Transformation Through Adaptation(s)

Members of Adaptations at the Program’s Bnei Mitzvah Celebration


Picture the scene on a New York City rooftop: a DJ at the turntable. Balloons, streamers, and a cake. People dancing exuberantly to Hava Nagila. People at the podium, thanking those who have helped them become the people they were meant to be.

It wasn’t your typical b’nai mitzvah party, but a bash celebrating the thirteenth year of Adaptions, a supportive social and vocational community for adults in their 20s and 30s with developmental and/or learning disabilities.

“Sometimes it’s harder to see the impact we’re having on the lives of our members,” said Caitlin McInerney, director of Adaptations, which is housed at the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, a UJA-Federation nonprofit partner and grantee. “But as participants heard each other speak, it was inspiring to constituents and staff alike to continue offering dynamic and meaningful programming to encourage friendships and development of sense of self.”

In the two years since the program came of age, Adaptations has continued to help its members form friendships, find jobs, and navigate relationships with family, service providers, and partners.

In fact, since its inception, Adaptations has interviewed over 800 people considering membership [called “intakes” in human services] and currently serves a community of 100 active members. And whether it’s through weekly support groups and workshops to teach critical skills; a thriving internship program; or outings to Broadway shows, museum, and sports games — Adaptations is helping people with disabilities adapt to all the nuances of mainstream life.

Take David, an Adaptations member from Douglaston, Queens. After he graduated college, he felt at a loss. “I had only one real friend, no prospects of employment, and I was still dealing with being on the spectrum,” he recalled. When he learned about Adaptations in the fall of 2005, he was intrigued.

“I didn’t really understand the value of the program until somebody invited me to a movie outing, and I started making friends,” he said. “Now, things are truly better for me. I have at least a dozen close friends, I’ve learned how to socialize with other people without Adaptations’ direct assistance, and I finally have a job, where I feel secure thanks to Adaptations. This group has changed my life and there are no words on earth to express my gratitude for that.”

One of Adaptation’s most successful programs provides group internships and training at UJA-Federation and Mt. Sinai. Adaptations works to develop jobs and coach graduates to successfully maintain part-time or full-time jobs. UJA highlighted one of these interns, Zach, who was able to parlay his internship into regular part-time work.

But perhaps above all, Adaptations helps its members find confidence in themselves.

“Some of my happiest moments over the past four years have been with this community,” said Mar, from New York. “The staff has shared our tears and our laughter, helped us solve problems, and helped us forge our own paths on our individual journeys to becoming strong and confident people.”