A- A A+

What I Know To Be True

What I Know To Be True

Categories: Agency Excellence, Blog, Featured News, Self-Advocacy, Staff

Bridget Cariello Headshot Parent, professional and lifelong advocate, Bridget Cariello, recently joined AHRC Nassau as a program administrator for Day Habilitation Services. Bringing her passion and 30 years of experience, Cariello will lead the development of new day service models through a person-centered philosophy that seeks to deepen relationships and interests. One of her first initiatives will be the launch of Wheatley Farms and Arts Center, a unique community experience that integrates the arts, equine-assisted activities, farming, animal care, music, yoga and movement.

By Bridget Cariello

What I know to be true is that everyone deserves to be happy, healthy and safe. It sounds simple, and it is. However, for people with developmental disabilities and their families, it can look more complicated. I know. I’ve been on both sides of the equation – as a mother doing her best to empower a son with autism and as a professional working with government agencies and nonprofits providing necessary services. What seems simple can become complex.

What I know to be true is that we need each other. I learned early on how important it is to help people supported and their families understand New York State’s service delivery system. I’ve also worked to support staff to see and feel experiences from the family and individual’s perspectives.

Bridget with self-advocates Coleen Mackin, Michelle Rudolph and Jessica Campbell.
Bridget (center) with (from right) Coleen Mackin, Michelle Rudoff and Jessica Campbell — self-advocate leaders from AHRC Nassau.

All too often, I am asked what needs to change for people with disabilities. Where do I begin??? Accessibility, inclusion, better access to the community, I can go on and on. What I know to be true is if we shift our hearts and minds to a new way of thinking that list would slowly dwindle to something manageable or not exist at all.

If I could impact one thing in this new position, it would be perspective. Imagine if we all shared the perspective that each person has a valuable contribution to make and we worked together to help one another do so? Seeing each individual person, as just that, an individual with his or her own needs, wants, and dreams. Just like anyone else!

What I know to be true is that together we can become a part of this change. This thinking begins to remove systemic and societal constructs that prevent real community change and integration from happening. Our system can be much divided. Self-advocates, families and providers each experience our field from different vantage points. I’ve found it perplexing how far apart we can appear to be in cause and opinion.

What I know to be true is that at the end of the day, we are all really on the same page working to support people with disabilities to have safe and profound daily living experiences. We all want the same thing, to support people with disabilities to build meaningful relationships — to experience the beauty in life with dignity and wonder, just like anyone else. As we grow in this theory and keep these ideas in focus, we can work together to further impact the system. We are more alike than we are different.

What I know to be true is that by seeking to understand, and find our strength in one another we can create a stronger movement, and ultimately a community for the individuals we support, their families and ourselves.

In this new position, I hope to share my advocacy and statewide developmental experience to further enhance the quality services that AHRC Nassau already provides. It is my wish to share my passion for outside-of-the-box thinking and innovation. I hope to support the development of programs and services that will enable people with disabilities, and by extension their families, to lead their very best lives.

At Wheatley Farms, we are seeking to develop an opportunity where people with disabilities and their community members can learn and grow alongside one another. Wheatley Farms and Arts will connect people using services with their passions. It is my desire to support AHRC Nassau’s investment in creating a completely new day experience where people can express themselves creatively in a natural, farm setting.

Wheatley Farms and Arts will combine our commitment for the highest quality experiences with innovative programming and increased community engagement.

Over the years, my passion for change has driven me to cultivate my experience in parent- and self-advocacy. At AHRC Nassau I hope to learn more about the development of innovative quality day experiences while bringing a fresh perspective to this work. Learning more about each aspect of our field is critical in order to expand our contributions to this important work.

What I know to be true is that passion is energy; energy creates movement; movement creates change and that together we can be the change we hope to see in this world.