The JCC-on-Hudson used to be a second home for my twin boys after school and on days off. My sons are autistic, or special needs, or whatever euphemism one chooses currently. Years ago they were severely affected and delayed, but with constant "work" they are now very high functioning, maybe passing into the definition of Asperger's.
The JCC was instrumental to their dramtic remediation and improvement because they provided an environment where regular, "typical" kids interacted with my guys in a creative play environment. The staff went beyond "integration" to true "inclusion." My sons loved that place; they could play, interact, sometimes be bad and tantrum, and the staff not only responded appropriately, they guided the guys towards "normal" behavior.
When so many kids with issues turn to guns to resolve their unresolved social issues, my guys were in an environment where they could learn to interact in society and being given parameters of acceptable
behavior. One guy even had a little girlfriend for a while there...also a child with some special needs, but also cute and learning to be responsive in her own right. The human spirit is intrepid, when the everyone helps these children fit in and learn that they can be contributing members to society. The academic aspects in the afterschool program were OK, but the best thing about this place was that the boys could learn to be themselves, independent from the parents, and free themselves from their autistic prison behaviorally.
I am always grateful to the wonderful people there, both staff and volunteers, and the guiding administrators, for helping to remediate and shape my guys into upstanding young men. They are teenagers now and are not perfect, but they do know right from wrong; they know societal limits for
venting violent tendencies, and how to be creative contributors to life.
Good job everyone and Thank you.