DDI hosted its most successful annual Stars Gala and Auction on Friday, November 17, 2017 at Villa Lombardi’s in Holbrook. Over 400 attendees danced the night away and raised funds to help DDI fulfill its mission to help children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities experience personal growth and fulfillment.


The night paid tribute to those who have dedicated their time to support DDI. DDI longtime supporter, Edward Grilli, was selected as the 2017 Stars Gala Honoree. Helping to create a world without limits for the individuals served by DDI, Ed has been a true advocate and friend to the organization. He has given much of his time and money to support DDI in its mission from fundraising to facilitating meetings with top elected officials. DDI also recognized two members of its Board of Directors who will be retiring at the end of 2017. Kevin Long and Karen Valerie have given countless hours of dedicated service to the individuals served by DDI.






Employing DDI individuals since 1987, DiCarlo Food Service was the very first Long Island employer to establish such a relationship with DDI. DiCarlo Food Service was awarded the 2017 Employer of the Year for giving the individuals DDI serves the opportunity to become more independent and able to lead self-sufficient lives in the future. Stephen Maltese was selected as the 2017 Employee of the Year. Stephen is the Assistant Residential Manager at the Radio Avenue Residence and has been a DDI employee for 26 years. Stephen’s dedication and commitment to the individuals DDI serves is admirable and has become an inspiration to all who work alongside him.





DDI would like to thank all of its 2017 Gala Honorees, sponsors, attendees, journal advertisers, donors and volunteers for helping to make the night a success.


A recent New York Times article highlighted the dangers of the proposed bill which recommends sweeping reforms to the Medicaid program, and reverses the advancements in healthcare made possible through the Affordable Care Act.



The U.S. Senate bill is entitled “The Better Care Reconciliation Act” and it’s different than the American Health Care Act (AHCA) which the legislation passed by the House of Representatives in May.



The Better Care Reconciliation Act, if enacted as initially drafted, will impose stricter funding limits on states with higher Medicaid spending.



Stricter funding limits would mean States would be required to either find new funding to support Medicaid or, more likely, cut Medicaid through restricting enrollment, curbing benefits, and reducing payments to health care providers.



Please take a moment to read the article that underlines the effect that this bill can have on the lives of people with disabilities.

DDI is pleased to announce that the Young Autism Program (YAP) and Starting Early Preschool (SEP) are coming together under one umbrella of Early Childhood Services that will include an Early Childhood Center for Autism. 

starting early cover

We’re excited to be bringing these programs together in order to ensure that children receiving Early Childhood Services at all DDI Early Childhood Learning Centers will have access to a continuum of classroom models including integrated classes at all of our locations in order to meet each child’s unique needs. Services provided will continue to be evidence based, best practice and consistent across all sites.


While the YAP and Starting Early names have been synonymous with DDI for many years, we’ll be rebranding all of our Early Childhood Services under that one name to better reflect who we are today.  All of the services offered to children with ASD will be coordinated by DDI’s Early Childhood Center for Autism which utilizes the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and ensures that all services are state of the art, based on current research.


Dr. Linda Whitaker Hobbs, who currently provides leadership to Starting Early, will be the Director of Early Childhood Services.  The Early Childhood Center for Autism will be under the direction of Christine Racca, who currently provides leadership to YAP.


We look forward to sharing additional information with you about our Early Childhood Services in the weeks to come. As we continue to evolve and grow, we are excited to partner with you to provide an exceptional educational experience for all children. 




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 http://assembly.state.ny.us/