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‘Inclusion Done Right!’ Offers Insights to the Community

Conference presenters (L-R): Sharon Cuff, Keiko Shikako-Thomas, Mary Ann Devine, Avery Roberts, Jess Westman, Agnes McConlogue Ferro, Kathleen McGoldrick and Christina Burke. Photo by Jackie Mihaley.

Community-based recreation and leisure activities play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities; however, many individuals with disabilities encounter significant obstacles when trying to access and enjoy these opportunities.

The ‘Inclusion Done Right!’ conference held in the Charles Wang Center Theater on October 20 sought to optimize community-based inclusion for children with disabilities, and to establish an integrated bridge between Stony Brook University and community partners to promote inclusive recreation and leisure that aligns with best practices.

The message of the conference was that inclusive opportunities for children — done right! — are transformative for ALL of us.

Nearly 150 community-based program providers and administrators, school and university faculty and staff, as well as children with disabilities and their families/caregivers registered for the conference presented by the Office of the Vice President for Research, School of Health Professions, and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives (DI3).

Inclusion conference poster
Alexa Rodriguez, a first-year Stony Brook student, shown in front of a poster about National Dance Institute’s DREAM Project. Photo by Jackie Mihaley.

Keynote speakers and recognized experts in the field included Mary Ann Devine, professor, Kent State University; Agnes McConlogue Ferro, clinical associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, School of Health Professions and recently appointed director of the Center for Community Engagement and Leadership Development; Kathleen McGoldrick, clinical associate professor, School of Health Professions; Christina Burke, clinical associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy; Sharon Cuff, clinical associate professor, School of Health Professions; and Keiko Shikako, associate professor in the Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University.

A one-hour poster session enabled students and researchers to discuss current topics related to inclusive opportunities.

Ferro, host of the conference, was inspired to organize the conference after working  with the disabled community through dance. “I realized how important this topic is after completing my research regarding National Dance Institute’s DREAM Project (an inclusive dance class based in Harlem, NYC) that I co-founded and co-direct,” Ferro said. “This conference is 100% resultant from my interactions with children and their families/caregivers and the clear need to ‘do something’ to improve community-based recreation and leisure.”

A highlight of the day was a presentation by Avery Roberts, a teenager from the “rare” disability community, which culminated in a video entitled “Inclusivity Is Being Re-defined.” The video was directed, produced, filmed, edited and features individuals from the disability community, and was premiered at the conference.

Ferro plans to continue community events and partnerships. “My hope is that this truly sets the stage for initiatives that directly involve the community in collaboration with Stony Brook.  My area of interest is promoting meaningful participation for children with disabilities alongside their age-matched peers. I envision future events to provide opportunities for collaboration, training, and research. We need it.”

— Beth Squire




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  • The conference was wonderful. The speakers were very knowledgeable. I hope to see more conferences such as this in the future.
    ~ Parent of 3 children on the spectrum.

  • I attended the conference and it was EXCELLENT. It had many great ideas, theories and attitude changes that were eye opening. One example is that a researcher went to Italy and found that the focus of the PTs and other therapies was on taking care of disabled people and not on including the person in their own care as much as possible. I loved the focus on “varying abilities”, building on what people can do, and listening to the ideas and experiences of the person with the disability.

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