A drop in center for people with disabilities? Conversation begins with Wednesday meeting

Tuesday January 29, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- As the mother of a teenage son with a disability, Julie Tamler often thinks about what her son's life will be like after high school.

Most parents of teenagers sometimes find themselves feeling anxious about the big world beyond the teenage years, but for the parent of a child with a disability there are a whole range of unknowns and challenges that lie beyond the 22nd birthday when most educational and social service supports expire.

Tamler, whose son is 16, thinks the greater Brattleboro area could support a drop in center for people with disabilities and so she wants to open a community conversation about starting such a center.

And that conversation is going to begin this week.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 4 p.m. at Brooks Memorial Library Tamler and other parents and supporters are holding a meeting to begin talking about starting a drop in center for people with disabilities.

Tamler understands there are a lot of questions and obstacles but she wants anyone within, or outside of, the disability community to come out to talk about what it might take to open a center in Brattleboro.

"Once these kids leave school there is very little for them to do," Tamler said. "People need stimulation. They need to continue their lives. I hope to create something that will round out my son's life."

There are about five or six families who have been talking about the idea, and Tamler says she hopes to bring more people into the conversation at the meeting Wednesday, and after it.

The University of Vermont Iteam supports disability programs across the state and the southeastern region education consultant, Craig Barringer, will be at the meeting Wednesday to help lead the discussion.

There are successful models for drop in centers in the region. Lifeart Community Resource Center in Keene, N.H., and Zack's Place in Woodstock are open to adults and children with disabilities and offer a range of programs and services.

After Wednesday's meeting Tamler said she hopes to visit the centers in Keene and Woodstock and find out more about how they started and how they are funded.

She also wants to talk with people at the Senior Center and at the Boys and Girls Club to find out how those centers started and how they are sustained.

Tamler knows there are a lot more questions to answer, and obstacles to overcome, before the drop in center opens its doors.

There are are options on how the programming would be developed, and where might be the best site for the center.

There are questions about how the center would be staffed, and, of course, how it would be funded.

Tamler wants the center to be free to all the participants and she envisions a place that has both scheduled programs, as well as open time for people to come in and socialize with others in the community. Maybe a large space, she says, with two classrooms, and an open schedule that allows people to come and go as their days allow.

"We want to create a positive supportive atmosphere where everyone is respected for who they are, whatever their talents and abilities," she said.

The center would be open and available for everyone, said Tamler, and she sees it as an opportunity for people with disabilities to develop stronger ties with the people they live near.

"This center will be open to everyone," Tamler said. "We also want to educate the community about people with disabilities. Any group can use the space if they make their programs accessible to people with disabilities."

Most importantly, she says, she wants the local community members with disabilities to help run the center, and to have them involved with the scheduling, programming and organization of the center. She hopes to have the center open within a year, and says it might even start in someone's living room if that is the best option to get it off the ground.

"We want it to be a stimulating environment, and open to everyone," she said. "We want everyone to work together to make this happen. We are at the very beginning stages of talking about this. I would like to see this as an evolving thing where we can find out what the needs are out there, and then provide them."

For more information on Wednesday's meeting, or to talk about the drop ion center call Tamler at 802-387-5285.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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