Teens are gaining skills during IDD Awareness Month

Published on March 06, 2020

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A new program in Lakewood helps students access resources and recreational opportunities.

Transitioning out of high school is an exciting but sometimes scary time in any young person’s life. This time can be even more challenging for teens who need additional support due to intellectual or developmental disabilities. A pilot program developed by the City of Lakewood and Lakewood High School is focused on helping these students succeed.

So far this year, students in the new program have toured Lakewood’s Cultural and Civic centers, met a police agent, and tried indoor rock climbing, fitness classes and swimming at recreation centers. This month, students will have the chance to play pickleball at a recreation center and take a guided hike at Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake Park. “We’re teaching students about recreation and community services so that they feel confident utilizing these opportunities on their own, outside of school hours and into adulthood,” said Missy Granish, a Lakewood therapeutic recreation programmer. “We want to empower them to advocate for themselves, stay engaged in our community and feel welcome to access every resource.”

Students in this program are part of Lakewood High School’s Employability Skills class, taught by Jennifer Moriarty. She said, “Students with significant support needs experience a better quality of life when they can access local recreation centers and government resources for leisure activities and possible employment. Historically, these are the students that are least likely to access these types of community resources because of lack of transportation and lack of understanding that these programs are also available to people with disabilities. This program provides a hands-on experience of what is available and specifically how to access it.”

During Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Awareness Month in March, Lakewood is taking part in the national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of including people with IDD in all areas of community life, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live. Lakewood provides accessible facilities, fitness and recreation opportunities, Lakewood Rides transportation services and therapeutic recreation programs to people with disabilities.

To become involved, community members can volunteer with Lakewood’s therapeutic recreation program. The therapeutic recreation team would also like to connect with other classes or groups serving people with disabilities who could benefit from this type of programming. For more information, visit Lakewood.org/TherapeuticRec or call 303-987-4867.