A Letter to Unity for Autism
It has been 2 years since I wrote my first letter of thanks to Unity for Autism.
This letter is to let you know that our dream of a work and volunteer experience program for adults with autism did come true and continues to grow thanks to the continued support of Unity for Autism.
The next year I returned to work but whenever I am feeling slightly down or frustrated all I have to do is go and visit the WAVE program at Dovercourt to fill my heart with all the happiness I require until my next visit.
So many changes have happened over the last two years due to direction from apprentices, parents and the autism community to make WAVE a place to learn, grow and dream for many different individuals with autism.
What began as a small group of job coaches taking out individuals with autism to work and volunteer has become three very different and separate programs. A program for apprentices with high needs who would always require staff support; a second program for apprentices who can with the right training and support find the right place to volunteer or work; and a third program for apprentices who need just a little support following college or finding jobs with the perfect employer. And although these programs are separate the ability to graduate from one program to the next has occurred over the months. One young man has even graduated from the third program to become back up staff for the other programs!
The job opportunities are creative and suited to each unique individual. From working at a Reptile Zoo to a Customer Support Service Desk at a City of Ottawa facility the successes are endless.
The apprentices in all 3 groups have helped design the programs and input from them is always gathered. In the most recent questionnaire several of the group mentioned that they wanted to increase self-esteem and self-confidence so now have embarked on “100 days of Happiness”.
Dovercourt as an organization has been so supportive, accepting and flexible. All of the staff at WAVE are incredible – I couldn’t ask for anyone better.
So what is next? My original hopes would be that I would always have a place for my graduates to go after high school but WAVE at Dovercourt is now full. And again thanks to Unity for Autism we have now received a grant that will enable us to share what Dovercourt has been able to create with WAVE Ottawa. Following this we hope other organizations in Ottawa and across Canada will replicate the program.
So the rides continues…..
Dear Unity for Autism,
When I first went to your website, I saw this quote: “Just think of something that would be wonderful if it were only possible. Then set out to make it possible.”
We took your suggestion to heart and used it in planning Work and Volunteer Experience or “W.A.V.E.” A parent of one of my students, Eileen (a.k.a. Warrior Mom) and I began meeting with various groups to make our dream of a program of work and volunteer experience for adults with autism come true. We found our way to Kathleen Finn and Mike Tait of Dovercourt Community Centre, who strongly believed in our idea and were keen to help in any way possible. With their help, we forwarded our application to you, at Unity for Autism and waited with fingers crossed.
For us, Father Christmas came early in 2012: On December 17th we learned that you had approved our grant application! When I phoned Liz at Unity for Autism to thank her and when she said, “Oh are you with W.A.V.E.?” it kind of sunk in – our wonderful dream had come true!
A few years ago, Eileen and I started visiting day programs for adults with autism. After our first visit, Eileen burst into tears at what was offered for her son’s future (and often at $15o.oo a day). It has been a long journey from that day but now, with your help, this story has a very happy ending. Your generous grant will make a very big difference in the life of Eileen’s son and in the lives of sons and daughters of many other families as well. Here is a picture of Eileen and her son Ben, who will so greatly benefit from W.A.V.E. THANK YOU!
Anne Villeneuve, Special Education Teacher, Autism Program, Ottawa