County Hosts 4th Annual ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ Conference

County Hosts 4th Annual ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ Conference

Virtual event assists families in planning for lifetime care

Poughkeepsie, NY … As Dutchess County recognized International Day of People with Disability today, County Executive Marc Molinaro and Deputy Commissioner for Special Needs Toni-Marie Ciarfella hosted the County’s fourth annual Collaboration of Services and Care Across the Life Span for People with Special Needs, a day-long ThinkDIFFERENTLY conference that brings together local families of those living with disabilities and local providers who serve them to assist in the planning process for lifelong care of those with developmental and other disabilities.

ThinkDIFFERENTLYThis year’s event was presented online to comply with social-distancing guidelines and the prohibition on large gatherings, resulting from the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual event provided education and training for families and providers to understand the continuum of care for individuals of every ability.

County Executive Molinaro said, “Parents like myself, who love a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities, must plan for a lifetime of care, an undertaking that can be difficult given the seemingly endless network of providers, assessments and eligibility requirements. Our annual ThinkDIFFERENTLY conference brings families together with providers to inform them about the continuity of care that will be needed as their loved one ages and help them make connections that will last throughout their loved one’s life. The relationships built at today’s conference will benefit those with disabilities and their families for years to come, and Dutchess County is proud to facilitate those introductions as we continue to ThinkDIFFERENTLY about our friends and neighbors of every ability.”

Keynote PresentationTina Covington, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA, Chief Program Officer for the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, was today’s keynote speaker, discussing with online attendees the process of assessing and de-escalating challenging behaviors, as well as efforts that can be taken to build compassionate care and capacity for professionals and families.

Additionally, a group discussion including panelists from the County’s departments of Community and Family Services, and Behavioral & Community Health, as well as local services providers and state offices, provided families insight about eligibility and services for their loved ones, from birth through adulthood.

Deputy Commissioner Ciarfella said, “Particularly during the current pandemic, throughout which those with disabilities have been so adversely affected, it’s now more important than ever to prepare for the future needs for all our community member of all abilities. Today’s virtual forum not only provides information and references for families, that can be found in the website, it offers them one-on-one interactions with the organizations that can enhance their loved ones’ lives – today, tomorrow and for years to come. The County Executive opened our conference today and shared us that the Constitution affords the right to pursue happiness, which he empowered us with the reminder that everyone deserves the right to live a fulfilling life. This message underscores the importance of these types of conferences building that collaborations and partnerships that support people towards this goal.”

Established by County Executive Molinaro in 2015, the ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to individuals with disabilities. Following Dutchess County’s example, more than 100 municipalities throughout New York State – and several others across the nation – have passed ThinkDIFFERENTLY resolutions, committing to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals of all abilities.

More information about Dutchess County’s efforts to ThinkDIFFERENTLY, as well as ways communities can be more supportive of those of every ability, is available at the County’s award-winning website,

Author: Harlem Valley News