I have been disabled my whole life. Being stared at and teased that entire time. I am a volunteer with ATOU. When we go to schools with our program we actually and literally change lives. If I can stop one child from being teased, stared at or bullied-that makes my day and changes lives, and we change lives at EVERY school where we take ATOU. Do we reach every child who participates, nope....but changing one life is awesome, changing more than that is incredible....
Review from Guidestar
I have been a volunteer with ATOU for about a year and a half. I was referred to ATOU by a trusted friend. It took me about 10 minutes to realize I belonged in ATOU. I have been disabled my whole life and was teased when I was young and judged my whole life. If I can stop one person from being teased or judged it makes my day. At EVERY school I go to, we stop kids from being teased or bullied. It makes my day. The ATOU family is the most caring, non-judgemental group anywhere.
ATOU is a terrific organization with compassionate, positive leaders and volunteers making a profound difference in the lives of children with and without disabilities. The in-school workshop awakens an awareness in students of the challenges presented by disabilities, and teaches them to respect and befriend classmates with disabilities, rather than bully them. The ATOU Youth F.O.R.C.E., an inclusive and empowering youth-led organization, creates a safe and supportive environment for youth with and without disabilities to learn leadership skills, exercise their strengths, and create friendships. Together, these two programs are changing lives and our community for the better, every day.
I have had the blessing of working with Leslie, Jackie, Susie and a whole list of part-time workers and volunteers for several years now. I was amazed at the quality of their program and the significant impact it has on the lives of those touched by it when I first experienced the in-school workshop, and I continue to be amazed each time I see the light of understanding and respect dawn in the eyes of the children participating in this character-building disability-awareness program. The Youth F.O.R.C.E. (Friends Offering Respect ~ Creating Empowerment), ATOU's youth/adult partnership, has grown from 10 committed youth to over 200 members in just two years under my very eyes. This explosive growth attests to the power of the program, which brings youth with and without disabilities together to discover common interests, create friendships, build character and increase mutual understanding. The third face of the ATOU program, the annual AccessToCare Fair brings together nearly 100 vendors of disability aids, products and information to serve over 1000 members of the community. What an amazing group!
There is a reason that Crestmont Elementary School participates annually in A Touch of Understandings' lecture and hands-on experience. IT CHANGES LIVES! Every year our 4th graders hear the speakers and see their disabilities. They physically experience in a small fashion what hardships people with disabilities have to go through. The lectures allow the students to hear the challenges that the speakers go through on a daily basis. Following this, is the hands-on portion of the presentation. Here, they learn how to use a wheelchair, how to navigate with a walking stick, write in braille, and experience an autistic world. As teachers, we can tell that this program is having an affect on the students' lives by hearing the comments they make to each other and their parents as they describe what they have experienced that day.
ATOU has changed my life! I developed a neurological disorder in my 30s and had to give up my career. ATOU has given me a new purpose in my life. I love talking and working with the school children. It is very rewarding to share my experience living with a disability. My main message to the kids is "I'm just like you" and they understand. Leslie DeDora and her team of staff and volunteers are so dedicated!! They work tirelessly to ensure that ALL people are treated with respect and kindness.
A Touch of Understanding is an unusual type of organization that you almost need to see to believe their results. They are able to change childrens attitudes about how to perceive people in just three hours. They teach acceptance of all differences which has certainly addressed the bullying issue. This program should be in every school throughout the Nation... it wouldn't hurt adults to go through the program as well!
I became involved with ATOU when the previous Volunteer Coordinator came in to my college classroom with a young woman named Hope who spoke about the program and the Youth F.O.R.C.E. I became a volunteer as soon as I could after their presentation. As I continued to volunteer with ATOU I came to the conclusion that ATOU is more than just an organization that advocates for people with disabilities and it is more than a provider of a disability-awareness workshop but that it is a family of people who all share the same passion of ushering a new generation of children into the future with an understanding that we are all the same on the inside and that we are equal and we should treat everyone with love, kindness, and respect.
ATOU has been a part of my family's life since 2006 when my son and I became volunteers. This is an extraordinary disability awareness group that helps breach the gap between disabled students and adults and their able-bodied peers. These peers get a chance to experience some of the day to day issues disabled people face, through a hands-on demonstration and participation in the use of wheelchairs, canes, braille, prosthetic devices and other disability tools. It is also a real eye-opener for the children to listen to the disabled speakers. The safe environment of the school setting allows for very open dialogue among all. Everyone learns so much from the ATOU experience.
I have been associated with them through my foundation at work (PASCO in Roseville) and personally through volunteer events for the past 10 years or so. They are a very caring non-profit agency. Not only do they affect the lives of the children to whom they present – but they change the lives of the volunteers (some challenged and some not) by adding to their sense of worth and appreciating their talents. ATOU volunteers make a big difference!! And now – they have added a Youth Force – where they are changing the lives of young people by giving them the chance to have fun and do normal things with their peers. ATOU is an absolutely wonderful organization!
Touch of Understanding is an amazing program where students of all ages gets to learn a little bit about others who may have different abilities. It is such an inspirational program that advocates inclusion for people of all abilities. Since volunteering with the program, it has motivated me to continue to volunteer with them. The students are always enthused about the program. A life changing program that must continue to exist for furure generations.