Easter Seals Southwest Florida is reaching around the globe for designs and ideas that address issues facing teens with disabilities in new and innovative ways.
Dr. Kameron Partridge, Vice President of Programs and Services, is a developmental psychologist who is leading the organization in an effort to open discussion and thinking to a wider audience.
"All teens face a transition period to adulthood," says Partridge. "Teens with disabilities face those same challenges plus additional issues related to their disability." Partridge provided the framework for DesignMatters2, an international design competition, intentionally leaving it "wide open" to creative thinking. "We specified only that the entries must address one or more areas such as accessibility, space, sensory awareness, enhancing learning, flexibility and adaptability, health and well-being, safety and security, technology, and sustainability."
Teens with disabilities may need special programming, materials, personnel or equipment. Easter Seals operates a VIP Academy for teens with disabilities, responding to the School Board's request for specialized programs for ESE students whose needs extend beyond the school system's resources.
"We began have 40 students," says Academy director, Don Herndon. "Each has his or her own hopes, dreams, abilities and challenges." The program is growing rapidly, underscoring the need to continue to expand and improve techniques, facilities and services.
The VIP Academy offers individual plans for students in addition to a traditional classroom setting. Students participate in coursework, computer lab, field trips, fitness, and social skills training. The Class of 2010 proudly boasts five graduates who were thrilled to have Manatee County School Superintendent Tim McGonegal as their keynote speaker.
Easter Seals, as part of its strategic planning process, is seeking new and innovative ways to transform the ways in which teens experience the world.
DesignMatters2, an international design competition, is one such initiative, and the first of its kind. "To date, we have 55 registrants from 23 countries including the United States," says President and CEO Ladd Waldo. "This is exciting to us and we look forward to seeing what ideas come from around the world." Registration for the competition is available online at www.designmatters2.com and is open until February 28, 2011.
The impetus for the competition, according to Waldo, is to find the best possible approaches to addressing the challenges teens with disability face in all aspects of life, education in particular. "They face the same self esteem issues that all teens face. They are transitioning from childhood to adulthood," Partridge states. "These are the educational years when they will need all the capacities and abilities they can develop to lead their lives to their fullest potential."
Easter Seals is an international brand with a strong local presence. We are committed to being a leader in services and programs that empower individuals with disabilities and their families. Over the years our services have grown to extend throughout the lifespan and include therapies, activities and opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to reach their fullest potential. For more information about Easter Seals and its VIP Academy, please visit the organization's website at www.easterseals-swfl.org
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