From 2002-2007, Vanessa Leigh DeBello worked at the Institute For Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities, Staten Island, where diseases such as autism, Down Syndrome, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease are studied. Ms. DeBello's role involved preparing and editing manuscripts for submission to scientific journals.

Ms. DeBello is a recent graduate of the College of Staten Island, where she received a Bachelor's of Arts degree in Creative Writing with a minor in African American studies. An honor student, she received several scholarships and an award for her writing. Her short stories deal with topics such as life in the Willowbrook State School circa 1960, families coping with addiction, African American culture, and Brooklyn circa 1970s. In addition, she established a parenting column in the college paper, The Banner, and covered such issues as pregnancy and birth, student parents, working parents, and finance. She also started up a new magazine called "U," which covered a variety of topics ranging from college life to travel and health.

Ms. DeBello is a freelance writer specializing in health and community. She is currently working on a non-fiction book about her mother's life as a ward of the Willowbrook State School, 1955-1970.

Ms. DeBello currently works as a Start-Up and Support Broker for Consolidated Supports and Services (CSS), a Self-Directed Waiver Service for people with developmental disabilities through the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Self-Determination (SD) is an idea that came from people with developmental disabilities and their families who wanted more control over their supports and services. While SD can be achieved in many ways, one important way is through a new option offered by OMRDD.

It's about personal choice. People in OMRDD's Self-Determination Project decide, with friends and family, what they want to do. They identify the supports they will need. Together they decide who to interview and hire to assist them, and they provide training to those they hire. They arrange their own service schedules. This is often called self-directed services.

The Self-Determination Project is also about flexible funding. Individuals actively manage their own budget using a new waiver service called Consolidated Supports and Services (CSS). The person authorizes payment for the supports and services they've chosen. Participants agree to use their budgets safely and wisely, but they are in control.

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In addition, Ms. DeBello is a public speaker, who lectures on the topics of Willowbrook and disabilities. Discourses include clips from several films about Willowbrook, institutions and the mentally and physically handicapped. For more information about arranging a lecture, please contact Ms. DeBello at ava6205@yahoo.com