Stratford Skills Series - New Skills, New Friends

Stratford Skills Series offers new opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and autism


By Laura Cudworth, The Beacon Herald
Thursday, November 3, 2016 10:20:44 EDT AM Photo Credit: LAURA CUDWORTH/The Beacon Herald

When high school ends, people with developmental disabilities and autism often find their social life comes to an abrupt end too.

To help fill that gap, PF Solutions started Stratford Skills Series in September modelled after a successful program operating in the Sarnia-Lambton area. The emphasis is on learning new skills while having fun. But it’s the opportunity to spend time with peers that has proven to be one of the most important benefits of the program.

“This group has really melded together. They’re really excited to see each other,” said Susan Faber, manager of PF Solutions.

Alice O’Connor was browsing the internet one afternoon when she found information about the program. It sounded perfect for her son Colin. She looked into it further and signed him up the next day.

“He gets up in the morning ready to be here, he checks the binder for the activities of the day and he comes home smiling,” she said. “I know he’s safe, so we’re good.”

“Once they leave school they don’t have that anymore. Here they get to connect again and make friends again.”

Susan McNamara’s son Nic enjoys it too. She appreciates that he is learning a variety of skills, but she stressed the time spent with peers is the most valuable aspect of the program.

“It’s nice to know he has something he can do to be independent of us,” McNamara said.

Some of the activities include community outings, cooking, games, exercise and movement, music, arts and crafts, stress management and dance.

The activities usually have a theme, like the group’s baking of pumpkin-spice cupcakes recently.

The program also brings in guests from the community like police officers, a dog groomer and bus driver.

“Our goal is to provide each person with a structured and consistent environment that stimulates the mind, body and soul and is dedicated to continuous skill building,” said Deborah Comeau, Skills Series coordinator.

Because the groups are capped at eight participants, the programs can be adapted to meet the needs and interests of the individuals.

When there’s a birthday, that person decides what the activities will be that day and what restaurant to visit for lunch, Comeau said.

When the program started the plan was to run it for eight weeks. The participants and their families like it so much it will run all year.

Everyone in the Skills Series is in their 20s but it’s open to all ages.

“It would be fun for any age,” Faber said.

Participants attend the program once a week. There are a couple of spots available on Tuesdays and there are four spots open on Wednesdays. The program runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The cost is $60 a day with an additional monthly cost of $50.

The program is open to anyone 18 years old or older who lives in Perth, Huron, Middlesex and Oxford counties and the Region of Waterloo. The classes are held in the United Centre above the United Way Perth-Huron offices.

To visit the program or meet the coordinator call PF Solutions at 519-271-2978.

Read the article on The Beacon Herald website

Email Laura Cudworth