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Working for Children with Disabilities - Kids Together

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-10-26 (Rev. 2010-07-08) - Kids Together is dedicated to inclusive communities and promotion of a sense of belonging for people with disabilities. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

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Kids together is a nonprofit, grassroots and all-volunteer organization. They are a non-member agency of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Kids Together is dedicated to the creation of inclusive communities and promotion of acceptance, as well as provision of a sense of belonging for people with disabilities. They are a networking community that both finds and shares ideas and solutions for the creation of recreation, inclusive schools, communities and employment.

Kids Together believes that building community is supporting people in making and sustaining connection with other in their communities. They believe this is not only a disability issue. Building communities involves connecting with each other and teaching humanity. A community is comprised of people who are interdependent upon each other. When they utilize resources that already exist, their lives are less dependent on the availability of services. Interdependence on each other is of greater value than independence because people can count on one another. Needs can be met from others they know and care about and who care about them; they are not as dependent upon government supports or paid professionals.

The exclusion of anyone from the community with a requirement that they instead enter facilities that are segregated in order to meet their needs as opposed to meeting their needs in the community reduces their quality of life. Doing so reduces the quality of the community through removal of the individual's personal contributions to the community. Expansion of every person's supports, connections, as well as their circle of friends, not only enhances the quality of their life - it enhances their capabilities where contributions to society as a whole are concerned. Through expansion of a person's supports and connections, the person then has the capability to build the social fabric of the community of which they are a part.

Disability is a natural part of the human condition, one that half of all human beings will experience during their lifetime. One out of every five Americans today has some form of disability. The presence of a disability in a person's life is something that should not be seen as a deficiency; instead it should be viewed as something that requires specific needs. Every person's needs make up the whole of the community's needs, with every person's contributions adding to the wealth of the entire community. The quality of a particular community truly is dependent on the quality of life for each and every individual who is a part of that community.

The creation of communities that are accessible requires the ability to meet the variety of needs that the people who make up the community have. Meeting the needs of people with disabilities or those who will acquire disabilities benefits the entire community. Delivery personnel, curb cuts, caretakers, people who move into homes, and persons who use wheelchairs are all parts of the whole of a community. Removal of barriers that are social, physical or present themselves in other ways allow people to use the abilities they possess and contribute to society. Removal of barriers to inclusion provides everyone access to things that everyone values while acknowledging the value of every person in the community.

Kids Together values supported employment, something that provides long-term supports for people to hold jobs within their particular community. People who have autism, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, brain injuries, mental illness, behavior disorders or other forms of disability can be included in supported employment programs, despite the degree of disability they may experience. Supported employment involves intensive, on-going support that is paid, as well as integrated with work sites.

Supported employment is only one of several areas that Kids Together approaches; other include:

IEP's
IDEA
Humor
Inclusion
Perspectives
Be an Includer
Vision Building
Building Community
Assistive Technology
'The Parent Side' (tm)
People First Language
Network / Community
Agencies & Organizations

Kids Together started out in 1995 as a part of a children's festival that attracted more than five-thousand people in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Their goals were to promote children with disabilities being a part of everything that any child was, as well as simply just being kids. They wanted others to understand that the experience of a disability was only one part of a child's life, that there are far more similarities to all children than differences.

The theme for that event was, 'Celebrating Children with Disabilities as Equals in the Community.' The response was excellent, and the festival continued to grow in popularity. The next four years found seven-thousand people attending and enjoying activities, exhibits, free entertainment and obtaining information. Both the festival and the information program were supported by a number of local businesses. The entire event was accessible to people of all abilities, something that promoted a positive image of people with disabilities. The event also used people first language in all of the materials it presented. The materials that were distributed included flyers, programs, handouts, and T-Shirts. The entertainment that was presented promoted inclusion of people with disabilities.

The festivals were greatly successful, helping to educate many people concerning acceptance of people with disabilities in recreation, school, and in the community. The year 2000 found Kids Together changing its focus to sharing information and resources through other means. They started disseminating information through their website, email newsletter on a nationwide scale, and via a list-server. The organization presents information to both state agencies and statewide coalitions - www.kidstogether.org




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