Spotlight On the SCI & Amputee Support Group of New York

The Right Attitude Opens a World of Possibilities

Matthew Castelluccio, adaptive sports coordinator and patient mentor at Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Hospital is also the leader for the SCI & Amputee Support Group of New York. Castellucio gives us a glimpse at the vital role this group plays in helping people overcome disability and reconnect with their communities.

1. What activities does your group engage in?

We have several guest speakers throughout the year, including motivational speakers, representatives from disability organizations, and adaptive equipment manufacturers.

2. What are your groups strongest qualities?

We have a diverse group of participants that includes in-patients, outpatients, community members, family, and friends. We also have participants with other disabilities beyond spinal cord injuries and amputations, such as traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and cerebral palsy. On average, group size varies from 6-16. Many participants tend to keep in touch with each other outside of the group. We also have a lot of participants that are involved with Helen Hayes Hospital Adaptive Sports Program, so there are many friendships carried over from that program. I am always looking to enhance and improve the group with a variety of guest speakers, including disability travel and ADA experts, wheelchair athletes, and representatives from service dog organizations. Living with a spinal cord injury for 13 years myself, I help to facilitate the conversation, but not control it.

3. What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own support group?

Whether you have 1 participant or 15 consider it a successful group. Don’t be discouraged if participation fluctuates greatly. Develop relationships with medical staff so they can be a referral resource for your group and assist with topic discussions. Also, use the Internet to reach out to organizations to find guest speakers and resources.

4. What’s the greatest challenge faced by the SCI/D community and how can we overcome it?

Self-limitation is a huge hindrance. People thinking they can’t do something or only seeing what is not possible at a given time. Seventy-five percent of recovery is mental. Some people become their disability and have a hard time seeing the possibilities. I learned early on that our only limitations are the ones we place upon ourselves. From participating in groups like this, many people can be exposed to well-adjusted individuals who have overcome their disability and are living active and healthy lives. Seeing them and talking with them helps people to see all the possibilities.

5. How can someone get involved in your support group?

They can contact me directly at castellucciom@helenhayeshosp.org or 845-786-4950. The group meets every 3rd Wednesday of every month from 6-7:30pm. We also have some web capabilities for those unable to attend in person but still want to participate.