Program Aims to Help Mainstream Intellectually Disadvantaged
Corey likes working with computers. Allison wants to be a medical assistant. Stephan hopes to become a barber. And Josh is learning how to read. They are among the eight people participating in a pilot program offered by a group called No Bounds. Developed in conjunction with ECPI University, a customized plan has been developed to help each one of them reach their full potential based on their varied abilities.
No Bounds was founded by Dr. Tina Bhandari who also teaches psychology at ECPI University’s Roanoke campus. The purpose of No Bounds is to help intellectually disadvantaged people 18 and older achieve social and cognitive independence. Its programs provide independence through sound education and real-time vocational training, as well as individually- based opportunities to earn qualification for work placement and/or seek higher education.
“Through this effort, we want to build culturally responsible communities one day at a time. People with an intellectual disability do not get to choose what they are born with. However, we can be considerate and work with them in their intellectual space instead of trying to fit them into ours.”– Dr. Tina Bhandari, Roanoke Campus Faculty Member
“Our mission is to embrace inclusivity, dignity, diversity, and equitable opportunities through the world of people with intellectual disabilities,” says Dr. Bhandari. “Through this effort, we want to build culturally responsible communities one day at a time. People with an intellectual disability do not get to choose what they are born with. However, we can be considerate and work with them in their intellectual space instead of trying to fit them into ours.”
Participants in this program come to ECPI University where they work with mentors and develop academic, vocational, and employable skills. Goals are developed based on each participant’s cognitive potential. Because 21-year-old Stefan Hackley wants to be barber, he’s working with a mentor who is teaching him how to count money and make change.
Stefan’s mentor, 58-year-old James Harper, Jr. understands what it’s like to take on a big new challenge. He was the victim of a robbery and sustained a traumatic brain injury, and has spent several years learning to speak again. “I had sunk into a deep depression,” he says. “Working with these wonderful young people has given me a real sense of purpose. I’ve found that helping them has also helped me to better express myself.”
Allison Van Doren, 27, is one of two participants who is successfully transitioning into mainstream academia. She is now taking classes at ECPI University and preparing to become a medical assistant. “I had been out of school for eight years,” she says. “I always wanted to do something to help other people, but I never thought anything like this was possible.”
With a growing waiting list, Dr. Bhandari is hoping she will be able to scale up the program to meet the demand which she says is great. Independence, she says, breeds dignity, something everyone deserves. While she herself is a teacher, Dr. Bhandari says she has learned much from these very special people. “They have taught me patience, tolerance, humility, value of humankind, respect of all, unconditional love and kindness, to listen, to hear, to communicate among different worlds, and to see them. And now I speak with them and for them. They taught me there are no bounds for humanity.”