BY TERRY SCHENKEL
Many families are aware of the Family Support and Advocacy program offered by the Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA) but there are some who have no idea we exist or what the program offers.
However, once the family gets connected with a family support worker and realize there are available resources for their child, their usual reaction is, “If I had connected with you even earlier, our journey would be much easier. Thank you so much!”
So, how and when would a family member benefit from the Family Support and Advocacy program?
- At times of transition in their child’s life like preschool to kindergarten, elementary to high school, high school to college. Sandy was thankful for family support during the transition of her young son with severe autism from private school to public school. We helped her to connect with professionals at the Vancouver School Board (VSB), accompanied her to meetings at the school, and made sure that her concerns were heard.
- When they need to advocate for services or financial assistance. Janet asked for help advocating for more support for her son with autism at school. She was referred to the right people at the VSB and we helped her to write a request to them. We supported her to be a strong advocate for her son. She feels proud of herself for what she is doing for her child.
- When they need to understand the school system, Community Living British Columbia, Ministry of Children and Family Development and Vancouver Coastal Health. Sam was relieved when we informed him that he is going to be involved in his daughter’s Individual Educational Plan team. We gave support by accompanying him to IEP meetings.
- Connecting them to other community support services for day-to-day needs. Linda was concerned about her six-year-old daughter’s development and wondered about a possible diagnosis of autism. The family support worker referred her to Sunny Hill team for diagnostic assessment.
- When they want to connect with another family who understands what they are experiencing. Jill was thankful that we connected her with another mom who has a child with an intellectual disability and comes from the same region in the Middle East. Being an immigrant with the same language and culture and having a child with special needs was a few things the two of them have in common.
- When they want to suggest a workshop or speaker or learn about upcoming workshops. Parents at the Bollywood Maza parent support group were concerned with the transition of their children to high school, so we invited a special needs transition consultant and a resource teacher from the VSB to the parents’ group. The parents had an opportunity to ask questions and get first-hand information.
- When they feel alone or unheard in their efforts to advocate for their child. Jane has been a strong advocate for her young son with an intellectual disability. But dealing with mental health issues herself, there are times when she feels overwhelmed. During these times she would sort out the conflicting priorities with us because she feels that we hear and support her without judgement.
- Parent-to-Parent Support and Information groups in Vancouver and Richmond. “This is the only place that I don’t need to worry if my son (who has autism) is loud or is running in a circle … This is my break”, says one of our Vietnamese Family Support Group moms.
- Respitality Program. Parents who are members of DDA and whose children receive our services may enjoy a complimentary overnight stay at a local hotel. All they need to do is to organize care for their children for the night.
DDA’s Family Support and Advocacy service is free and no referral is needed. Just pick up the phone and dial 604-301-2831 for Michael, who supports families with children, or 604-233-5433 for Terry, who supports families with youth and adults.
The Developmental Disabilities Association is a nonprofit organization that began in 1952. Today, DDA offers more than 50 programs that support infants, children and adults diagnosed with a developmental disability and their families. DDA has a team located at at Kaslo Street and East 18th Avenue in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. Their Infant Development Program, children’s and adult respite program, Youth in Transition, Family Support and Advocacy and host family program are located here.
Terry Schenkel is the assistant director of family support services at the Developmental Disabilities Association.
Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News