This is the third in a series of articles that will explore the nature of developmental disability, its impact on our community and the resources available. Wendy Dyck is a freelance writer working in the Comox Valley since 2001. She is also an editor with seven books, both fiction and non-fiction, to her credit.
What kind of resources does our community provide for people with developmental disabilities? There are day programs, vocational training opportunities, special recreational offerings, social networking services – all this in addition to the many caregivers who work one-on-one with individuals in home settings.
So the short answer is: lots – but getting into them can be expensive unless you qualify for government funding.
The government body mandated to fund many of these services is called Community Living BC (CLBC). To receive CLBC support, an individual must take tests to determine degree of disability, a process that can take many months and sometimes more than a year.
Day programs are the meat and potatoes on the menu if you are a person with a developmental disability. Most are businesses, run from nine to three, each with their own particular flavour – some, like Journey and the Bridges program, focus on vocational training. Satori Lifestyle Resources and Community Options have recreational and craft offerings.
The Outreach and Creative Arts Centre run by L’Arche Comox Valley provides artistic activities to build self-confidence and social skills. Do you like animals and gardens? Harvest Home Farm Day Program offers animal husbandry, therapeutic riding and gardening activities. Quest Personal Development program focuses on skills for independence. And while most programs list the development of relationships among their goals, Building Friendships, the Friendship Project and More than Inclusion run by L’Arche have this as their primary aim, fostering connections between individuals with and without disabilities in the wider community.
Local recreational and educational facilities have also stepped up to the plate: School District 71’s efforts were pioneering in the field, and everyone recognizes the amazing contribution that the Child Development Association makes. Programs like North Island College’s Adult Special Education and Lewis Centre’s Special Needs Program extend opportunities beyond Grade 12.
But for a variety of reasons, many programs have a high ratio of clients to support workers. This has a huge impact on their effectiveness, especially when you consider that matching activity to the needs and goals of individual clients is the single greatest challenge for service providers.
So, while there is much to be applauded, there is also much to think about.
Another major critique is that most of these programs exist in a parallel universe that is not really integrated into our community. How many folks with a developmental disability would you count among your circle of friends? How many do you see in your workplace?
Authentic relationships are organic – they happen because we’re thrown together and discover we like each other.
Unless there are places where adults with developmental disabilities are ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the broader community, the dream of an inclusive society will remain just that, a dream.