The Richmond Experience
by Stephanie Brooks
Over the last two years the Human Genetics Program has changed the face of the student rotation experience. In 2008, the program partnered with Richmond Community Services to give students the opportunity to gain insight into the daily lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. The response has been tremendous both for students and individuals with special needs. Located in Yonkers and Mount Kisco NY, Richmond Community Services is a non-profit agency that serves individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as, those with complex health issues. Their mission is to achieve the highest quality of life through individualized services, life enhancing strategies, education, and advocacy. Richmond has been successful at providing various services and a chance for residents to excel with individualized goals and reach attainable achievements.
The MOVE program, which stands for Mobility Opportunities Via Experience, is an innovative program that enables those with significant developmental disabilities to improve sitting, standing and walking skills. This program has seen great success with individuals who are given the opportunity to gain independence and improve quality of life in a significant way.
Another great feature of Richmond is how it encourages community integration. The service enables the residents to enjoy various fun activities despite their limitations. One example is the Miracle League,which was created as an opportunity for those in a wheelchair to participate in activities such as baseball. The baseball field is custom designed with a cushioned rubberized surface, making it safe and accommodating for those with physical disabilities. Other activities the residents enjoy are art and music therapy, bowling trips, and a fun activity called “shadow dancing.” Each of these activities promotes and develops skills, self esteem, and social interaction.
For the Sarah Lawrence students, the Richmond experience has been eye opening and enriching. Students described their placement at Richmond as a fulfilling experience that created many great everlasting memories.
Elyse Allbee, Manager of Recreation and Volunteers at Richmond Community Services has also felt the positivity of the partnership, saying that “Richmond Community Services and Sarah Lawrence College have formed a wonderful relationship. Richmond has the benefit of having caring students work with our developmentally disabled individuals and Sarah Lawrence College students have the opportunity to experience things that can not be learned in a text book. The partnership is truly priceless!”