SPRINGFIELD — Pathlight, a Valley leader in residential and community services for people with intellectual disabilities or autism, has been awarded $23,000 in funding from the Westfield Bank Future Fund and the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation to support a sex-education and relationships program that gives people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism the skills to build and maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives.
The program, called Whole Selves, is the result of 10 years of teaching the social skills of relationships to adolescents, teens, and adults with a variety of disabilities at Pathlight’s Whole Children program. Whole Selves is flexible and individualized, uses explicit instruction, and has proven to be successful in local high schools where it is taught. Pathlight is developing the program to be available online to middle and high schools nationally.
“Whole Selves is a game changer for people with disabilities,” said Pathlight Executive Director Ruth Banta. “We are so grateful to the Westfield Bank Future Fund and the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation for supporting our vision for people with intellectual disabilities.”
One goal of the Whole Selves project is to prevent the staggering rate of sexual abuse among people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (ID/DD). According to a recent report by NPR, people with ID/DD are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities.
A robust and accessible education is one solution to preventing abuse and isolation, and Whole Selves is developed specifically for this population. Pathlight is piloting the program in several schools this fall, with an eye toward releasing it nationally in 2019.
“The foundation couldn’t be more pleased to lend its support to Pathlight’s successful Whole Selves Program,” said Bill Wagner, president of the Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation. “It’s truly unfortunate that persons with intellectual disabilities are often victims of abuse, and we are grateful to have such an innovative thinker in Pathlight, who had the foresight to develop an educational program designed specifically to reduce that risk and enhance the quality of their lives.”
Added Kevin O’Connor, executive vice president and chief banking officer at Westfield Bank, “every person deserves the opportunity to live a whole life, and to achieve their potential free from abuse. We’re proud to stand with the people of Pathlight who are working to make life better for people in our communities with intellectual disabilites or autism, through education, communication, and support.”