Tonawanda News

The Town

October 12, 2012

Local agency receives award for self advocacy program

Tonawanda News — A local organization based in Kenmore is receiving praise for their work, and it’s all thanks to the feedback from those who take advantage of its services. 

The nonprofit, Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York, recently received the Self Advocacy Association of New York State’s Agency of the Year award.

“We consider it to be the highest honor,” Deputy Executive Director Marc Hennig said. “We were nominated by the clients who take part in the program itself.” 

The award recognizes the LDA’s self-advocacy program, Innovative Voices, which was created in 2004 to help those that struggle with learning disabilities or mental impairments achieve independence. 

“They impair how someone processes information in front of them,” Executive Director Mike Helman said. 

The mental impairments can affect memory and speech, but they most often hinder an individual’s ability to read. 

“The most famous learning disability is dyslexia,” Helman said. “When someone with dyslexia looks at the word ‘was,’ it can appear backwards and become ‘saw,’ completely changing the meaning of the word.” 

As a result, those with the disabilities can suffer greatly in academic settings and have trouble with everyday tasks. 

And often, they suffer from low confidence. 

“Sometimes people may suffer from low self-esteem because of their disability, or at least have some difficulty in a social situation,” Hennig said. 

The award-winning Innovative Voices program helps the agency’s clients get involved in the community and the association itself — thereby providing the individuals with confidence and inclusion they need. 

“The program grew into having a service recipient involved with the administration of every program in the agency,” Hennig said. “And now, two members of that group are on our board that act as a pipeline for our decision-making.” 

In addition to the clients’ participation on the board, they have also taken part in the hiring process for LDA staff members for nine years. 

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