quality of life and is completely unfunded by government monies.
Another example is person-centered planning, which lies at the heart of our agency's philosophy. We help our consumers map their preferences concerning work, social life and living arrangements. Then, along with family, friends and other professional caregivers, we help them develop a plan to achieve their goals. It's an extremely innovative approach to service delivery, and while various social agencies have espoused it, the funding is poorly handled. Except for a limited number of stringently defined cases, there are no public funds specifically earmarked for this very resource-intensive process.
Other examples include:
Job coaching - We work with 200 organizations within the county to place our consumers in jobs. Once someone is on-the-job, we have coaches visit on an ongoing basis to monitor performance and morale and to ensure that both employer and employee are pleased with the relationship. There is no public funding for this activity.
Training for our pre-school professionals-This is key, given the innovative techniques we use to address developmental delays in young children.
Recreation -We design an array of leisure and learning activities, such as summer enrichment college experience, summer adventure at a nature center, theater workshop and day trips and school vacations. These programs are important in developing participants' self-esteem, broadening their exposure to the world after high school and beyond and affording families the opportunity to "take a break" from the demands of caretaking. We probably offer the fullest menu of such recreational services available in the county including a Respite House.
The Children's School offers services to children from birth to five years of age who have speech and language delays, PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorders)/autism, Down syndrome, as well as other developmental delays.
Over 575 children have graduated from our pre-school since we established our first inclusion class in 1994.
We provide early intervention, one-to-one offsite education and both self-contained and in-community classes to children with developmental disabilities from birth to five years of age. Ninety percent of our students attend community schools and learn alongside typical children.
The Children's School's first inclusion program dates from 1994, although Arc of Westchester has been providing educational services to pre-schoolers with developmental disabilities since 1956. In those early years, before the legislative advances of the seventies and eighties, the activist parents who created Arc of Westchester set up small, self-contained classes in church basements and other available spaces. There were few public supports for children with special needs.
Early intervention focuses on the needs of infants and toddlers up to three years of age. We offer evaluations, service coordination, speech and other therapies, as well as parent-child support groups and a toddler developmental group. Most early intervention services are delivered in the home. Our parent-child and toddler groups take place within the community and include typical children and their families.
We are the largest provider of community-based services for children with developmental disabilities in Westchester County. We are also the only pre-school in Westchester County that offers in-community, full-day sessions using ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and VB (Verbal Behavior) to treat children with PDD/autism. We have been recognized by the New York State Education Department's Board of Regents as a model for inclusionary placements in collaboration with community early childhood education settings.
Applied Behavioral Analysis is an educational technique that integrates home and school experiences. Targeted skills are broken down into small, discrete tasks that are taught in a highly structured manner and systematically reinforced. This system of education focuses on communications, social skills and behavior management.
Verbal Behavior is an innovative technique that has been shown to effectively stimulate the development and use of language in difficult-to-reach children who have been diagnosed with PDD/autism. VB incorporates a naturalistic style of communication, interaction and instruction. It allows natural conversational exchanges to take place and encourages students to use this style of communication and interaction in their lives outside school.
Attending community schools enables children with developmental disabilities to observe and model the learning and social behaviors of typically developing pre-schoolers. Every day becomes a practice session in how to communicate and make friends. It provides a real-world laboratory that explodes the isolation that can threaten a child's potential.
Inclusion teaches typical children important life lessons concerning compassion, tolerance and the range of individual differences. In addition, they benefit from the increased professional staffing provided to special classes held in integrated settings. The Children's School provides such classes with New York State-certified teachers with graduate degrees, as well as psychologists, speech, occupational and physical therapists, and clinical social workers. We have actually had the parents of typical children ask to have their kids included in our classes after observing them in action.
We currently have 17 inclusion settings in Westchester County.
Our favorite way of measuring success is looking at the smiles on children's faces when they use the new skills they have learned or parents' faces when seeing their children's latest accomplishments. We also use standardized assessments, along with teacher and parent observations, to document progress toward achieving the cognitive and early learning, speech and language, motor, self-help and social goals in the child's individual education plan. These goals are shaped to include each family's priorities and build on the child's strengths. Success is further measured by seeing a child progress to a less restrictive environment when graduating to kindergarten. Many of the children leaving our program no longer require the degree of support that they received in pre-school, which we view as a tremendous success.
We receive support from local school districts, as well as from state and federal government. Despite that aid, however, we require supplemental funding in order to maintain the quality of our services.
Call your school district CPSE and arrange for an evaluation at an approved evaluation site. If you child is transitioning from early intervention, your school district will need copies of your child's previous evaluations before deciding if new evaluations are needed. Once the necessary evaluations are completed, your school district will schedule a CPSE meeting to determine your child's needs and develop an Individualized Education Program. If you are interested in one of our programs, please call 914-347-3227, ext. 106, or e-mail [email protected].
Arc of Westchester offers career services to high school students (15 years and older), as well as adults seeking to enter the workforce.
Our Transition Services delivers a combination of pre-vocational training, summer internships and post-graduation career opportunities.
Arc of Westchester Employment Resources is the leader in the field of supported employment services for individuals with developmental disabilities. After assessing the needs of an employer, our job development team matches the skills and interests of our consumers with the employer's requirements.
Arc of Westchester Employment Resources utilizes two different supported employment models; both provide intensive job training at the worksite at no cost to the employer. With the individual placement model, a job coach gradually spends less time onsite as the consumer builds skills to master the job, though the coach is never completely removed. With the group placement model, four or more consumers work as a team under the full-time supervision of a job coach.
Our consumers work in a wide variety of environments, including offices, restaurants, retail outlets and maintenance departments. Examples include a recycling center, retail centers, health care facilities, restaurants, a frame shop, a bicycle repair shop and a law firm.
At Arc of Westchester sites, people with developmental disabilities perform a variety of outsourced services for the business community. They offer microfilming and digital imaging, document storage and destruction, labeling and mail preparation, packaging and assembly.
Whether classes are conducted in partnership with a school system or on Arc of Westchester premises, our training covers such topics as work ethic, punctuality, collaborating with fellow employees, meeting deadlines, resume writing and interviewing. We teach our consumers how to find, obtain and retain a job.
Job carving is a technique used by our job developers as they probe the needs of prospective employers. We analyze an organization's operations in order to identify repetitive tasks that do not make the best use of a current employee's time. We then work with the employer to combine such tasks into a position matching the skills of our consumers. This is a win-win approach that increases the productivity of all concerned.
Person-centered planning is a structured approach to identifying the aspirations and abilities of our consumers, then to developing a strategy for attaining agreed-upon life goals. A team of caregivers, family members and friends is formed to address issues relating to career, residential options, guardianship and social life. Person-centered planning lies at the heart of Westchester Arc's service delivery philosophy and is key to our career services.
Individuals with developmental disabilities make committed and productive employees. Arc of Westchester provides onsite job coaching-in effect, an extension of an employer's management team-free of charge. And by hiring a person with a disability, a business may be eligible for state and federal tax credits, as well as wage reimbursements.
In New York State, any person over the age of 18 is presumed to have the capacity to make his or her own decisions. If an individual does not have that capacity, another person can be given the authority to make decisions for them. This person is known as a guardian.
Parents, siblings, or other interested parties can be named as guardian. Arc of Westchester, as the local chapter of NYSARC, Inc., can serve as guardian of a person with developmental disabilities. It is the largest agency in the county with the ability to do so.
Arc of Westchester offers educational programs that help family members understand the guardianship process and plan for the future. We also offer technical assistance in completing and filing necessary petitions with the Westchester Surrogate’s Court, located in White Plains.
From planning a birthday party to establishing a home, Arc of Westchester assists individuals with all aspects of their lives. The agency helps an individual live as fully and independently as possible, while providing a network of support that encourages intellectual, social, and vocational growth. Westchester Arc staff members share a special, family-like relationship with individuals in the guardianship program. Staff members are always available, no matter the day or time, to share in a meal, take someone to a medical appointment or visit a person in his or her residence.
There are many important decisions to be made throughout a lifetime. Where to live? What kind of job to pursue? What kind of social activities will be most satisfying? How to fill your day with meaningful activity?
Arc of Westchester’s life planning works with an individual, family members, friends, teachers and important service providers to identify, capabilities, resources and preferences so that people with developmental disabilities can live the lives they choose.
It is never too early or too late to start life planning, but in most cases, someone will start between the ages of 14 and 15.
The life planning center works with all other Arc of Westchester services to help an individual achieve his or her personal goals. Through the agency’s service coordinators, the center helps an individual obtain government entitlements and benefits that support the plan, as well as health insurance and medical assistance. Consumer choice is always respected, and if the family opts for a service outside of the scope of Arc of Westchester, we will help them obtain that service.
The center works closely with Choices, a new agency service that combines supported employment with community experience. This is available to both high school students and recent graduates.
The center partners with the Transition Services Department to provide high school students with job training and part-time internships that match their interests and skills. Staff help students utilize the skills and work experience obtained to find a full-time job upon graduation.
Working with the agency’s recreational department, the center identifies leisure activities designed to help young adults learn social skills, experience life in the community and transition from school to work. The center also taps into the agency’s residential services to identify suitable places to live. If clinical services are required, referrals are made for the relevant supports.
The center works with the agency’s guardianship services to establish a legal guardian for individuals who are 18 years of age or older and unable to make their own decisions. When estate planning is needed, referrals are made to attorneys who specialize in establishing trusts.
Arc of Westchester offers a wide spectrum of residential choices, based upon the level of support and supervision required by an individual. Options range from highly staffed homes, supervised 24 hours per day, to supportive living situations, where staff assistance is typically provided from 15 to 20 hours per week. The average supervised residence has six residents.
In order to be considered for publicly supported housing, a person with developmental disabilities must be 18 or older and must be placed on the Westchester County residential waiting list. In cases where Arc of Westchester is approached directly by interested families, we direct them to the Westchester County Office of Mental Health, which establishes eligibility and maintains that list. Once an individual has been designated a “priority candidate” by the county, the family is free to request residential services from nearly three dozen organizations—such as Westchester Arc—that provide such services.
The agency currently operates 43 residences throughout Westchester County, including areas such as Armonk, Bedford, Bronxville, Briarcliff Manor, Croton, Cortlandt Manor, Greenburgh, Peekskill, Pound Ridge, Scarsdale, White Plains, Yonkers and Yorktown.
Residences are located in safe residential neighborhoods and are convenient to community shops, restaurants and businesses.
Arc of Westchester residences provide a safe, family-like environment that encourages community inclusion and fosters independence. Each residence plans activities based on personal needs and desires. Residents lead quality, well-rounded lives. They shop at the mall, participate in book clubs, work out at the gym and go on vacation. Many also work in the community.
Arc of Westchester has a long history of becoming part of the neighborhood fabric. Residents often invite neighbors over for barbeques, movie nights and birthday parties. Some of our residents have even welcomed new neighbors with a cake.
Service coordination assists individuals with developmental disabilities and their families gain access to resources and services throughout Westchester County, whether they are provided by Arc of Westchester or another organization. An individualized service plan is developed, based on personal needs and preferences.
In order to receive service coordination, an individual (1) must have documentation confirming the existence of a developmental disability prior to the age of 22 and (2) must not permanently live in an intermediate care facility, developmental center, psychiatric hospital, small residential unit, nursing home facility or hospital.
There is no difference in the service. Typically, service coordination is funded through Medicaid. If, however, an individual isn’t eligible for Medicaid, services may be funded through OMRDD (Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities) or private means.
Service coordinators work closely with both Arc of Westchester staff and staff from other agencies to identify employment opportunities, residential options, recreational activities and other community-based services that support a quality, well-rounded lifestyle.
For example, one person told his service coordinator he was interested in travel, so she referred him to Club Echo, a travel program sponsored by Arc of Westchester’s recreational services. Another individual required speech therapy services, so she was referred to the agency’s clinic.
The program partners with local high schools to help students aged 15 and over, prepare for the working world.
The program brings together family, school faculty and the Charles R. Kingsley Life Planning Center to develop a personalized career plan for each student.
The program offers an eight-week pre-employment course, held on campus. The class teaches students how to field interview questions, dress for work, meet deadlines and employer expectations, work with others and much more.
Students work one-on-one with a transition services career planner to find internships that match their needs, skills, and abilities.
Transition Services provides three months of intensive on-the-job coaching to ensure students and employers get off to a good start. Job coaching is followed up with bi-weekly visits to help students stay on track.
Yes, there have been many cases when an employer has offered a student full time work upon graduation.