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ALL IN THE FAMILY: South Region Family Fairs Connect Families with Providers and Services

ALL IN THE FAMILY: South Region Family Fairs Connect Families with Providers and Services
By John D. Allen, South Region Helpline Case Manager
People at fairThe Department of Developmental Services (DDS) South Region recently hosted two Winter Family Fairs at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich and at the North Branford Intermediate School, in North Branford. With the help of the Family Support Network, each event was attended by more than 40 providers and over 200 participants.

Families were eager to learn about what options are available when their child is between 18 and 21-years-old. Providers supplied information about their services and DDS staff was on hand to speak with families about their unique circumstances.

Dave Lawson, and his wife Marie, are the parents of a 19-year- old son and were looking for day programs. Their son attends the North Branford School-to-Work Life Skills Program through the North Branford School System located in the town’s community center.

“You are always looking for resources for your child, as a parent and as their advocate,” said Mr.  Lawson, who works as the Branch Manager for Allied Building Products of Bridgeport, and is a strong family advocate for his son.

Mr. Lawson said he appreciated being able to network with other parents and businesses from throughout the region.

“The big things for us here are to look for recreation, employment and soon to be residential opportunities,” he said. “That’s why these forums are so important, especially for all of the networking—networking with other parents, agencies and professionals in the community. And even if someone here can’t help you at that moment, they are usually able to point you in another direction or you can hang onto their information for a later time. There is almost too much stuff.”

Gloria DelMonte, SR-DDS Education Advisor, attended both events and said the fairs provided a great opportunity to network.

People at fair“At each location, there was a good mix of parents, agencies, schools and consumers,” said Ms. DelMonte, who was especially impressed with the various companies showcasing the latest technological developments in the field.

“I can see how the assistive technology would be good for group homes, our consumers, and family members,” she said. “Even something routine like an automated medication reminder could help our people live a more independent life.”

Barbara Poplawski, SR-DDS Education Advisor commented on the number of attendees and agencies that came to both fairs.

“A few of the parents whose children are aging out found it helpful to have a variety of agencies to compare at once and see how their child could be served,” said Ms. Poplawski while surveying the rush at the start time in North Branford. “One mother was very interested in the assistive technology. She said that it would give her son more independence and was surprised to find that not all assistive technology is expensive.”

Ms. Poplawski said the parent suggested that while some of the technology had a modest cost, these devices could have a tremendous impact on their quality of life.

Mr. Lawson added that most parents attended the fairs to try to educate themselves about just what was available in the community. He was particularly focused on the day and recreation opportunities so that his son did not just come home after school to sit on the couch or only play on his computer.

“We want him engaged in the community, making friends and preparing himself for the future,” he said.
Pepole talking at fair        Woman standing with posters at fair