IMG_0570Doug Smith

The Personal Development Program (PD) offers activities that promote social development, life skills, creativity, community involvement and recreation. One of the key characteristics of the Program is its flexibility. “It’s important that we remain flexible in order to provide the activities that are of interest to people and help them achieve their personal goals, says Liz Deschenes, Program Manager.

Often, PD prepares young adults of 19+ years to move forward after they graduate from High School. The Program can be a stepping stone to other SHS programs such as Employment Training and Support (ETS) and Customized Employment (CE) and to eventually obtaining regular employment.

Liz expresses, “We’re very person-centered. We sit down regularly with each participant to set up goals designed at meeting the aspirations of the individual. Several people have chosen to attend both PD and ETS. Some participants with part-time jobs still like to attend the Program as a way to socialize with their friends.”

With the school system allowing attendance and families working together, society has evolved since the de-institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities. The integration has provided more opportunities and has raised the bar for people, creating a new generation of adults who are goal driven and committed to live life to the fullest.

“Some of the older group have previously experienced the institutions and sheltered workshops and, as a result, their expectations are very different from the newer generation of participants,” says Liz. “The young adults joining the program have bigger hopes and dreams. They want the same opportunities, jobs, get married, have a home… There’s still much work to be done, but the entire society is evolving. People with developmental disabilities expect more of themselves and more is expected of them.”

PD has a staff of 35 regular and 10 casual employees and 8 volunteers to support 90 people between 19 and 69 years of age. The Program is offered from Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. all year around except for statutory holidays and one week at Christmas time.

When asked about the qualities a person requires to be working at PD, Liz explains, “Creativity and flexibility are the best characteristics of a PD worker. It’s also critical that they demonstrate enthusiasm, high energy and a sense of adventure. They also need to be fun, chatty and person centered. Those qualities are important because they fit best with our program culture and, more importantly, are well received by the team and participants.”

By Louise Tremblay, The Semiahmoo Foundation

Semiahmoo House Society, a non-profit organization located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to provide quality services and supports to people with disabilities and their families in the community. 

The Semiahmoo Foundation, located in Surrey/White Rock, exists to fund, support and enhance the programs and services delivered by Semiahmoo House Society.

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