I had the privilege to attend an ATOU event at the Excelsior Elementary School in Roseville and I found it to be an amazing experience. ATOU exposes these children to the challenges of being disabled and thereby encourages compassion and understanding. I believe this to be of integral importance to our society to help bridge the gap between those with and those without disabilities. Wonderful program!
I spent 30 years working with adults with disabilities and had recently retired when I came across A Touch of Understanding. After years of working in a couple different careers, I found myself asking…”What do I want to do now? What could I do that would provide a sense of purpose while making a difference in the lives of others?” There was still the burning desire to use my work and life experiences in a manner that would be a value add with any organization I might team up with.
Enter ATOU… As I prepared for my interview with Leslie I reviewed the ATOU website and read all the testimonies of teachers, volunteers, staff and students that had participated in one of more of the ATOU programs. Over and over you could sense the genuine passion that everyone had about A Touch of Understanding and how the program(s) had changed and/or impacted their lives. The more I read about ATOU’s mission to encourage the acceptance and respect for all individuals I knew this was an organization I could get behind and make a contribution.
Today I am so grateful to be part of this wonderful organization that makes a difference in the lives of children every day, with and without disabilities. The transformation that occurs is priceless and has the potential to be life altering. It is an honor and blessing to part of something larger than ourselves. There is no greater gift than to help others. I am proud and humbled to be a part of ATOU.
In 2002, I was a pediatric physical therapist who had spent the better part of the past decade working with young children with developmental disabilities, helping them to achieve maximal strength and physical function. I was also a young mother, and that year I gave birth to my second child, who suffered a perinatal stroke and was ultimately diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At that time, I realized that everything I thought I knew about disability would not be enough to provide him with the things that I most hoped he would have in life. What I most wanted was for him to live in a kinder world, and to be surrounded by people who loved and valued him, no matter the path his development followed.
When I discovered A Touch of Understanding and learned about their work a few years later, I was brought back to those early days when all I wished for was a world that would value my child and all people with different abilities. What I wished for is EXACTLY what ATOU is working to create! One child, one family, one school and one community at a time, in a way that is gentle and respectful, they teach everyone lucky enough to attend a workshop that all people are mostly the same, with the same feelings, hopes and dreams. Through their school workshops they demystify disability for students at a time in their development when they are learning who they are and how they will interact with those around them. In a world that can seem increasingly noisy and disagreeable, ATOU plants the seeds of empathy, respect and kindness in the youngest members of our community.
Today, I continue to be thankful to work as a pediatric PT, and with a team of dedicated and passionate doctors, nurses and therapists I work to strengthen and heal the bodies of children with disabilities. I am equally thankful however for the work of ATOU, and for my children's opportunity to participate in ATOU's Youth Force program. Together their programs are bettering the world that children with disabilities live in, whether we're able to "fix" their bodies or not.
Thank you ATOU for your tireless work to create a young generation with great compassion and understanding for all people, who will go on to create kind and inclusive communities to the benefit of all.
Amazing experience to participate in the ATOU program at the Roseville elementary school. The intrigue, questions and discussion from the students were great to hear on how everyone can be understanding of each other. I learned a lot from participating in the workshop and listening to the guest speakers.
Thank you in many ways. For sharing information about ATOU and the impact the organization has on children, youth and adults around the community. For allowing me to see ATOU in action and interact with the students, volunteers and staff. The experience was amazing and I look forward to attending again when the new school year starts up.
I appreciate the opportunity to be involved and help make a difference such as ATOU makes a difference in so many lives. The message about being a buddy and not a bully is great to hear especially in today’s society where it is so common for people to judge others based on their appearances, actions and voice. ATOU has a positive impact on so many lives and the mission to education and empower children to be understanding of others.
Thank you for what your organization does to provide disability awareness to understand the challenges associated with disabilities and to accept and respect all individuals.
ATOU has such a great impact in the community. Their staff and volunteers are committed to their mission and truly make a big difference to the students, teachers, and future leaders of this area. I am happy to have supported ATOU with financial support so that they can continue their mission.
What an amazing learning experience ATOU afforded our 3rd graders! The students were actively and enthusiastically engaged all morning in both the personal stories and the hands on learning activities. I am amazed by the meaningful dialogue between my students as they reflected upon their day. This was definitely a memory making, impactful moment that for many will transcend into long term action throughout their lives.
Review from Guidestar
I have had the privilege of having my fourth grade students participate in A Touch of Understanding for the last four years. What a wonderful program! My students definitely learn how children with a disability feel and become more compassionate and caring. I happen to have a student with autism and it has really opened all students' eyes to the obstacles dealt with on a daily basis. They are more involved and truly respectful of others after they experience the activities A Touch of Understanding has to offer. Thank you for making this possible!
Review from Guidestar
ATOU has been impacting the third grade students at Stoneridge Elementary School for the last several years. Students look forward to this amazing 3rd grade event. They truly learn what it is like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. We appreciate how organized this workshop is how the leaders work with the children.
We can't wait until next year!
Review from Guidestar
In the last 2 and a half years that I have been involved with A Touch of Understanding, I have had the pleasure of attending in-school workshops, and watching lives change before my very eyes. While at workshops, I have heard students say things such as "this is the best day of the whole year", "I love learning about all of these tools the people use", and some students often feel comfortable enough to share something they may struggle with. That sense of de-isolation that allows them to share, knowing they aren't alone in their challenge, is one of the greatest gifts the workshop provides. At one workshop one little girl shared something she has been struggling with, and after hearing peers say that they have a similar struggle, her shoulders relaxed, and she said "finally, I'm not alone." What a powerful realization for a young child to have. I have loved watching students learn empowerment, and empathy, kindness and compassion, regardless of the things that make us seem different for any reason. I will continue being a donor to ATOU for that very reason.
I have known about and been a volunteer with this program for 15 years serving as a board member for several years as well as school workshop volunteer and contributor. ATOU does an outstanding job of showing people the value of each and every one of us, what it is like to have extra challenges and the courage to meet them, and a sincere respect for each of us. I urge you to check out their web site: touchofunderstanding.org to learn more about them.
They have always said that Disney is the happiest place on earth - well that is until you volunteer with ATOU. You will shortly find that ATOU is the happiest place on earth. It is one big family, friends - awesome hardworking loving staff and volunteers. The kids, the kids they just bring you so much love, they make you smile and so much more. I am truly blessed by the ATOU family. It is my home, it is my "Joy Juice", it brings me much happiness.
I have been volunteering with 'A Touch of Understanding' (ATOU) since 2015. ATOU's primary focus is on teaching children about various disabilities. Through 'hands-on' learning activities, and Volunteer Speakers - who share their stories of living with a disability- I see a child's understanding and empathy for others grow. It is truly an amazing, and much needed, organization!
I thoroughly enjoy my experience with ATOU! The school workshops work! The kids experience what it may feel like to have a disability. They truly gain an understanding which in turn breaks down barriers. Friends are made and the culture in the school's changes. Go to an ATOU workshop as a guest and see for yourself. Good Job ATOU!
A fun informative hands on learning experience that opens eyes and hearts to appreciate we are all more the same than different regardless of our challenges in life.
I have been involved with this organization for the past 8 years. We change lives when we go into schools. To watch the kids learn about all different types of disabilities and to be able to watch the light bulb come on is very rewarding
My name is Chris and I have been involved as a volunteer speaker and workshop assistant and enjoy seeing all the kids go through this program and think it is very important for all kids to go through this program to learn how to include all disabilities in their everyday lifes!
After volunteering with ATOU in high school, I was the summer 2017 intern for A Touch of Understanding. Overall, I had a great internship experience. I am very happy that I spent this summer at ATOU because I pushed myself with my marketing capabilities, and I learned the daily functions of a nonprofit. By far, this has been my favorite internship, and it encourages me to continue down the path of working in a marketing position at a nonprofit once I graduate from college. ATOU is very inclusive, thoughtful, and caring. A Touch of Understanding lives their mission every day, and I am proud to have spent my summer with such an incredible organization.
We have had ATOU at Strawberry Point every year now for quite a while. They make a huge impact on all of my fourth grade students and staff alike. The experience is life changing for all of us. Leslie Thornton, Principal
Excellent disabilities awareness organization! I am a congenital disabled person that is a powerchair user. Was bullied/teased through my public school career. I am also a parent of a congenital disabled adult child. Wish there was such an organization when I was in public school!