Working To Bring Awareness To Developmental Disabilities

Brandon Semilof and his son, Miles. (Contributed photo)

Port Washington resident is working with AHRC Nassau on improving services for peole with developmental disabilities
With Developmental Disabilities month in March coming to an end and World Autism month in April just begining, the Port Washington community has been working on spreading awareness.
A resident of Port Washington, Brandon Semilof, has recently joined the Board of Directors at AHRC Nassau. AHRC Nassau is an organization that started over 70 years ago because parents had a belief that there should be a place where children with disabilities can learn and grow.
“It’s a life-time of support for men, women and children with developmental disabilities,” said Nicole Zerillo, the Assistant Director of Community Resources at AHRC Nassau. “We offer all kinds of services, such as employment services, adult day habilitation, community-based services, residential services and family support services. A lot of our services are about inclusion and making sure people are a part of the community, doing what they love side by side with their typical peers. It is really about people living the life they choose and to be the person they want to be.”
Two months ago, Semilof began his position on the Board of Directors for AHRC Nassau, but his involvement with the organization began long before that.
“My youngest son, Miles, has been going to the Brookville Center for Children’s Services (BCCS) since he was two years old, and now he is thirteen,” said Semilof. “I’ve always wanted to get more involved and now I’m at a point in my life where I’m able to allocate more of my time to supporting the cause and the mission of AHRC Nassau.”
AHRC Nassau partners with organizations, including the BCCS and Citizens Options Unlimited. The BCCS is approved by the New York State Education Department and the Department of Health to provide educational and therapeutic services to children with developmental delays or disabilities.
“Brandon is a consummate professional, powerful parent advocate and engaged member of AHRC’s community,” said Saundra M. Gumerove Esq., Board President of AHRC Nassau’s Board of Directors. “We are so pleased to have welcomed Brandon to AHRC Nassau’s Board of Directors.”
Semilof comes from a financial background as a Managing Director at StoneCastle Cash Management. While there may not be obvious transferable qualities from his job, Semilof is able to look at the future of AHRC Nassau from a financial perspective.
“I look forward to seeing AHRC Nassau grow and offer more services for governmental entities to get more involved in and realize how critical this population is,” said Semilof. “It is necessary to provide funding for these people with developmental disabilities, but also the staff.”
“Around this time every year, people with disabilities, their families and friends know it’s time to call, email, write letters and visit state legislators,” said Gumerove Esq. “With the state budget deadline looming, it is again time to ensure legislators understand that their constituents care and are calling out for investment in disability services.”
AHRC Nassau recognizes the ongoing funding issues in disability services and uses their organization to help spread awareness. People with developmental disabilities have direct support professionals that work to help them take care of basic needs, such as brushing their teeth or taking their medicine.
“The direct support professionals help make sure people with developmental disabilities are living the lives they choose,” said Zerillo. “They are primarily women of color and there are equality issues regarding how the state chooses to set their budget to compensate them.”
Service providers across New York State are rallying for increased investment to address program cuts, closings and the ongoing staffing crisis across the state. According to The Arc New York non-profit organization, in New York State the state budget negotiations are happening now. The Assembly is offering an 11% cost of living adjustment and advocates are calling for inclusion across all budgets.
“One of my missions is making sure that the county and/or state recognizes the need to make sure those who take care of this population get the necessary funding,” said Semilof. “The staff are truly the unsung heroes. It takes a unique individual to do what they do because it is a selfless, egoless job and you do it because you care.”
“Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Autism Awareness Month offer added opportunities to highlight the ways neighbors can get involved,” said Gumerove Esq. “And, through advocacy, ensure that children and adults with disabilities receive necessary state funding to ensure they are supported to remain part of the fabric of the community.”
AHRC Nassau and its family of organizations is dedicated to creating a more inclusive future for Long Islanders with disabilities.