3 Enlightening Perspectives: Viewing Adults with Special Needs

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Each of us perceives the world through our own unique lens, shaping our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Healthy perceptions and frameworks are essential to cultivating a productive and satisfying life. Yet, when it comes to adults with special needs, a plethora of misconceptions often cloud our vision, impacting how they are viewed and treated. Among these misconceptions are the beliefs that these individuals lack opinions and can’t be part of the workforce, which are far from reality.
My journey to a more enlightened understanding began in Hungary, under the communist rule, where my son, who is on the autism spectrum, had limited opportunities for growth and development. It became evident that to shape a brighter future for him, I had to do something, prompting our move to Canada.
In Canada, I established DANI, a person-centered day program for adults with special needs. Three core frameworks guided my vision for DANI and have continuously inspired the organization’s growth.

1. Recognize The Individual:

First and foremost, each person with special needs is, indeed, a person. It’s imperative to recognize and treat them as an individual with unique aspirations, desires, and needs. At DANI, our programming reflects this belief, as we prioritize person-centered approaches. We appreciate that there’s an individual with dreams and aspirations just like everyone else. This respect for individuality is central to fostering their independence and enhancing their self-esteem.
Jordan, a member of the DANI Day Program.

2. Harness Their Potential:

Our role isn’t to define what they can or cannot do, but to empower them to discover their strengths, exceed their own expectations, and contribute in their unique ways. Recognizing and harnessing this potential can lead to transformative experiences, not only for the individuals but also for the broader community.
Every individual has the potential to continue growing and developing. One of my driving forces to leave Hungary was the unfulfilled potential I saw in my son, and the lack of opportunities to foster it. Now, we strive to create environments and opportunities where this potential can flourish. Whether it’s providing employment prospects or focusing on skill development, it’s our responsibility to bring out this potential.
Jesse working at Chava Farms as part of the Vocational Training program at DANI.

3. Appreciate Their Inspiration

Perhaps the most profound framework is seeing individuals with special needs not as subjects of pity, but as fountains of inspiration.Their authenticity, honesty, diligence, and unmitigated effort radiate positivity. The determination and effort they put into tasks we often take for granted reflect their inner strength and resilience. Their presence is a reminder of human potential and serves as a daily source of inspiration.
They don’t just inspire us with their individual journeys, they uplift the entire environment around them, reminding us of the power of authenticity, diligence, and unyielding positivity.
DANI Day Program participants performing in this years annual play, Shrek.
My commitment to these frameworks isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege. I take immense pride in creating opportunities for these individuals, contributing to a better and more inclusive world.
By adopting such positive frameworks, we can not only change our perspectives towards adults with special needs but also identify untapped opportunities to contribute. They’re not just individuals who need our help; they’re unique individuals who can teach us about the world and ourselves.
I invite you to consider these frameworks and perceive the untapped potential, the inspiring individuals, and the rich experiences surrounding adults with special needs.

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Tula Kerr-Knights

Tula uses a person-centered approach to design and implement innovative programming with a focus on creative, hands-on activities. She uses her experience with a variety of kinds of handiwork to bring fun and engaging activities to participants that give them the opportunity to experiment with new mediums and express themselves creatively!

Daniela Scerbo

Daniela uses a person-centered approach to design and implement innovative programming. She uses her work experience as a language instructor to continue bringing academic programming to our participants, such as a brand-new accessible Science program using games, hands-on experiments and more to make learning fun!

Rudy Barell

Rudy Is currently the Chief Operating Officer of DANI’s Place – a unique housing initiative for persons with cognitive challenges based in Ontario, Canada. His role is to oversee all operations, while creating a strategic growth and implementation plan to ultimately build-out this branch of DANI.
Rudy has been working for both the corporate and the not-for-profit sectors for the past 20 years, establishing himself as an expert in government relations, grant writing and strategic planning. He has had the great honour and pleasure to work with amazing organizations in various business spheres: manufacturing, health technology, medical associations, first nations, social service agencies and with all levels of government and their arms-length partners. He is most proud of his lovely wife, his three children and cannot forget his dear friend Disco Stu - his bunny.

Francesco Franzone

Francesco uses a person-centered approach to design and implement innovative programming that shares his love of sports with everyone! He uses team activities to foster positive relationships and cooperation among participants in a supportive environment. Francesco also oversees a paid vocational partnership with Stalco, where participants work independently as part-time employees.

Tal Bar

Tal started working at DANI in 2010 and has since become an integral part of the organization's journey. Today, as the Chief Operating Officer of DANI, Tal takes charge of various operations and services, as well as organizational development and community partnerships, which drive DANI's growth and enable it to make a significant impact. Tal is a firm believer in the power of inclusion, recognizing that every individual deserves the opportunity to participate, contribute, and be valued. Tal holds an MEd in developmental psychology and education and is currently enrolled in TMU's nonprofit management program.