Adult Enrichment Center first of its kind in Sudbury
Whitcher was born with a rare form of the autism spectrum disorder. He was non-verbal for much of his childhood and has since required one-on-one support to continue his development.
But when Whitcher became an adult, he no longer qualified for educational support from the province, and had to add his name to Developmental Services of Ontario's long wait list – with 192 people in Greater Sudbury at last count – for the Passport program, which helps adults with developmental disabilities participate in their communities.
Whitcher's sister, Jenna Whitcher, a special education teacher, has gotten involved with a new project that should reduce the Passport program wait list in Sudbury, and provide adults with developmental disabilities a place to learn and grow.
The Adult Enrichment Center is set to open in June, at 1895 Lasalle Blvd.
Joanne Bouchard, the centre's director, was inspired to create a space for adults with developmental disabilities when she started working with Cody in September 2013.
“Cody inspired me more than anything,” she said. “There's a huge demand for this in the community.”
Cody's father is a widower and must work to support his family, which makes it difficult for him to provide his son with the full-time care he requires.
Bouchard will launch the centre without government support, but said she is confident it will fill an important need in the community. The Adult Enrichment Center will be the first privately financed service of its kind in Northern Ontario, Bouchard said.
The centre will be able to accommodate 45 clients, most of whom will be able to access a full slate of programing through financial support from Developmental Services of Ontario and the Passport program.
The provincial government recently announced its plans to eliminate the wait list for 21,000 Ontarians with developmental disabilities who do not have access to day programs like those the Adult Enrichment Center will offer.
Through an $810-million investment over three years, the province plans to increase its $1.7-billion developmental services budget to more than $2 billion by 2016.
There are an estimated 62,000 adults with developmental disabilities in Ontario, and more than 15,000 are supported through the Passport direct funding program.
The Adult Enrichment Center will run programing Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Bouchard said the programs will be tailored to the participants, who each have individual needs, but will offer everything from courses on personal hygiene, to personal finances and grocery shopping.
Two Fridays each month, the centre will also host family relief nights, to allow clients' loved ones and caregivers to socialize and relax with them.
Bouchard said she already has plans to expand to a second location in Sudbury's south end, later in the year.
“There has been an overwhelming response to our services,” she said.