Celebrating its first anniversary, a program for developmentally disabled individuals, ensures for them, continued learning and growing “Beyond 21.”
When Patricia Humphries’ daughter, Emma, was turning 18 and nearing the end of school, the concerned mother began looking towards a future for her, and found that it was bleak. Realizing how grim the situation was for many families like hers, she enlisted other concerned parents and began a grass roots group which would soon greatly improve their children’s future. In one year, Beyond 21 (named so because it is the age where schooling for the developmentally disabled ends), has grown to 16 participants and two full-time program facilitators. “It’s been tremendous,” says Humphries, now the president of board of directors. “It’s just given Emma such quality of life. She wakes up in the morning and (signs for day program.) It gives them peer interaction. They are out in the community doing different activities.” We noticed that there was a gap after the age of 21, said Shannon Savard, special education teacher, and secretary of the board. “Students graduating from Kinsmen were going home with their families, but not having a lot of interaction with community members and peers.” She goes on to explain that in high school, they have each other, their teachers and peer helpers, but after graduation their social circle goes from approximately 30 people to just 5 or 10 family members. She said that although there are programs already in place in the area, they have a waiting list. The focus is on life, social skills and community integration and involvement, said Savard. “We are all about inclusion in the community.” Participants go bowling and swimming, have planned luncheons and do groceries among other activities, including baking for the Healthy Eating for Better Living snack programs in elementary schools. It’s amazing, people have noticed, (Emma’s) just booming, said Humphries. I can’t say enough about it. All the participants have shown progress.” For Marcel Levac, of Green Valley, whose son, Jean, 33, has attended since the beginning, the benefits of the program are many. He’s learned to communicate and share the way he hadn’t before, explained Levac. He says that the program has help with Jean’s writing and now he leaves his parents a note every morning. Even his eating habits have improved. “He eats lot of stuff he wouldn’t eat before. It gives him motivation to get up in the morning.” Presently funded by the Upper Canada Leger Centre, which provided their start-up funds, the group is now in the process of looking for further funding. They will be launching their Penny Campaign, beginning February 1st, hoping the community will donate their pennies. Jars will be provided at local grocery stores, convenience stores, diners, restaurants, among others. Beyond 21 is always open to any contribution, whether it be volunteer time, donations of funds, craft supplies or technology. “Our next big dream is to purchase IPads for the program, added Humphries.” For further information or to make a donation, contact the Upper Canada Leger Centre at 613-933-5505 or visit www.uclc.ca, click the Beyond 21 link, or you can also contact Patricia Humphries at 613-551-5740 or email email@example.com.