MISSION & VISION
Extreme Kids & Crew, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is a welcoming community center where children with disabilities can socialize, create and play, and their families can join in the fun while sharing disability specific resources with other caretakers. Through arts and play based programming, caregivers, siblings and children of all abilities come together to explore, connect and gain confidence.
We believe in fostering and celebrating our local disability community and the larger community of disability around the country and world. Our playspaces allow children with disabilities to find, hone, and display their particular talents, fine tune their socialization and fine motor skills, and make friends among a diverse group of people. Our blog, cultural events, and the Felix Awards, use the arts to reach out to a larger sphere. We aim both to combat the isolation the disability community often feels when faced with a culture that rarely acknowledges the complexity and worth of people with disabilities, and to change the larger public’s concept of what it means to be disabled.
Brief History: Inspired by her children, one with multiple disabilities and two without, Eliza Factor sought to create a place outside their home where they could be a family like any other. With this desire, Eliza founded Extreme Kids & Crew. After incorporating in late 2010, Extreme Kids introduced a range of parent-child weekend programming in arts and movement, and then opened Space No. 1, a drop-in sensory playspace in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where parents and children were able to experiment with equipment usually reserved for therapists’ offices.
Our model of providing judgment-free playspaces, arts-based programming and parent education and support caught on quickly. In response to the demand for our services over the past five years, Extreme Kids has tripled its capacity. Today we have two locations within public schools that receive Title 1 funding, an after-school program, a summer camp, weekend programming for the whole family, parent support-groups and seminars, and monthly art and music events. Our collaboration with the Department of Education has allowed us to expand geographically with little overhead while being readily available and affordable to families living and going to school in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods or areas with high income inequality throughout New York City.
"Where science and biological cure have stalled, the social model of disability has achieved wild triumph. Many specific techniques are invaluable in addressing particular needs, but the long and the short of it is that disabled children, like nondisabled children, thrive on attention, engagement, stimulation, and hope."
- Andrew Solomon “Far from the Tree”
My children are the inspiration behind Extreme Kids & Crew. My son Felix has a grab bag of disabilities, including autism and cerebral palsy. His younger sisters don't. I wanted to create a place outside of our home where we were not the only exceptional family with the whooping kid in the wheelchair, but just another rambunctious, ramshackle family. Through my daughters, I made friends with parents raising neurotypical children, and their company was sustaining and valuable. I yearned for these same sorts of connections with people raising children with disabilities and special needs. I knew they existed. I would see them at hospitals, doctors offices, and schools, frazzled like me, caught up in what seemed to be a never-ending treadmill of appointments and bureaucracy. We were all so focused on our particular children's treatments, interventions, diagnoses, behaviors, and insurance or lack-of-insurance snafus that there was not the time and space to explore our commonalities, to relax and be with one another.
And so: Extreme Kids & Crew. A not-for-profit arts-movement-play program dedicated to connecting and empowering families raising children with every sort of disability and special need. We are not a therapy center. We are a place where children who are often working very hard to compensate for or overcome their disabilities can take a break and be celebrated for the people they are, exactly as they are right now. And we are not only for these children. We are also for their brothers, sisters, parents, and friends. We are a place where the entire family can play on inventive sensory equipment, make and listen to music and express themselves through the arts: circus arts, drama, dance, printmaking, drawing, collage and more. We are forever experimenting with more.
Extreme Kids & Crew has now been operating for over five years. We have had nearly fifteen hundred families from every borough of New York City take part. Children with autism, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, epilepsy, and many other irregularities, diagnosed and not, have taken our classes, participated in our open plays, attended our free monthly concerts. Families come from every economic class and a great variety of cultures. What ties us together is the experience of living with and loving a child who is different.
When I started Extreme Kids & Crew. I had not realized how inspired I would be by the other parents and children I would meet, nor was I prepared for the generosity and enthusiasm of musicians and artists and other volunteers who have made our program such a creative powerhouse. I was warned that starting such a program would tax my energies, instead it gave me energy. The friendships that I have made through Extreme Kids and Crew have widened and sweetened my world. I invite you to drop by and experience it for yourself!