A Touch of Understanding, Inc.


A Touch of Understanding's mission is to encourage acceptance and respect for all individuals and to minimize the discrimination, bullying, and misunderstanding experienced by children and adults who are perceived as different for any reason, but especially for those with disabilities.

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Address: 5280 Stirling Street, Suite 102
Granite Bay, CA 95746
County or Parish: Placer County
Primary NTEE: Education 
Sub NTEE: Educational Services 
Executive Director: Leslie DeDora
Contact Email: meghan@touchofunderstanding.org
Primary Phone: 916-791-4146
Website: http://www.touchofunderstanding.org
ATOU was started in the early 1990's by father-daughter team Edward Ennis and Leslie DeDora with the desire to relieve the discrimination and social isolation experienced by children with disabilities. Leslie DeDora started the program after seeing bullying firsthand and hearing hurtful language kids used in class and on the playground. Believing in the power of education and the ultimate worth of all human beings, they designed an educational program to dispel the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding people who are perceived by their peers to be different, especially when that perception arises as the result of a disability. This vision developed into a successful pilot program and was incorporated in 1996 into A Touch of Understanding, Inc. a nonprofit organization. Since then, ATOU has taken the program's message to more than 100,000 students, in public and private schools, juvenile correctional facilities, teacher trainings, colleges and fraternal organizations throughout the Sacramento region and surrounding counties.
There is a desperate need in our communities for education and character-building programs that will reduce the exclusion, bullying and mistreatment of students with disabilities. The experience of being bullied is almost universal for disabled children, who are two to three times more likely to be victims of bullying than their non-disabled peers. Even if not victims of bullying, children with disabilities often find themselves ostracized and alone in their schools and neighborhoods.
In the Sacramento region, about 11% of school age children have physical disabilities (vision, hearing, orthopedic, brain trauma, etc.) and over 17% of students have either an intellectual disability or autism. Overall, 12% of California's school age students received special education services. Students demonstrate an improvement in attitudes and behavior towards people with a disability as a result of our in-school workshops. The schools we work with report a reduction in bullying and other anti-social behaviors. Students who have suffered persecution and exclusion from their classmates find themselves included and respected as never before. Most importantly, these changes are deep and long-lasting because they originate within the hearts of the students themselves through their own personal experience, rather than being handed down as instruction from an adult.
Our top needs:
  1. Funding: Program - 1. Schools are only able to pay about half of what it cost for a school workshop. We rely on donations, fundraising, and grants to make up for the other half. $600 pays teh portion the school cannot pay, and provides one workshop for 40 students.
  2. Funding: Unrestricted - Funding for capacity building to increase staff, space, and vehicles in order to meet the growing need for our program locally and beyond
  3. Volunteers - 8-10 volunteers are needed to successfully staff each workshop. Each workshop consists of 3-4 volunteers with disabilities, as speakers, and then an additional 4-6 volunteers to assist with activity stations. We also utilize volunteers in our office for a variety of tasks including but not limited to: IT help, filing and office projects, fundraisers, etc.
  4. In-Kind Donations - Office supplies, raffle and auction items, gift cards, food for events and meetings
  5. Technology - IT support and help
'A healthy community can be likened to a patchwork quilt. Each individual, like each square of a quilt, has his or her own unique pattern. For the individual, this is comprised of, among other things, personality, interests, abilities, challenges, and dreams. Just as the sewing of the squares forms a functional quilt, the connection of individuals forms a healthy community. Each individual is attached by a fine thread of understanding, acceptance and respect. A Touch of Understanding strives to create that thread where it does not exist and strengthen it where it does, especially for individuals with disabilities. Our disability-awareness programs have proven to create and strengthen this thread by increasing understanding, acceptance and respect for children on school campuses throughout the Greater Sacramento area. Our character-building programs teach the life skill of empathy towards individuals with disabilities. Understanding of and empathy for individuals with disabilities is a springboard for appreciation and respect for all people. ATOU is working with our young people, the crafters of our future, helping them to realize their personal value and their influence on those around them. We are asking them not to simply tolerate one another, not to coexist, but to get to know one another, to embrace their differences, and to connect with that thread of acceptance and respect. In doing so, A Touch of Understanding is empowering our young people to craft strong, functional communities on their school campuses and beyond.'

Sincerely,
Leslie DeDora, Founder and Executive Director