Advocacy Volunteers Sought For Developmentally Disabled

Advertisement

When instructor Janie Wright stepped out of the Arizona Mentor's van on Wednesday morning she twisted her ankle.

Developmentally disabled clients Bob, Lori, Robbi and Chris were concerned, but the staff of Arizona Mentor made the ankle-wrenching experience a learning opportunity.

"We turned it into a lesson about proper first aid and care," Heather Godfrey, a lead instructional staff member said. "We talked about cleaning -- cleansing our hands and wearing gloves."

After washing up as instructed, the clients washed Wright's hurt ankle and wrapped it in a soft bandage.

Bob and Robbi elevated her leg and iced it.

"We made the cast material out of papier-mâché," Godfrey said. "The paste was a glue, flour and water mixture. The guys helped me mix it, shred all the paper and helped me put it on Janie."

Once dry, the client painted her cast. Wright hobbled around for the rest of the day until they took it off.

Opportunities to adjust lesson plans come often said Godfrey.

The papier-mâché to make the cast was available because the lesson plan for the day was Mt. Vesuvius.

Arizona Mentor, a network of community members who work with developmentally disabled individuals, is serving as the host site on Sept. 29, 2005 for the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.

photo

Horizon Human Services, another Rim Country outfit that cares for developmentally disabled residents, takes its charges bowling Mondays. Adam Ostrom uses a specially constructed bowling-ball ramp from his wheelchair.

The council operates on a five-year plan and is recruiting volunteers to work on regional councils called developmental disabled districts or DDDs, which are not affiliated with political districts.

Payson is part of DDD5 and has been without a coordinator for more than a year.

Jason Geroux was hired in July to recruit members and rebuild the council in DDD5. The various councils will be instrumental in planning the next five years of federally funded programming in Arizona.

"This is a good chance for people to voice their needs," Geroux said. "We are looking for volunteers who are willing to serve as voices in the communities they are located in.

"We want to be a microcosm of the state council. It has 20-25 people on it. We would like it to mirror the same image, meaning that at least 60 percent of the people on the council will be people with disabilities or their family members."

The council itself is a federally funded program that was put in place to help meet the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

A council member's time commitment includes attending quarterly, and possibly monthly meetings. They will be responsible for communicating the topics of the meeting back to their communities said Geroux.

"I know that in many of the rural areas in my district there is concern about the educational facilities, with general advocacy awareness -- knowing what the disabled are entitled to and how to get it to them," Geroux said. "I know that there are issues with transportation -- accommodation between individuals and facilities. Accessible housing is always an issue."

photo

Jason Geroux, District 5 coordinator for the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.

His goal is to be the primary point of contact for any individual or family in DDD5. From there, he will connect them with a person or an organization, or Geroux will facilitate different types of educational workshops.

The federal definition of developmental disability is any disability starting before age 22, affecting three or more functional areas of a person's life, Geroux explained.

For instance, a 15-year-old who became a quadriplegic in a car accident would fall under the federal definition, and so would cognitive disabilities like mental retardation and autism.

The state of Arizona, however, operates under a more narrow definition of developmental disabilities: autism, epilepsy, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.

Geroux said the council's website -- www.azgcdd.org -- is probably the best comprehensive resource for navigating the government's entitlement system. Geroux also recommended the Arizona Center for Disability Law's website: www.acdl.com. ACDL's special education training and hotline is (800) 927-2260.

Those interested in serving on the council or for more information can reach Geroux at (520) 820-2589 or jason@azgcdd.org.

The Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities' community forum will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29 at Arizona Mentor, 634 N. Beeline Highway, Payson.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.