A Message From The Executive Director
Let Our Voices Be Heard
AS ANOTHER SCHOOL YEAR begins here at Eden II, I can’t help but think of all the changes I have seen over my 35 years here. The children who were here on my first day are now in their 40’s. Many of the kids left us over the years to move back into less restrictive settings. Some have gone on to attend college. One mom recently told me about her son who has a great job in Manhattan that he loves.
There have been many other changes over the years. When I began, we were serving 19 students in our school program and around 10 young adults in the newly developed adult program. Today, we serve over 500 people annually throughout Staten Island and Long Island services and programs. We went from renting space in a church basement to owning our own buildings for our school and adult program. We occupy almost 100,000 square feet of program space across Staten Island and Long Island for our education, adult and family support programs.
When I began at Eden II, we employed approximately 40 people. Today, we employ over 600 full and part time staff. We had one full time and one part time program director, two speech pathologists and one psychologist. Today, we have over 10 directors as well as more than 8 behavior analysts, and speech pathologists.
In addition to all of the changes in size and space, there have also been many changes to our programs themselves. The changes have all been positive and reflect the many advances made in the field of autism intervention and applied behavior analysis. In fact, the photo on the cover is an example of the positive changes. We are providing a great deal more of our supports in the community than we did 35 years ago. We hope that “Seasons for a Reason” is only one of several social enterprise businesses we will be opening in the coming years.
I will say that the one thing that has not changed over the last 35 years is Eden II’s commitment to the individuals we serve and their families. Despite how large we have grown and how much we have expanded, it still feels like a family to me. We remain a program that is committed to providing supports across the lifespan. It has become more challenging to do this due to funding limitations but we remain committed.
It is hard to know what the next few years will bring. There is much uncertainty with regard to funding as well as state and national policies. There continues to be growth in the incidence of autism. It will be more important than ever that we make sure our voices are heard and that supports and services for the people we serve remain a priority at both the state and federal level.
Joanne Gerenser, Ph.D., CCC-SLP