Evan Stein has read, commented on and contributed stories to “06880” since our founding in 2009.
Today, he shares a family story. It’s deeply personal and truly compelling. Evan writes:
2023 is the 50th anniversary of my parents’ move from the Bronx to Westport with 3 kids. My sister and I were born after the move.
In 1992 I graduated from Staples High School as a captain of both the wrestling and math teams, president of the UN Club and a student manager of the Staples TV Studio.
Now I’m a doctor living in Manhattan with my wonderful wife Jen and 2 boys. But I come back to visit regularly. Just a couple years ago, Dan told my story of accidentally stealing a car at Compo Beach. Best PSA ever!
After losing my first son, Daniel, to complications of premature birth, Jen and I were blessed with 2 more sons: Josh and Sam.
At 2 1/2 years old, Josh seemed to be a bright boy who knew the English and Hebrew alphabets, and loved singing songs and reciting “Sesame Street” episodes.
But after just 2 weeks in pre-school, we were told he needed to be tested. He wasn’t acting like the other kids.
In December 2010 Josh was diagnosed with autism. He started private therapy, and we sent him to a school for children with special needs. At 4 we were lucky to find a school in Queens. The New York Child Learning Institute, for children with autism, is publicly funded. It specializes in cutting-edge applied behavioral analysis therapy.
But while director Susan Vener and her staff are out of this world, incorporate parent training into the curriculum, and make amazing strides with personalized curricula for every child, public funding is just another word for “underfunded.”
I organized fundraisers every year to supplement the needs of the school. I looked for grants, met with philanthropists, and gave whatever I could.
The pandemic made funding needs even more pronounced.
Regardless, over the years Josh and his peers made incredible progress. But even so, Josh had issues. One cold winter night 4 years ago, he kicked out a giant plate glass bedroom window in frustration.
The school was aware of his growing issues. They adjusted his therapy to help him find new ways of coping with difficult situations.
In the last few years, despite the challenges of the pandemic, Josh has made enormous progress. This was important, because he wasn’t just a cute little boy anymore. He has grown into a 14-year-old young man. He’s over 6 feet tall, and can be an imposing presence even when he’s joyful.
This year, for the annual fundraiser, Dr. Vener asked Josh to make a speech about his experience over the last 10 years.
He sat down 2 weeks ago with his teachers to brainstorm ideas. He found a theme he wanted to explore. Together, they created a 5-minute speech.
Only his teacher knew what was coming. No one could be sure what the delivery would be like.
But last Thursday night, 200 people listened attentively. They laughed, they cried, and I think they were inspired.
I hope you are inspired too.
Today it is my goal to help NYCLI find an angel philanthropist who can help it survive and thrive beyond the graduation of any one or two students with parents who can help supplement its funding. I’m looking for a philanthropist who can see the value of NYCLI, and wants to help it for reasons beyond those of the personal gains of their own child.
I know Westport has those kinds of angels — people, companies and foundations. I would love to show them the school, and introduce them to the leaders who make incredible progress in children with autism year after year.
Click here for more information on the New York Child Learning Institute. Click below for a video from last year’s Winter Spectacular. To contact Evan Stein directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.