Multiple organizations host barbecue and workshop to aid young adults with disabilities

Disability Allies, a group dedicated to connecting people with disabilities with those who do not, had a barbecue and social event at Hardenbergh Hall Sunday afternoon.

This event is one of many for Disability Allies and the other organizations that they work with.

“We have an event every second Sunday of the month,” said Sam Hartwell, member of Process This.

Disability Allies partnered with the Young Adult Social Club of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) for the event. They team up for all of their events, according to the website of Disability Allies.

Process This, an organization where students explore and design their own learning style by identifying their strengths and gaining leadership skills through self-advocacy and peer-to-peer mentoring, was also involved with this event.

“We team up with Sam’s organization. Many of the people come here to support my organization. We had 50 people here earlier today,” said Ross Yellin, founder and president of Disability Allies.

Events hosted by Disability Allies generally start off with team building activities. These activities provide an opportunity for members and guests to work together in a group setting to solve a problem or accomplish a task, according to the organization’s website.

Process This also had a workshop earlier in the morning that assisted students that will soon be transitioning to either college or the workforce, Hartwell said.

These workshops teach individuals how to improve their social skills and work together in a team setting.

“We team up with Sam’s organization. Many of the people came here to in support of Disability Allies. During the time the barbecue was most crowded, we had about 50 people here," Yellin said.

Individuals who are willing to help others improve their social skills are designated as social coaches, according to the website of Disability Allies.

The role of the social coach will be to help young adults with Social Disorders interact with others and to ensure that they are participating in the team building activities.

“Most of the activities emphasize teamwork and socialization. A person with a mental disability is paired up with someone that doesn’t — that is, someone who is more comfortable in social situations," Yellin said. “They make sure the people with disabilities are socializing and are comfortable.”

Individuals, in particular those who have social disorders, are more likely to interact with others when they are involved in an activity that they enjoy and are good at, according to the website of Disability Allies.

“The person in each pair without a disability sort of acts as a mentor," Hartwell said.

Disability Allies hosts a variety of events with the intention of being able to create environments that encourage as many people as possible to enjoy themselves and comfortably interact with others.

“”We have many activities during this event. We just had a barbecue a while ago, and there will be a blindfolded obstacle course activity as well," Yellin said.

Nearly three-quarters of mental health conditions emerge by age 24, so many college students are facing mental health concerns for the first time and may not know where to go for support, according to NAMI’S website.

Some of the best support a student can receive is from peers. When students connect with one another, they can share common experiences and support each other through the transitions, according to NAMI’s website.

Disability Allies also has a planning committee which is open to all members, regardless of whether or not they have a social disability, according to the organization’s website.

The committee is another way for people with social disorders to develop stronger connections, work in a team setting and be more involved with the organization.

“I think this is a wonderful event where people with disabilities can socialize in a comfortable environment. It levels the playing field," said Michael Skudalski, instructor for the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Skudalski was a guest, and was not involved with organizing the event.

“I plan to return to the next event. They are having another event in East Brunswick, and I’ll be set up with a table for the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired," Skudalski said.


Connor McCarthy

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