How We’re Building Quality of Life for People With Developmental Disabilities

Not so long ago, it was common for children born with developmental disabilities to be placed in institutions. Often they were not expected to live into adulthood. Over the last 50 years, the vision for those with developmental disabilities has changed dramatically, and they are living longer, fuller lives as active participants in the community.

“At SWA we strive to advance the quality of life in all of our clients regardless of any physical, emotional or intellectual challenges that they face,” says SWA Clinical Director Jeff Waplak. “With individuals with developmental disabilities, this starts with accurate understanding of their pattern of strengths and weakness. Within a respectful manner, in their best interests, we use their strengths to assist them to achieve their life goals.”

A 2003 report published in the Journal on Developmental Disabilities looks at three pilot studies conducted in two urban centres in Ontario to explore the quality of life of adults with developmental disabilities. The study authors note that, in the previous 30 years, the move away from institutional care, along with better nutrition and health care, resulted in longer life expectancies and a larger number of older adults with developmental disabilities.

Through individual interviews and focus groups, researchers questioned adults with developmental disabilities, their family members and service providers. While participants clearly recognized the positive impact of community integration, they noted that negative societal attitudes persist and full social integration has yet to occur.

Adults with developmental disabilities would benefit from increased social relationships, meaningful education, work and leisure options and better economic security. The report concludes that quality of life issues for adults with developmental disabilities and their families are ongoing in Canada.

“Here at SWA, there is a strong focus on building activities of daily living for personal care, home care, job readiness skills and socialization skills,” notes Waplak. “We work closely with community partners like Community Living Prince Edward and Pathways to Independence to coordinate a wrap-around supportive treatment approach.” SWA provides services through educational, residential and outpatient programs.

The SWA team celebrates all skills development, whether it is achieving a college diploma or learning to use public transit. “The impact on an individual’s life might be greatest in the achievement of small skills that broaden their world and their ability to interact with it,” says Waplak. “We have had the pleasure of working with a comprehensive, family-modelled treatment approach with individuals with developmental disabilities from age five and across the lifespan. We work to advance skills through coordinated home, educational, social, recreational, medical and clinical treatment planning.”

Waplak says the SWA team gets a lot of joy from helping those with developmental disabilities improve their quality of life. “We take great pride in those opportunities as typically individuals have the opportunity to play a singular role in an individual’s care and we have opportunity to be full collaborative partners in their lives.”

Contact us for more information about SWA’s treatment programs.