Skip to main content

County Hosts 3rd Annual 'ThinkDIFFERENTLY' Conference
Event aids in planning of lifetime care

Published: 12/4/2019

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus, (845) 486-2000

Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs Toni-Marie Ciarfella today hosted local families of those living with disabilities, as well as local providers who serve them, at Dutchess County’s 3rd annual Collaboration of Services and Care Across the Life Span for People with Special Needs, a day-long ThinkDIFFERENTLY conference to assist in the planning process for lifelong care of those with developmental and other disabilities.

Hosted at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Educational Center at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, the conference provided education and training for families and providers to understand the continuum of care for individuals of every ability.

County Executive Molinaro said, “The care of a loved one with a disability is a lifetime commitment, one which requires unique and specific needs throughout various stages of life. Dutchess County is proud to ThinkDIFFERENTLY about residents of every ability and host this annual conference, bringing their families face to face with providers who can best serve their ever-evolving needs. We are proud to be part of the solution to the challenges families face in planning for their loved ones’ care, and host such an important dialogue – not just at this annual conference, but every day through our advocacy for those with disabilities.”

Today’s keynote speaker was Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City, where she evaluates and treats children, adolescents and young adults with sensory processing issues, developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, and other challenges. She is co-author of the award-winning book, Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues, with a foreword by Temple Grandin. She is also the author of Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens; co-created the Sensory Processing Master Class DVD program; and has authored two chapters in Dr. William Steele’s book, Optimizing Learning Outcomes. She discussed her experience working with patients of various ages and their needs.

Topics discussed at three panel presentations included understanding eligibility and services for those with disabilities throughout various stages of life: birth to 5 years, 6 to 15 years, and 16 through the life course of adulthood. In addition to these discussions, Fiona Rattray, President of Special Education PTA at the Arlington Central School District, led a parent information discussion with panelists sharing their insights and experiences of working within this system of care.

Deputy Commissioner Ciarfella said, “This annual conference continues to be a source of learning and professional growth for both families and service providers. It is organized similarly to the County’s award-winning website, connecting people to resources in our community. Providing this networking opportunity for families and agencies highlights what services are available during various stages of a loved one’s life and build capacity for providers in better discerning and potentially adapting the way they can offer services, since families’ needs change as their loved one grows older.”

Established in 2015, the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to individuals with disabilities. Following Dutchess County’s example, more than 100 municipalities throughout New York State – and several others across the nation – have passed “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions, committing to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals of all abilities.

More information about Dutchess County’s efforts to ThinkDIFFERENTLY,” as well as ways communities can be more supportive of those of every ability, is available at