The Story of WAVE
There are many people along the way who had some part in helping start the WAVE program. If we can help others by explaining our journey, we hope that similar programs for adults with autism can happen in other communities as well.
Several years ago, Eileen Rankin (aka “Warrior Mom”), the parent of a young man with autism, and Anne Villeneuve (aka “Teacher tired of seeing students fall off the cliff at age 21”) started planning for Eileen’s son Ben’s future once he finished high school.
We visited a number of day programs in the City of Ottawa suited to many differing abilities. Unfortunately, none were exactly what was needed for a young man with autism who has complex needs and yet many strengths, gifts and skills. We decided it was time to find someone who would work with us to create a new program, the type of program we envisioned that would not only be suitable for Ben, but for others with autism, a program that could be individualized for each unique person.
We started with the City of Ottawa, Parks and Recreation, Special Needs, and their Portfolio Manager, Donna Quiggen. We explained to Donna what we were looking for and why, in hopes she and the City would be willing to work with us. Donna was very open to talking with us and she invited her colleague Dianne Cyr as well as Dovercourt Recreation Association, Program Director Kathleen Finn, to hear our ideas. This was the start of SCEL Central (Support Community Enhanced Learning) program. The timing was right and when all was said and done, Donna agreed to a pilot a therapeutic recreation program for adults with autism.
We now had a day program, but we knew from Anne’s long time experience teaching in a high school program for students with autism that we also needed a work experience component to program for those who like and benefit from working. In talking with Brenda Reisch of Children at Risk, we learned of a grant available to start a work experience program for adults with autism from Unity for Autism, a Toronto-based organization.
Over the next few weeks we worked on defining what a work component to the day program would look like, and tried to find a not-for-profit organization with whom we could partner to apply for the grant, and create and administer WAVE. That is when we remembered meeting Kathleen Finn from Dovercourt Recreation Association. She had been very interested in our ideas and stated her willingness to be involved. As we approached the deadline for the grant proposal, we gave Kathleen a call.
It was at our first meeting with Dovercourt staff Kathleen Finn and Mike Tait, Senior Director of Finance and Admin, that we were introduced to the “Anything is Possible” world of Dovercourt. We worked together on the grant proposal and Kathleen and Mike provided much expertise in producing a comprehensive and professional grant application to Unity for Autism.
Towards the end of December (2012), we received the tremendous news that our application for funding was accepted. By end of March, we had a therapeutic recreation day program — with a work experience component — and staff for both with the experience and skills to succeed.
Eileen and Anne are grateful to City staff Donna Quiggen, Diane Cyr and Christina McCormick, Accessible Transit Specialist Kathy Riley and staff of the Dovercourt Recreation Association, Kathleen Finn, Mike Tait and John Rapp for listening to their ideas and hopes, and for working with them to create (in record time) a program to serve the needs of adults with autism.
Now, as Eileen’s son Ben would say, “Sit back and enjoy the ride”.