Program helps youth with special needs in community

The Quesnel Youth In Action program is in its second year of operation, providing social enhancement for youth with special needs

The Quesnel Youth In Action licenced after school program is in its second year of operation, providing social enhancement for youth with special needs, not special needs youth – and yes, there’s a difference – because the diagnosis does not define the person.

“This is the second year it’s run and it started because one of our board members has a teenage son with special needs and it’s tough when they turn 12,” behavioural interventionist Erin Savard said.

“There’s nowhere for them to go. They’re not allowed to go to daycare anymore.”

For youth between the ages of 11 and 19, there’s the new option of  Youth in Action licenced after school program, which specializes in social enhancement for the youth.

“Most youth in the program have been diagnosed with special needs,” Savard said.

“There would be a reason you want your child in this program.”

This program is specifically designed for youth with special needs however, Savard said, there could be a role for youth without special needs.

“If any youth without special needs wanted to join the program, they would need to take on more of a mentor role,” she explained.

“It would be nice to be learning from a peer.”

The program has helped provide specific skills for them to use in everyday life outside the program.

“We play games with counting, cash handling and we go for a lot of walks,” Savard said.

Additionally, the program offers crafts, help with homework and snacks, which the attendees help choose and prepare.

Since this is the first program of its kind in the province, Savard said the program has been an example for others in British Columbia.

“We’re trailblazers. We’ve had people around the province call and ask for help,” she explained.

“The program has taken a long time to get up and running and we’re still ironing out the wrinkles.

“It’s a big deal and took a lot of brainpower.”

Before the program was established, Savard explained parents only had one option.

 

“Families with special needs youth would have to hire someone for one-

on-one help,” she said.

 

The program is similar to an at-home session, however, it integrates a needed social aspect.

The program also provides assistance to youth with special needs who can’t always go places alone.

“When you have special needs, you can’t just go on the bus and go to the swimming pool,” Savard said.

 

The program runs Monday to Friday, with the exception of school breaks and

Pro D days, from 2:45 – 5:30 p.m. with some flexibility allowed within the program.

 

The youth meet in room 106 at Quesnel Junior High School, 585 Callanan St.

 

The cost is $18 per day and to register, call Savard, 250-991-2415 or the Quesnel Child Development Centre, 250-992-2481.