Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), the leading service provider for children and adults with autism on Long Island, is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from The Nature’s Bounty Foundation, to foster healthy eating habits.  The grant will provide healthy food choices and life skills for individuals being served with autism and other developmental disabilities at DDI’s Children’s Residential Program.


“The Nature’s Bounty Foundation is committed to supporting programs that facilitate wellness in our local communities,” said Brian Wynne, President of The Nature’s Bounty Co. North America.  “DDI is planting a seed that will provide participants the skills to plant, maintain and harvest a garden, prepare vegetables and fruits they grow themselves and incorporate these and other healthy foods into their daily diet.”


In 2016, DDI’s Children’s Residential Program (CRP) began a Learning Garden Program with two Tower Gardens®.  This program allowed students to participate in the planting and maintenance of the gardens, and the produce has been used to make healthy salads and vegetable breads.  The grant from The Nature’s Bounty Foundation will build on the success of the Learning Garden Program with the purchase of a Tower Garden for five additional residential children’s homes. With each Tower having the capability of producing 20 different types of fruits and vegetables, two additional Towers will be used for a CRP Healthy Habits Organic Farmer’s Market to benefit the surrounding communities.  In addition, DDI is partnering with local culinary arts community programs to provide demonstrations and teach techniques to create nutritious, flavorful meals. 


“These Towers will make it possible to not only provide fresh produce for the students, but also enable them to learn in yet another way as they build on their knowledge of healthy food choices, self-awareness, and responsibility,” commented DDI’s Project Leader Tracey Ryan.  “The Farmer’s Market will also aim to have the students improve life skills as they grow, package, and share produce to our Long Island neighbors.  The monetary donation will be reinstated back into the Learning Garden Program for maintenance and supplies, creating a long-term, self- sustaining project.”


DDI’s Children’s Residential Program, providing individualized education and support to children with developmental disabilities between the ages of 5 to 21 whose needs exceed what can be addressed by traditional special education services, has been designated a Center of Excellence by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).  DDI is playing a key role in setting new standards for the care of children in residential settings across the State.  DDI’s CRP is one of three programs in New York officially designated as a Center of Excellence for children with complex disabilities.


“The grant from The Nature’s Bounty Foundation will support our efforts here at DDI to assist individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities to become more independent and able to lead self-sufficient lives in the future,” stated John Lessard, DDI’s Executive Director.

The State Education Department has sent their recommendations to the Governor’s Chief Budget Examiner for 4410 and 853 special education schools.   The 4410 letter requests 4.85% growth and the 853 letter requests 5.2% growth as well as statutory index and other reforms.  Both letters request $8 million for teacher recruitment and retention.

 Please take a moment and contact your local legislators and ask them to sign on to these letters in support of the SED recommendations

Governor's Office 
(518) 474 -1041 and press 2 to speak to an assistant.  If you get no response, you can then press 1 to leave a voice mail. 

Senate Switchboard 
 (518) 455 – 2800 – and ask for your Senator.  You can find your Senator at

Assembly Switchboard
(518) 455-4100 – and ask for your Assemblymember.  You can find your Assemblymember at





DDI’s Children’s Residential Program (CRP) is playing a key role in setting new standards for the care of children in residential settings across the State.  DDI’s CRP is one of three programs in New York officially designated as a Center of Excellence for children with complex disabilities. The press release from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) describes some of the goals of this grant. 





OPWDD Announces Centers of Excellence

in the Care and Treatment of Children with Complex Disabilities


A Partnership to Improve Information Gathering and Provide More Timely and Cost Effective Approaches in the Care of Children with Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Conditions


The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) today announced a partnership between three not-for-profit agencies, The Center for Discovery (TCFD), Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), and Upstate Cerebral Palsy (Upstate CP), in the creation of the Centers of Excellence which will address the care and treatment of children with complex disabilities, such as autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions.  This partnership is made possible through an award of federal Balancing Incentive Program (BIP) funding administered through OPWDD, in coordination with the New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Health. 

The goals of the Centers of Excellence are to launch an intense and coordinated effort aimed at identifying best practices for intervention, conducting research, and developing new treatments and strategies to support children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in the most integrated setting.  The three separate Centers of Excellence will benefit from the collective intelligence and insights of each member organization and, in turn, work with New York State agencies and other providers.   

“Now that we are better able to identify children and families who need support, we need to better address the supports and systems available and make sure we are better able to meet their complex needs,” said Kerry Delaney, Acting Commissioner of the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. “This innovative project will address the urgent and fast growing needs of children with autism and other intellectual disabilities and define more effective supports for children and their families. We look forward to working with the three agencies involved in the Centers of Excellence partnership to ensure that more effective and seamless approaches to care are achieved across New York State.”

“This initiative supports and nurtures the cutting edge clinical practices that our Centers have and will develop to support children with complex needs and their families,” said Patrick Dollard, President & CEO of The Center for Discovery.

While progress has been made in identifying children and families who need support, there has been a need for a coordinated effort to provide care and education. The Centers of Excellence will develop an interactive database and other tools to improve information gathering and sharing with federal, state, and local agencies in an effort to provide more timely and cost effective approaches to care. 

Developmental Disabilities Institute Executive Director John Lessard noted, “The funding under this grant is giving our Centers the ability to take current systems supporting our children to an exciting new level, one that will have a significant positive impact on their quality of life and the quality of life of their families.”

“The opportunity to share best practices with our colleagues in other parts of the State as we work toward streamlining our processes is unprecedented in this area, and the staff at all three Centers have been inspired and excited by the possibilities this project presents,” said Louis Tehan, President & CEO of Upstate Cerebral Palsy.

The efforts of the Centers of Excellence will be coordinated through the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State. 

DDI van wrapped in recruitment advertisement


As part of DDI’s on-going efforts to attract new perspective staff, the workforce development committee came together to create a solution.


The solution had multiple objectives.


Read more: It's a Wrap