Local organization hopes to academically accommodate local child

A non-profit organization that provides support and assistance to individuals with developmental and related disabilities – is doing just that for a Bronx mother and son during the holiday.

The Center for Family Support, which supports over 1,500 individuals in both the New York City Metropolitan area and New Jersey, has been providing home services for the Highbridge family for over a decade, and hopes to provide the son with an academically-friendly environment at home.

Sharon and Tony Johnson, the mother-son tandem who both suffer from intellectual disabilities, have received countless assistance from CFS, who has provided both of them with the support they need to build confidence to eventually live independent and successful lives.

Sharon, who has been a part of CFS for the last 18 years, receives help from a staff member, who is present at her home eight hours a day on Mondays through Fridays and assists her with money budgeting and making life choices.

After six years of being a part of the organization, Sharone gave birth to her first and only child, Tony, and stopped working to take care of him.

Now that Tony is receiving support from CFS, Sharon plans to go back to work serving breakfast and lunch at a school cafeteria.

Tony, now 11, and in the sixth grade, has been a part of CFS since birth, and receives help from the agency six hours a day on Mondays through Fridays.

Tony’s mom, who also suffered from significant health issues during Tony’s childhood, made it difficult to provide a environment which supported his educational needs when he was home from school.

Despite efforts by CFS to support him, Tony has had a difficult transition from elementary school to middle school, as reflected by his grades and interactions with other students.

Tony’s intellectual disabilities have made it difficult for him to control his emotions and has limited his social relationships.

Currently, CFS is hoping to continue to help Tony create an environment which reinforces learning at home and provide a place where he can complete his school assignments in a special area complete with a desk, a desktop computer (or laptop) with software and a small bookcase with books to help him excel in the school classroom.

“Despite his challenges, Tony has been through a lot – but he has also accomplished a lot,” said Sharon. “He may need some help with his communication and writing, but he loves to read, he’s a good speller and he knows the multiplication tables like the back of his hand – so it’s clear that he has the drive to learn.”

Sharon also added that Tony is very skilled with electronics, has the ability to count money and has a strong passion for wrestling, a venue that she hopes, one day, she will be able to take him to.

“Since he started taking Karate two months ago, Tony has shown major improvements in his academics and behavior,” said Diana Collins, director of medicaid service coordination. “It shows in his school work and in his new interactions and in his connections with other students.”

“We (CFS) have supported Tony and his mom to live together in an apartment in the Bronx,” said Linda Schellenberg, director of Community Services for CFS.

“The supports provided by CFS have truly enriched Tony’s life,” said Barbara Greenwald associate executive director for CFS.

For more information about the Center for Family Support, visit their website at www.cfsny.org

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

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