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Grad Honored For Work

Grad Honored For WorkJudith Goldner – co-founder of a series of special needs programs – received a distinguished citizen award for two decades of tireless work. Lexington, Mass.

Boston [12.23.03] A co-founder of the Special Needs Art Fund, Judith Goldner has provided a social and creative outlet for students with special needs across greater Boston for more than two decades. Her tireless efforts - which have benefited scores of students over the years - were recently honored by the country's largest grassroots organization dedicated to cognitive and developmental disabilities.

"[Goldner and her colleague Marilyn Abel] were recently honored as recipients of the 2003 Arc of Massachusetts Distinguished Citizen Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities," reported the Lexington Minuteman.

More than 20 years ago, the pair began using art and music to create a social and creative outlet for special needs students in Lexington, where they both lived. Their work has steadily grown into a vibrant and multi-faceted program serving students across a half-dozen cities and towns in the greater Boston area.

"The two friends have touched the lives of many and allowed people with physical and mental disabilities the opportunity to be a part of a supportive, creative environment," reported the newspaper.

At the heart of the program are a series of choral groups sponsored by the Special Needs Arts Fund, which are comprised of special needs students and volunteers from local communities.

"I think music is a medium in which people can participate in every different level and be accepted," Goldner - who graduated from Tufts with a masters degree in child development - told the Minuteman. "Some of our people who have verbal problems or are non-verbal have responded to the music."

Many have remained involved in the programs long after joining.

"Since founding the choral groups, the return rate of participants has been steady," reported the newspaper. "The group recently celebrated the 40th birthday of a member who joined the original chorus 21 years ago."

Goldner says the success of the programs is tied to the closeness of the participants.

"Particularly, with the younger group, everyone - without exception - is concerned for one another," said the Tufts graduate. "If somebody has a problem, one of the other members will go over to help."

That kind of tight-knit community is particularly important in overcoming the isolation many special needs students experience in and out of school.

"If somebody is very shy, placement within the group is very important," Goldner told the newspaper.

The Arc of Massachusetts, which presents the distinguished award, was founded in 1954.

"It is the largest grassroots organization [in the United States] dedicated to people with cognitive and developmental disabilities," reported the Minuteman. "In Massachusetts, the organization represents more than 120,000 people and has 22 affiliated local associations."


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