Friday, Mar. 08 2013 9:07AM
Getting the word out
By Toriano Porter
The letters asking for help come in earnest to the Joshua Center for Neurological Disorders, including those from teachers in Lee’s Summit that incorporate the organization’s social skills curriculum for children with neurological disorders into their classroom.
The notes are similar.
“I have a student who attends the social skills classes regularly and they help him immensely,” a testimonial letter from a teacher in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District reads. “I have referred many parents to you who are desperate for help and guidance.”
The Joshua Center is a Kansas City-based, non-profit organization that provides programs designed to improve the lives of individuals and families living with Asperger syndrome, high functioning autism, Tourette’s syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder. In 2006 the center began offering the “Me and My World” social skills board games and curriculum programs to elementary and middle school children, which morphed into life skills classes for high school students and since 2011 young adult life skills classes for high school seniors through age 23.
“I was reading this month’s newsletter and I saw that you are asking businesses to donate the social skills curriculum ‘Me and My World’ to schools,” the R-7 teacher’s testimonial continued. “I was wondering if I could be added to the list of schools that might receive this donation. Our budget has been cut, and I would really like some updated social skills curriculum. I love that this curriculum is game-based and I know that is the most effective way to teach students with neurological disorders.”
Now the center is sending out letters of its own, reaching out to businesses in the Lee’s Summit community asking for donations and sponsorships to help fund the curriculum for students in the district. The projected cost for the recently announced sponsorship program is $21,573. Each set is priced at $799 and 27 schools in the district receiving games are targeted to benefit from the sponsorship or donations.
“We started doing social skills classes about five years ago,” said Becky Ottinger, executive director of the Joshua Center. Ottinger started the organization in 1996 and named it after her son who suffered from a neurological disease. “Parents just begged me. I said ‘oh my God, can I take on anything new?’ We spent a fortune on curriculum, social skills games and they were terrible. So we started developing our own stuff and throughout the years it has kind of evolved and we finally redesigned the board games.”
The Joshua Center serves roughly 1,000 people throughout the metro area through counseling, camp and social skills programs, and each summer they offer two camp programs at the Rotary Club Youth Camp in Lee’s Summit. Ottinger is hoping the business community in Lee’s Summit is moved by the words offered by the Lee’s Summit teacher’s testimonial, adding that there is a large demand for the organization’s curriculum, yet their budget is exhausted and they are no longer able to donate the games for free.
Over the past year, the Joshua Center has donated complete sets to more than a dozen schools in the metro area.
“I’m hearing from so many schools that want these,” Ottinger said. “Of course there’s just not (enough) funding for educators. We finally decided ‘what the heck, we need to try.’ I’ve been writing grants, and we came up with this idea for this community partnership and we thought, ‘you know, I bet you a lot of businesses would support the schools in this way.’
“I feel like I have an obligation to keep trying to share what we’ve learned. There’s nothing out there like this.”