Tamara’s mother had 10 children to care for and saw no alternative to leaving her in the hospital for her first five years. NAC helped them bring her home.
There was a lot that people who didn’t know about Tamara when she was five years old and living at the Foundling Hospital. That she had a talent for art. That she loved to learn and was curious about everything. That she read the NY Times. Or that one day she would become the first in her family to attend college. Living in a hospital did not give her much hope to nurture her potential.
Coming Home for the First Time
Tamara was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. Her bones are very fragile and can break doing everyday activities, such as turning in bed or getting dressed. As a child, Tamara would sometimes have up to 5 broken bones a year. Her care was too overwhelming for her family, who had little understanding of her diagnosis and no support.
When NAC found Tamara still living in the hospital at age 5, a team of social workers immediately started putting the appropriate supports in place for Tamara’s family to take her home. NAC helped to make their apartment accessible and comfortable for a child with a disability. At the same time, services were provided for the entire family from medical advocacy to mental health care and educational services. Tamara’s mother took parent education classes at NAC and joined NAC’s parent support group; her siblings received recreational and therapeutic services. Once home and safely being cared for, Tamara received the health and educational services she needed. When she was 15, Tamara joined NAC’s newly formed art therapy group, which had a profound effect on her life.
Learning & Teaching
Tamara excelled in school. Yet, when it was time to take the SATs, her high school counselor told Tamara that she was not “college material.” She registered for the test anyway, only to find out that the room where the SAT’s were being given was not wheelchair accessible. With characteristic tenacity, Tamara advocated for a wheelchair accessible room, took the SAT's, and was accepted by several colleges. She chose CUNY Hunter College in New York City to earn a Bachelor's degree in psychology.
While college life was not without its challenges… classes were missed for weeks on end because of broken elevators or inaccessible classrooms, Tamara thrived at Hunter. She lived independently in a dorm room and worked on Saturdays making art with younger children with disabilities. She also honed her skills as an artist and advocate for people with disabilities.
Today, Tamara uses what she learned through her difficulties to help others. She not only gives talks on advocating for people with disabilities at several New York City advocacy agencies; but she has decided to become an art therapist and help other children with disabilities through the healing process of art. She has completed her Master's degree from New York University's Graduate Program for Art Therapy. As an art therapist, she wants to work with children with disabilities, passing on the healing process of art.
Tamara, age 23
Tamara in 1997