Young adults focus of special needs rally

A big crowd turned out Wednesday, Aug. 12 to protest that special needs teens “have nowhere to go” once they become adults.

Driven by a fierce need to support each other, a big crowd turned out Wednesday, Aug. 12 to protest that special needs teens “have nowhere to go” once they become adults.

With signs bearing messages like Lack of Funding = Segregation, What About Me?, Let Them Shine Like Stars, and No Adult Left Behind, people waved at passing motorists, thanking them for honking their support.

All were frustrated, upset, or angry. Many had stories to tell and at an open mic, they were given the opportunity to tell them.

Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley, the grandfather of an autistic child himself, called strongly for more programs for those special needs young adults and their families who find themselves cut adrift by what he called the provincial government’s refusal to see the need.

And that need is huge, especially in the Cowichan Valley, he said, adding that he would be carrying the fight to the Legislature when it reconvenes.

The Cowichan Valley’s Clements Centre Society issued a statement Aug. 12 saying it “is aware of a need for additional supports for adults with developmental disabilities in the Cowichan region.”

“Young people and their families, who live in our community, many of whom may be your neighbours, face very difficult decisions as the level of support changes from government agencies when children with special needs turn 19 years old,” said the Society’s executive director Dominic Rockall.

“Children 18 years of age and younger receive support from the school system and the Ministry for Children and Family Development. When children turn 19, Community Living BC takes over as the government agency responsible for providing support. While their needs remain the same, the amount of service that is available is reduced,” Rockall continued.

Community Living BC’s communications director Randy Schmidt issued a release Wednesday saying that the group “takes seriously the concerns of families who have loved ones who are graduating from high school. It is important for Cowichan Valley families to know that there are currently a range of service agencies and programs in the area, and CLBC funds supports and services to more than 320 individuals in these programs.”

He urged all families who have questions to reach out to our local CLBC staff as soon as possible after loved ones turn 16 to begin the planning process.

“It is a good thing when local families take the initiative to find solutions. While it is not within the mandate of Community Living BC to provide start-up funding for business ideas, we welcome local innovation and encourage local business people to invest in such ideas.”

He also said CLBC “would welcome the opportunity to work with any local business that is interested in creating jobs.”