Long known for delivering amazing programs for adults, Tamir has expanded its mandate and is launching youth programs beginning this month.
“There was an extraordinary waitlist (for youth programs) created by the pandemic,” said Risa Plotnik, executive director of Tamir, in reference to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services’ waiting times for youth with respite needs. In Ottawa alone, there are 600 children waitlisted for respite programming, whereas the list used to be 50-100.
Plotnick explained that these children have so much potential and unfortunately they can get left behind.
“The world needs all different kinds of minds,” said Plotnik.
“Some of these kids get lost, so this is a great opportunity for us to tap into their talents and work on their social skills, negotiation, community inclusion, so they can get really challenging careers and help the world,” she added.“You can learn anything when you practice enough. What they have is amazing brain power, and they lack social skills, so this program I think is really incredible.”
There are five new programs — Sunday Funday, Adventure Club, Urban Explorers, and an after-school program, along with a supper program.
The Sunday Funday program will focus on enhancing social skills in an inclusive manner to provide individualized service for children with disabilities and children with autism. Activities will include dance and movement, drawing and painting, outdoor activities, music, and board games. The Adventure Club programs will see youth engage in interesting physical and recreational activities throughout the day, for ages 11-14. The after-school program, designed for ages 7-12, will include tutoring and homework assistance, fun and games, and friendship building.
Urban Explorers is a brand-new program, offered for youth 15-17 on Sundays. The program will focus on building friendships and social skills development for youth with disabilities and youth with autism. The program will include activities such as bowling, visiting museums, shopping, virtual reality gaming, laser quest, exploring city sights, and community activities.
The supper program is designed for an older cohort, 14-18 years old, and will include activities such as supper preparation, board games, and activities, as well as specific learning skills that can benefit the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
“We have youth ranging from severely autistic to genius level autistic, so we’re offering programs for kids for all their social abilities, with practical problem solving,” said Plotnik. “We’re offering a way to channel their abilities and talents into challenging careers. These are the kids that are going to solve the environmental issues, they’re the people who brought us to space … we need these people, these minds.”
At their core, the new programs look at shared interests, to help youth grow and become engaged in the community.
“It gives them a chance to live in the world with everybody else,” said Plotnik.
So far, both finding participants and staffing the programs have been a challenge. While only recently announced, the response rate has been low.
“We’re known to work with seniors or adults, but now we don’t only do that,” said Plotnik. “We’ve expanded our mandate, so we just have to get it out there.”
The ministry is working through its own waitlist for participants, but you can sign your child up without having been on the waitlist. The programs are also looking for staff who want to work as integration aids in the late afternoons, evenings, and Sundays.
Participants can register at any point during the program’s run.
“We’ll also take suggestions, so if there’s another program people want, just send me an email,” said Plotnik. “I always want to hear what people want.”