My son Felix was born with multiple disabilities, including autism and cerebral palsy; my daughters were not. I yearned for a creative space outside of our home where each of my children would feel equally welcome and at ease. I also wanted to meet other parents who knew firsthand the pain and strange beauty of raising and loving a child with disabilities. Did they feel a similar stress and isolation?
This yearning turned into Extreme Kids & Crew, a nonprofit friends and I launched in 2011. Extreme Kids & Crew is dedicated to creating and maintaining beautiful spaces where families raising children with disabilities can meet, express themselves through the arts and movement, relax, and simply be. The program has grown quickly, serving thousands of families, with new ones finding us every year. We currently run two universally designed play spaces in Brooklyn and Queens that attract New Yorkers from all over the city. Plans are underway to open a new center in the Bronx.
Extreme Kids & Crew is unique in that it focuses not only on the child with disabilities but also on the parents and typically developing siblings. Participating families bring in children with a vast range of disabilities–autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, blindness, deafness, learning disabilities, epilepsy, and more. What ties these families together is not the diagnosis of one its members, but the experience of being a different kind of family. Programs are pay-what-you-can so that all of these different families may take part, regardless of income. The atmosphere created by families bound together through love and disability is unusual, invigorating and thought provoking. It is the energy, hope and care generated by these families that makes the program great.
In my role as Founder, I give talks about disability awareness and what we’ve learned at Extreme Kids & Crew in schools, businesses, and hospitals. Interested parties can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org