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The Haverhill STARS for Special Olympic training

 

COURTESY HAVERHILL STARLIGHT

 

HAVERHILL – On Tuesday March 2nd, STARS Director, Diane Fasulo presented Opportunity Works Haverhill with a Certificate of Excellence on behalf of all the STARS parents and family members. The parents had voted Opportunity Works as #1 for Excellence in the community for a vocational program.

The certificate reads: “STARS Presents this Achievement Award for Excellence at Opportunity Works on March 2, 2011 to Jane Harris-Fale, Executive Director, and Linda Long, Director. This award granted to Opportunity Works for outstanding performance in the field of Vocational Programs and Services for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. Their progressive programs and excellent administration have truly met the needs of parents and individuals in our community.”

The certificate just barely scratches the surface of the dedication and overall work that has gone into running and improving the programs over the past several years. Jane credits Diane with much of the success. “Really, we started from scratch. Diane and some of the families of kids that were turning 22 four years ago (the mandatory cut off age of public school programs for developmentally delayed students,) were looking for a program that could be worked on and developed in such a way that could be an individualized service for their sons and daughters. They took quite a bit time exploring options for their kids. At the time, we really didn’t offer that kind of service model. It was through working with Diane for a number of years to get us where we are at. Now we’re ever changing and evolving and growing as new students come into the program.”

Diane in turn praises Jane and the staff at Opportunity Works. “The administration is willing to put many man hours of work into making each individual successful in a progressive way. They were not just putting them into an existing program.”

Opportunity Works, located on Summer St. in Haverhill, provides a much needed venue of transition for students with developmental disabilities. Students transitioning from school based programs, such as the Teach program at St. James School, Haverhill, learn job and life skills to begin entering the work force and gaining independence.

Opportunity Works does this by offering several programs including, Employment Services in the community or facility based, Community Based Day Supports (CBDS,) Specialized Therapeutic Day Services, and Recreational Services. The programs are modified or designed for each individual with intensive services.

Opportunity Works is a 501c(3) non-profit organization that is ‘fully committed to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities by promoting a culture of dignity and respect and ensuring individualized services that maximize the independence of the people they serve.’ The organization was started in Newburyport in 1974 by area residents who were concerned about the lack of support services for adults with developmental disabilities and their

families. Since then, they have grown dramatically, and expanded into Haverhill in 1999 with Specialized Therapeutic Day Services.

Opportunity Works expanded further in 2006. They relocated and designed a new state-of-the-art facility to better serve the individuals and their developing programs. They now have a multitude of services in the Haverhill area. One program includes employment opportunities at local businesses such as Basilicato & Levesque CP, in North Andover, MA and LeBaron Bonney Co., in Amesbury. MA. LeBaron Bonney is a small company that manufactures antique automobile upholstery and tops for mail order all across the world. They employ 40 to 45 people and employ three or four participants from Opportunity Works Haverhill for light custodial duties.

Paul Case, an owner of LeBaron Bonney Co., says, “The Opportunity Works program is a win-win situation. We get a job done that we would have had a hard time finding someone to do. It also gives an individual with limited options a chance to come in and work and have some pride in their job. It’s really heartwarming to see smiles on

their faces when they arrive and are ready to perform their jobs. I think it’s a great thing.” Paul also mentioned that he uses Production Services from Opportunity Works in Newburyport for direct mailing and mail room duties in their Newburyport location.

What is work without play? Opportunity Works also organizes several recreational activities such bowling on Tuesdays at Pilgrim Lanes on Primrose St. in Haverhill. In addition, they have the Explores Club which meets once a month for various social recreational and cultural community activities such as movies, boating, sightseeing trips and visits to local festivals.

The Specialized Therapeutic Day Services specialize in working with people who have a wide-range of support needs. It has higher staff-to-person supported ratios to individuals with significant multiple disabilities that require ongoing and/or intensive medical needs. Services include clinical or medical supports, Alternative Therapies, Life Skills training, and other training geared towards increasing independence.

Their key program is the Community Based Day Supports (CBDS). The CBDS Program is a model designed for those individuals who desire services in addition to work. This program encourages self-determination by

empowering participants to select activities that are personally meaningful to them. Individuals select a broad range of daily activities that take place in a variety of community settings. Opportunity Works opened a CBDS Program in Haverhill in 2007. In addition to the CBDS model this program also provides intensive support to individuals with behavioral challenges. Using positive approaches, Staff teaches new skills to replace maladaptive behaviors.

Each approach is unique to individual need and aimed at enhancing all areas of a person’s life. The program’s goal is to support people in pursuing their dreams.

Just some of the activities offered are:

• Computer skills training.

• Volunteering opportunities at The Salvation Army, food banks, recycling, and Ruth’s House at Lafayette Square in Haverhill.

• Vocational development and training. In house jobs such as shredding, stocking coke machines, janitorial and subcontract work provided by local businesses.

• Transitioning planning with the Teach Program.

• Community social and recreational activities at the YMCA, and bowling, and shopping. Cooking and meal prep.

• Personal and social relationships- individuals have opportunities to

engage in activities to develop personal and social relationships through a variety of community activities.

• Exploration of individual interests including vocational, social and

recreation based on individual strengths and interests.

• Health and fitness is also part of the curriculum that includes activities designed to teach healthy lifestyles, choices and community activities involving health and fitness like walking, and exercise at the YMCA.

• Communication; several individuals require adaptive devices which is a communication resource that allows a person to select symbols, pictures, letters, words or phrases to generate oral communication.

Many of the individuals actually develop the ability to use natural speech through using the device.

The CBDS program is individualized and is developed through assessments of individual interests and strength and includes input from professional therapists including behavior, speech, occupational and physical therapists as well as nursing services.

For more information please visit OpportunityWorks.net. This story is provided by the Haverhill Starlight which is a local newspaper that servers the special needs community showcasing the Haverhill STARS. Many thanks to Jane and Linda at Opportunity Works for providing material for this article.

The Haverhill STARS are a local provider for Special Olympic training as a certified program.

Reprinted with permission from Haverhill Starlight (c) 2011

 

ValleyPatriot

ValleyPatriot

The Valley Patriot is a free monthly journal of news, commentary, and events, serving Northern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

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