DDI Gala 2012
DDI hosted its Annual Stars Gala & Casino Night on Friday, November 16th at the Woodbury Country Club.  DDI not only raised funds for the children and adults it serves, but for its employees as well.  In light of recent events with Hurricane Sandy, DDI established a special relief fund to benefit any employee who lost their home or are facing extreme economic hardship due to storm.
"DDI is very grateful to our Foundation Board of Directors, corporations, parents, teachers, staff, friends and volunteers who helped make this event a special and memorable evening," stated John Lessard, DDI Executive Director.  I am especially grateful that a portion of the proceeds from this event will be designated to the DDI Employee Disaster Relief Fund, which has been established to help a number of our staff members who faced catastrophic losses due to Hurricane Sandy. Their homes were significantly damaged or destroyed, their cars were ruined, and their lives were turned upside down. Yet, despite the adversity, each and every one of our staff members collectively insured that all of the children and adults with disabilities entrusted to our care were kept safe and out of harm's way. We are very grateful for their dedication and hope to be able to offer any assistance that we can."
The annual Gala featured two special award presentations.  The 2012 "Stars Advocacy Award" was presented to Julian Fisher of Gallagher Benefit Services.  Over the past decade, Julian, along with his wife, June, has worked tirelessly to raise funds in support of the many programs and services DDI provides to children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.  DDI was also pleased to honor students who have been active participants in the school age vocational services in the Children's Day Program.  For three or more years, these students have participated in community based volunteer activities, which are meant to help the students prepare for future employment opportunities, increased socialization experiences, and the ability to lead productive and satisfying lives in adulthood.  DDI was proud to honor these students, as well as the Transition/Vocational Coordinator, Doris Frisenda, who has worked tirelessly for over 17 years to provide this opportunity for the students enrolled in DDI's Children's Day Program.

Due to our recent closings related to Hurricane Sandy, our school calendars have been revised as follows in order to meet the 180 days required by the New York State Education Department:


Young Autism Program (YAP) at Medford and Ronkonkoma

School will be in session Tues., Feb 19, 2013 through Fri, Feb 22, 2013 and on Wed., March 13, 2013.


Starting Early Program at Huntington and Ronkonkoma

School will be in session Tues., Feb 19, 2013 through Fri, Feb 22, 2013 and on Wed., March 13, 2013.


Children’s Day Program at Huntington and Hollywood Drive

School will be in session Tues., Feb 19, 2013 through Fri, Feb 22, 2013 and on Mon., April 1, 2013.

Because the recent hurricane left so many DDI employees facing severe financial hardship, we have taken the steps needed to establish a special Relief Fund for their benefit. 


Effective today the DDI Foundation will be undertaking aggressive fundraising efforts aimed at raising contributions that will be used to support our employees with extreme financial challenges related directly to the storm and its effects.


All employees, DDI families, DDI business partners and vendors, as well as the public at large will shortly be receiving requests for contributions to the DDI Employee Disaster Relief Fund.  We will use email blasts, our Portal, our Website, Facebook, Twitter and direct mail, as well.  On line donations will be accepted, and employees will also be permitted to contribute through payroll deductions for the remainder of 2012.  We are in the process of setting up all of these methods for DDI employees who wish to help their co-workers and further details will be forthcoming.  You may contact Dan Rowland This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Ellen Holmes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by calling 366-2923.


This effort to help our employees has the enthusiastic support of both the DDI Board of Directors as well as the DDI Foundation Board of Directors.


I have said on many occasions that DDI enjoys the superb reputation that it does thanks to the amazing commitment of so many dedicated staff.  Staff have been there on countless occasions, often putting the needs of the agency and its mission ahead of their own.  On this occasion I want our employees to count on this agency to do the right thing for them.  As so aptly stated by one of our DDI Board members:

“Without our employees, there would be no DDI.  As a parent I depend on them.  I hope they can count on us to help them.”

That’s our plan!



Film ForumWe are proud to announce the return of DDI’s Film Forum! Beginning on September 27th,DDI staff along with the entire community of enthusiastic movie buffs can once again look forward to topical and engaging films related to the subject of developmental disabilities. Presentations are FREE and will be held once a month (at 7 pm on Thursday evenings) from September through November in our very own Hollywood Drive Lecture Hall.

Each film provides entertainment and information while exploring issues faced by individuals with disabilities. Following each film, a discussion will be facilitated by the person(s) who recommended it to the forum. The films are intended to educate viewers, offer different perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to popular culture.  Refreshments will be served.

The films selected for this season’s film forum are:

  • Mozart and the Whale – September 27th   
  • Up Syndrome – October 25th
  • Ben X – November  29th

* For more information or to attend be sure to RSVP  Dr. Michael Romas by phone at  631-366-5875 or via e-mail to We hope you will join us & please help get the word out! 

golf reception darnell stapleton

Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), the leading service provider for children and adults with autism on Long Island, hosted its 22nd Annual Golf Classic at two of the North Shore's most prestigious courses, the Pine Hollow Country Club and the Woodside Acres Country Club on Monday, June 11th. The post-golf reception took place at the Pine Hollow Country Club where golfers enjoyed a gourmet cocktail reception and dinner spread followed by the awards presentation and live auction.


Thanks to a dedicated committee led by Nick Racanelli and Joseph Schmidt of Carter, De Luca and Schmidt, LLP, the annual Golf Classic was a success.  Both courses and the post-golf reception was filled with hundreds of men and women from across Long Island who share a common commitment to raising money and awareness for Autism.  Former New York Mets and Yankee star Darryl Strawberry took part in the action to raise money for the worthy cause.


Autism is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and is typically diagnosed before the age of three. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the alarming rate of autism is 1 in every 110 births and a child is diagnosed on the spectrum.  ASDs occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.  When autism is detected earlier and appropriate intervention is taken, children with ASD can become more functional and learn to adapt to the world around them.  No matter the age of the diagnosis, children and adults with ASD are constant learners and significant improvements can be made at any age.