Providing students who are living with disabilities several procedural safeguards is the goal of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). More specifically, these students are able to have a longer time period to complete high school. Students with developmental disabilities may stay in school longer in order to complete courses for graduation, or so they can pursue vocational opportunities. Under IDEA, students with disabilities may stay in school until they reach the age of 22. For many families, the extra time the students are given is very valuable to them. However, far too often, families are left wondering, “What’s next?” for their child with a disability after he or she graduates from school.
Since 1961, the Louisiana Association for Challenged Adults, LLC., has been providing vocational, recreational, and educational opportunities for adults who are living with disabilities. The association, which has become known as the Livingston Activity Center, provides an educational, social, and sometimes rehabilitative outlet for individuals who may have otherwise had a difficult time finding employment or even social opportunities.
For many local families, the Livingston Activity Center helps offer options for what’s next.
“The goals for each participant at the center are self-directed,” says Heather Boley, bookkeeper and marketing director for the center. “Some may want to learn how to count money, or learn how to read; it all depends on each individual and their personal goal levels.”
Boley, who also organizes the activities calendar for the center, works closely with community partners to help create opportunities for the center’s participants. “There was a time when centers were able to keep participants in the center all day long,” says Boley. However, state requirements have changed which now requires centers to get participants out and into their communities. The Livingston Activity Center even partners with local gyms so they can provide weekly CrossFit and Zumba classes.
Additionally, the center partners with three local restaurants which provide classes of participants a sponsored meal each week. According to Boley, “These meals give them a chance to work on table manners, support sharing, and learn how to order their own food—a great opportunity for them to work on improving life skills.”
The center also provides supported employment opportunities for participants. The center has partnered with medical offices and the parks and recreation department to create employment opportunities for them. The supported work options include providing janitorial services to medical offices and local parks, and there are opportunities in a local wood shop to cut and bundle wood, which is then sold to land surveyors and real estate agencies.
Other community partners regularly come to the center to support its mission. “We’ve had the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Fire Department come out to talk about safety,” says Boley. “We have even had a local esthetician come out and give tutorials on make-up application and hair styling for the women and appropriate shaving techniques for the men.”
For families interested in having a loved one becoming a participant, he or she must be 22 years old and have had an IEP in high school.
While the Livingston Community Center is a 501(c)(3) and is funded mainly through Medicaid, there are many ways the community can still support the center’s efforts. Donations are always appreciated and can be made by visiting their website, louisianachallengedadults.org. Community partners, such as a restaurant or service provider, who are interested in collaborating with the center on activities or employment opportunities, are encouraged to call them directly at (225) 664-7384.