In the early 1970s, the expectations for the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities were low. A group of local parents banded together to educate physicians about interacting with families affected by disabilities.

This support group was known as Parent’s Information Group for Exceptional Children. In 1976, the organization was officially incorporated and two years later the group established its first direct services program. “Take a Break” was a respite program for children with developmental disabilities and their siblings. We still offer this service today. 

Referral services were formalized and an adult social/recreation program was established to help ease the isolation of adults with developmental disabilities. During this time, we hired our first Executive Director and changed our name to Exceptional Family Resources.

When Medicaid waiver funding opened up new ways to provide services we hired our first service coordinator.  We then expanded our services to include Senior Outreach, Educational Advocacy, Residential Habilitation, and parent support in Cayuga, Madison, Oswego, and Cortland counties.

In 2022, EFR merged with Onondaga Community Living, an agency with similar services, values, and missions. OCL had been helping persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1987 with the same humble beginnings as EFR. OCL was the first “person-centered” service provider and was recognized internationally for breaking the mold of choices for people with disabilities. The successful book One Person at A Time was written about the nonprofit’s experiences and published by the Training Resource Network in 2001. It remains available here.

Located on Syracuse’s North Side, EFR is now represented by a staff of over 600 employees who provide direct care and office support. Our services have expanded to include 15 programs across four departments, which continue to provide services to consumers and their families.  In addition, EFR remains a leader in the developmental disabilities community as it responds to new opportunities presented by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.