Most people in the Valley recognize the Comox Valley Child Development Association as a multi-purpose service for children with developmental disabilities, and while that is the main function of the association, it offers assistance for people of all ages.
Some of the Comox Valley’s important support groups also fall under the CVCDA umbrella.
From parents of premature babies, to grandparents who find themselves back in the parental circles, the CVCDA is about much more than children.
Preemie Support Group
This group hosted by the Comox Valley Child Development Association provides support and guidance to the families of babies born prematurely (preemies).
“Right now, there’s a big demand for the preemie group,” said CVCDA executive director, Joanne Schroeder. “We can never really understand why there are times where there’s a little bit of an influx of babies that are born premature, but that … seems to be the case province-wide right now.
“This is a fantastic group. If you have a premature baby, you are just more aware of germs, and those kinds of things, which means you might not necessarily want to take your child out into a regular everyday group, because they are just more vulnerable. Plus, it’s the peer support, with other parents… who have had premature babies.”
Under the Preemie Support Group umbrella, the CVCDA also offers in-home consultations.
“One of our infant development consultants will go to their house and listen to any questions or concerns they have, and will continue to go back and monitor, as the child grows,” said Schroeder.
Michele Walls, an infant development consultant with the CVCDA, can be contacted for more information on the Preemie Support Group. Her contact number is 250-338-4288 ext 222.
Autism Parents Support Group
This a support group for families in the community who have children or young adults within the autism spectrum.
The group offers monthly meetings with a community of parents who mentor and share their experiences. Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month at the CFD offices at 237 Third St. in Courtenay.
For more details on this group, contact the CVCDA (250-338-4288) or visit the website at comoxvalleyautismsupportgroup.com
Adult support groups
The CVCDA has a few adult groups, offering a range of supports, from friendship and peer activities, to preparation for independent living.
The majority of the adult programs were created as the CVCDA evolved within the community
“Mostly those are individuals who have grown up in the Child Development Association and have not wanted to leave the services here, so their families have asked us to develop adult services so they can stay under this umbrella,” explained Schroeder.
That said, adults do not have to be “graduates” of other CVCDA programs.
The adults taking advantage of these programs range in developmental delay conditions.
“We offer all the basic life skills, work skills, social skills, all the necessities to look after yourself,” said Schroeder. “But the neatest thing is the closeness amongst each other. They are all very supportive of each other.”
Project Inclusion is a daily drop-in program, with approximately 12 members, currently.
Wendy Hawksworth has been the program co-ordinator since the beginning of the project, nine years ago.
“We stared as a youth project, as we were all a little bit younger when it started,” she said, surrounded by PI participants – about half of whom have been in the program for the entire nine years.
“We come back because we all love her,” said Noella Rousseau, a long-time participant.
Project Inclusion is a transition program, teaching life and social skills.
“Almost everybody here has paid employment, since they started Project Inclusion,” said Hawksworth. “We’ve got Erin, who works in a preschool; Amy works here; Noella works at Cornerstone, Cory does public speaking about augmented forms of communication. Kevin just got a job at Boston Pizza.”
The group has numerous travel trips, including jaunts to Victoria, camping weekends, and attendance at the annual BC Association for Community Living conference every year in Vancouver.
For more info on Project Inclusion, contact Hawksworth 250-897-5758, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Friendship Project is an evening and weekend program, where those with and without developmental challenges gather to spend quality time together.
“It really is about inclusivity – having people with disabilities be included in the broader community,” said Schroeder.
The Friendship Project was in hiatus for a couple of years but resurfaced in the spring of 2017.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
This is a supportive group for grandparents temporarily or permanently raising their grandchildren.
“This is a fantastic program that was just driven by a need – by us becoming more aware of the [phenomenon],” said Schroeder. “They get together weekly and they provide support to each other.
“It’s typically a very complicated situation when grandparents are raising grandchildren, because there’s usually a good reason why the parents are not raising their own children … complicated issues. Then there’s the whole thing about most of your friends are out playing golf, or doing nice retirement things, while you are taking your seven-year-old grandchild to elementary school every day and how you are kind of a fish out of water in that sense.”
Having support from others facing the same challenges is the foundation for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.
For more information on this group, contact Lee Bjarnason 250-338-4288, ext. 223.
Sibling Support Group
New to the CVCDA is a Sibling Support Group, for the brothers and sisters of children already receiving services.
“We did an after-school group, just to talk about what it was like to have a brother or a sister with a disability, and how it impacted on these kids,” said Schroeder. “It was the first time trying it, but it was very successful. The kids that came are really keen to keep it going.”
The pilot group was for children aged 7-10, but Schroeder said based on its success, the CVCDA may introduce a similar group for older siblings in the new year.
The CVCDA helps more than 1,000 families in the Comox Valley every year, and has a “top-light” staff of 70; more than 60 of which deal directly with the clientele, in therapeutic fashions.
“It’s a very lean organization, administratively speaking,” said Schroeder.
The 42 annual Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon takes place Sunday, Nov. 5, noon to 8 p.m. at the Sid Williams Theatre.