Support for children with developmental disabilities

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February 10, 2015 9:07 AM

After serving the community for 60 years, the Lloydminster Association for Community Living (LACL) is changing its brand. Inclusion Lloydminster will be the new moniker for the organization, but its goals and objectives will remain the same.

Since 1954 the group has evolved and now focuses on ensuring families with children who have developmental disabilities get the opportunity to consider what a good life looks like for their loved ones.

“We focus on everything from supporting inclusion in daycares, to early learning centres, to the education system (and) recreation,” said Sherri Husch Foote, who works in leadership support for the group. “Making sure that families have the support that they need in terms of respite and child care support, as well as supporting families to think about career development.”

The organization was started by a group of parents and community members who wanted to make sure that families with children who had developmental disabilities got to stay together as families. In the 1950s, families were largely encouraged to have their kids institutionalized in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

There were many families who didn’t want to give their children up, so they banded together to think of what was needed in the community to make sure there were supports and opportunities so they could stay together as a family.

“For the first couple of decades, the families really focused on how could they prove that it was the right decision for their son or daughter to not live in an institution,” said Husch Foote. “So they did things like established Parkland School. They established a segregated school in order to prove that students with developmental disabilities were in fact learners.”

She said before that time it was thought that children with developmental disabilities weren’t able to learn and shouldn’t be included in traditional schools. After opening Parkland School they also established the Bea Fisher Centre and Lloydminster Early Intervention, the latter of which is now Midwest Family Connections.

“Lloydminster Early Intervention was established so that families of young children were supported to be able to access local services and supports. As they did that community development work in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they also worked to close Parkland School,” said Husch Foote. “Once they were able to make the case for students being able to attend school, and that they were in fact learners, they wanted to ensure we’d progressed. They worked to close the school and all students became part of their neighbourhood’s schools.”

Paul Forges, who has been using the groups services for years, also likes how they bring people together and give families a sense of community.

“We’ve been in Lloyd for over 10 years now, so when we first came here, it wasn’t long before that our daughter was diagnosed with autism, and we felt kind of segregated from society. We wanted to connect with people out here and it was a great way,” he said.

The group helped him find supports for his daughter through schools and by offering respites. He feels it’s important to stay connected with other families, to swap stories, share successes and to let each other know they are not alone.

“Sometimes when your child is diagnosed with a disability, we don’t want it to be limiting. And by connecting with other people in the community it kind of gives you that empowerment to share successes and sometimes to be an advocate to get more support.”

For people looking to connect with Inclusion Lloydminster they can be reached at 306-825-5911.

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