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Program aims to build inclusive community

Inclusion group looks for new location and new approach

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 06:00 am

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How could St. Albert be more inclusive? (Posts from Facebook)

Knowing that I am able to take my child into an environment free of judgement and supportive of the challenges he may face being out, gives us more confidence to try new activities. Having a building in my community that was able to offer different inclusive activities would be a huge asset for our family and would mean that we could spend much more time here rather than seeking out appropriate activities in all different communities.
- Nicole Tersigni

A collaborative facility for programs with the common vision of supporting families and promote community connectedness aligns with the City of St. Albert Social Master Plan, and is just what our community needs.
- Kristi Schabert Rouse

My dream would be to have a local facility filled with businesses, agencies and organizations whose purpose was to espouse this philosophy in our community. We would then truly have a "city of inclusion" built on what matters to families.
- Jamie Gareau

A local program for behaviour and learning challenged children is looking for a new home.

They don’t want just any building, they are on a quest to make St. Albert an “inclusive city.”

“We’re looking to have a facility in this community that is for community, with programs for all kids and families,” said Sheila Chisholm, founder of the St. Albert based social inclusion group Infinite Resources Inc.

The organization runs music and art programs for children aged two to 17, who have disabilities ranging from autism to Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Infinite Resources is currently run out of Dynamyx Gymnastics Club but with a growing number of clients from all over the province – including Morinville, Gibbons, Spruce Grove, Sherwood Park, Smoky Lake and Leduc – they are bursting at the seams.

The goal is to create a “plugged-in community centre,” Chisholm explained, where families can access support groups, specialized programs for their kids and teens, hold birthday parties and receive training, all in one place.

The centre would not only house the offices of Infinite Resources, but ideally other services and non-profit programs for higher needs children.

“No one company can be all things to all people,” said Koreen Wegner, speech language pathologist with Innovative Intervention Services, a program that has partnered with Infinite Resources to create the community centre.

“It is about knowing the resources that exist in the broader community and about having the openness to partnering with those resources to provide the best care for the families we support and work with.”

Inclusive community

Chisholm said there are many local businesses and organizations that support an “inclusive approach” to teaching and learning, whereby the needs of each individual are embraced.

“We create programs that will give (kids) success in every community outing,” she said, adding that many programs run by Infinite Resources “pre-teach” children how to behave and embrace new experiences.

“If I have a parent that says, ‘My child won’t touch paint’, then by creating an art program for them and developing that love, they can then go into a community art program.”

“I want the community to be available to these kids,” she added.

Infinite Resources has worked with several local organizations including Tools for Kids, Mindful Movement, Qi Creative Inc, Grandin Theatre, gymnastics clubs, karate studios and the Enjoy Centre, to create environments tolerant of diversity.

Chisholm said she would like to see even more collaboration.

“I would love if all the service providers would sit down and say, ‘How do we work together’, instead of worrying about whose client is whose. Let’s create this big family of support and wherever the families fall, that’s where we’ll pick them up,” she said.

“We shape the environment to support all children, not shape the children to our environments.”

Community groups coming together to help families, made easily accessible in one building, is Chisholm’s vision.

It targets a problem in Canadian cities – absence of and lack of access to community supports – that was identified in the 2013 National Report Card on Inclusion of Canadians with Intellectual Disabilities.

“As eligibility criteria are tightened and waiting lists grow, parents report that accessing needed supports for their sons and daughters is becoming increasingly difficult,” it stated. “Increased investment is required of all levels of government to acknowledge and nurture the invaluable role played by families. Families require – and deserve – better, more flexible supports.”

New building

Chisholm said she would like to find a facility by September, but one of the difficulties is cost.

“We have found some great locations in St. Albert but rent is high, North Edmonton looks to be very viable and we would love to have this all happen in St. Albert,” Chisholm said in an email.

Infinite Resources is a business, not a non-profit.

“Being for community does not get the same kind of financial supports (and) sponsors as not-for-profits,” said Chisholm.

“If I were a not-for-profit, then we would go through the whole range of having a board, having different people … for me, I trust what I’m doing, I trust what my staff is doing and families like that.”

The organization is currently looking for the community’s help to raise funds of more than $75,000 and donations of manpower and equipment for specialized rooms.

For more information, call 780-886-9303 or email events@infiniteresources.ca.


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