Emmy-award winning Sesame Street writer Emily Perl-Kingsley, who is famous for bringing developmental disabilities to the forefront of children’s television, recently addressed parents at JAFCO’s “Cocktails & Conversation” event.
Kingsley spoke at JAFCO’s Children’s Ability Center in Q&A format with WPLG Channel 10’s Kristi Krueger. More than 120 people attended the event which raised awareness for the unique programs and services offered at JAFCO’s Children’s Ability Center.
The program opened with a touching story from one of the Ability Center’s very own parents who son enjoys many of the Center’s wonderful programs. Kingsley then recited, from memory, her world famous Welcome to Holland poem to describe the experience in raising a child with a developmental disability.
Kingsley’s son Jason was born with Down syndrome – and she told the audience how doctors told her he would be “nothing”. But at three, he was learning to put small words together and read. At the time, Kingsley wrote for Sesame Street, so she went to the producers and asked to put him on television. “Parents wrote into the show, amazed that kids with developmental disabilities were that capable,” said Kingsley.
Kingsley went onto explain to the audience that it’s normal to feel alone and to feel like you’ve been left in ‘Holland’ without any of the right clothes or tools to survive. She had the feeling of being alone too – this was before the days of social media. “We found another family in the Penny Saver. Until then, we thought we were the only people out there with a child like Jason,” said Kingsley.
At the end of the conversation, Kingsley opened up the room to questions, where parents openly asked about Jason and their own kids.
“We were grateful to have Emily come and speak to our parents,” said JAFCO Executive Director Sarah Franco. “Emily gave courageous insight and stories that will hopefully resonate with them and remind them that they are never alone in this journey.”
Bruce and Michelle Ross were presented with the Welcome to Holland award for their time and dedication to JAFCO. The Ross’ relayed the story of Bruce’s brother who had a disability, but didn’t have a place like JAFCO. Unfortunately, Bruce’s bother has since passed, so they honored him posthumously by naming a bedroom after him at the Children’s Ability Center’s respite home.
For more information about JAFCO or the Children’s Ability Center, please contact JAFCO Development Associate Jessica Stein at 954-315-8698 or JStein@jafco.org.