Monday, May 31, 2010

Upcoming Panel Discussion on Culturally Competent Programs for the Disabled

Every June the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene celebrates “Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month”. The purpose is to promote awareness of the mental retardation and developmental disabilities population, to celebrate their achievements, and to help remove the stigma about developmental disabilities. This is also a special time for leaders in the field to share information and ideas about traditional as well as innovative service systems and interventions.

This year activity will focus on recognizing and celebrating best practices that take into account the rich cultural diversity of the consumers who receive services, be it therapeutic, recreational, and/or entrepreneurial. There will be a panel discussion consisting of service providers who are experts in the areas of culturally competent programming.

The panelists will discuss how culture plays a vital role in the delivery of services to the developmentally disabled population. Because each program presents its own unique perspective and challenges on interacting with both consumers and their families, the panelists will elaborate on successful techniques and approaches that have been used over the years that have resulted in a more inclusive, diverse and culturally competent services.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Bureau of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
Culturally Competent Programs - Panel Discussion
Please join us for an interactive discussion with various community providers who will share their success stories and strategies for creating and delivering culturally competent services for persons with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

Wednesday, June16, from 9:00 to 11:30 am
Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus, 12th Floor Lounge
113 West 60 Street and Columbus Avenue
New York, NY

Panelists include:
Fawzi Abuhashish, Eihab Children’s Services
Myrta Cuadra-Lash, Sinergia, Inc
Diane Herbert, Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Centers
Michele Liu, Chinese American Planning Council
Duncan Whiteside, Maidstone Foundation
Carlton Whitmore, NYC DOHMH
Gerri Zatlow, Special Citizens Future Unlimited
Moderator: Godfrey Rivera, Sinergia

For registration and more information, please contact:
John Paul Gonz├ílez,  212 219-5396
or via email:

MSC Credits Available


Staff Spotlight: Erin McSorley, Roller Derby Queen

By day Erin McSorley is a Day Habilitation Specialist at Sinergia, where she teaches art to adults with developmental disabilities, but by night she transforms into "Bunny McBones," roller derby queen! "Bunny" rolls with the Gotham Girls Roller Derby, New York City’s only all-female, do-it-yourself (DIY), skater-operated roller derby league. In case you haven’t heard about the resurgence of this supreme sport on skates, it has indeed made a huge comeback and is better than ever. She formerly played with the Dutchland Rollers in Lancaster PA before moving to New York to skate with GGRD, the #1 ranked team in the nation!

"Bunny" played in her first bout as a Queens of Pain team member on May 22nd , and the game will be broadcast on NYCTV at 11:30pm on June 2nd if you'd like to catch her in action. That's her that night in the black and silver pictured above. Their home games are at Hunter College and the next one is on July 10th. Tickets always sell out so if you’d like to attend, make sure to buy yours in advance (like, right now!). Doors open at 6:30 pm, the game starts at 8:30 pm.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FAST Project Update

In previous posts we have written about the FAST Project, a project of national significance which Sinergia is partners of along with the PACER Center in Minnesota. Our involvement includes piloting four curricula with parents for feedback and conducting focus groups. We also translate into Spanish the four modules, which include: Working for Change, Getting and Keeping the First Job, The Journey to Adulthood and Skills for Effective Parent Advocacy.

On May 18 and 19, over 220 participants from 107 federally funded parent centers attended a two-day "Train the Trainer" FAST Conference held in Washington, DC. Cassandra Archie (left), co-Director of the Metropolitan Parent Center, co-presented a session on Skills for Effective Parent Advocacy along with Carolyn Anderson from the PACER Center (right). The second day of the conference was designed for participants to meet with their legislators on Capitol Hill. Staff from Parent Centers from New York City met with aides from Senator Schumer’s and Representative Nadler's office, informing them of our center's work and the families we serve.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Brown v. Board of Education: IDEA Disproportionality - How Far Have We Come?

May marked the fifty-six anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and while there has been some progress we still have a long way to go. In 1954 Thurgood Marshall argued before the Supreme Court against the false concept of “separate but equal”.  He had no idea that some twenty years later in 1975 his civil rights work, which lead to the results in Brown v. Board of Education, would inspire families of children with disabilities across the United States to push for a law that included their children: P.L. 94.142 The Education of all Handicapped Children Act – 1975, renamed in 1990 to The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) P.L. 101-476.

Like Brown v. Board of education, the hopes and dreams of some parents of children with disabilities who receive services under IDEA have not been realized. Separate settings, low graduation rates, high incident classifications, minimal access to the general education curriculum, and more suspensions and expulsions from school for students of color have created what is known in special education as Disproportionality.  To find out more about Disproportionality and what the research says needs to be done, read "The Truth in Labeling, Disproportionality in Special Education. Tell us what you think about the report and how far we have come since Brown v. Board of Education. We'd love to hear your comments!
Cassandra Archie – MPC Staff

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Co-Director for Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center

It is with great pleasure that Sinergia announces the appointment of Cassandra Archie as the new co-director of the Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC), Sinergia’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI).

Mrs. Archie brings a great deal of experience in PTI operations since she is a former director of the Rochester PTI. She has collaborated with Sinergia for over 10 years and has led training and staff development initiatives and has performed duties as the coordinator of the MPC since 2006. Cassandra is very well respected statewide and nationally as a trainer and on issues of disproportionality in special education. She has been a consultant with the NYS Department of Education and in the Ohio "Close the Gap" Campaign for Sen. C.J. Prentis. Additionally, she possesses great skills and sensitivity since she is a parent of a son with disabilities. We look forward to her further contributions and her leadership of the Metropolitan Parent Center.

Expanding the Limits for SSI Eligibility

Congresswoman Tsongas (D-MA), along with Congressman Petri (R-WI), introduced the SSI Savers Act of 2010 (H.R. 4937), proposing to reform the asset test in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, the primary provider of subsistence cash to extremely low-income individuals, seniors and people with disabilities.

In general, eligibility for SSI is limited to those who have no more than $2,000 in assets for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. The SSI test also generally counts all resources deemed accessible to an individual, including defined-contribution retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, as subject to the asset limit.

The current SSI asset test discourages many people with disabilities from working regularly or saving money for fear of losing their benefits. Many people with disabilities and their advocates consider these limits extremely outdated as they force vulnerable individuals to deplete or spend down their savings, thereby limiting their independence, economic security and financial self-sufficiency.

H.R. 4937 proposes to remove savings disincentives in SSI by:
  • Raising the asset limit to $5,000 (from $2,000) for a single and $7,500 (from $3,000) for joint filers and index these limits for inflation.
  • For non-institutionalized individuals under the age of 65, excluding retirement savings from inclusion in the asset test.
  • For non-institutionalized individuals age 65 or older, excluding savings in qualified retirement accounts below a specified ceiling of (indexed for inflation) $10,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a couple or household (indexed for inflation) and potentially treating excess savings in these accounts as an additional asset or alternatively as an imputed income stream.
  • For non-institutionalized individuals age 65 or older, disregarding one-third of the funds drawn down from retirement accounts when calculating household income.
  • Removing the requirement that SSI recipients, if eligible, must apply for periodic payments from their retirement savings.
  • Excluding Education Savings Accounts and Individual Development Accounts funded all or in part with federal dollars or defined in federal programs for those under age 65.
SSI asset limits are set by the federal government, which gives Congress the direct ability to reform the guidelines of the program's asset tests.