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Forum presents unique ideas for mentally disabled adults

Forum inspires creative solutions for mentally handicapped adults

Staff writer

When Heather Vinduska and Jane Wiens organized a public forum Thursday in Hillsboro to discuss a facility for mentally disabled adults, they hoped to create a discussion that would spark the imaginations of concerned parents.

Like those parents, they are hoping the discussion will eventually evolve into a local resource for their children — Sheldon Wiens who has Asperger’s syndrome and Vincent Vinduska who has Fragile X.

The final question of the forum called upon groups to envision an ideal outcome for buildings and services to be available at a Marion County facility.

The challenge inspired a flurry of active thought that made the dreams of parents and other interested individuals participating in the community forum the foundation for a plan of action.

Chrissy McFall, formerly an employee at a facility in Hays, was the first to present her groups’ vision. The foundation of her proposed facility was a pool, walking track, and park area to allow mentally handicapped participants to exercise.

Leann Funk presented a facility that was a full-scale, working farm. Participants would have the chance to work with crops for exercise and analyzing plants’ progress would give participants a sense of accomplishment. Working with farm animals, she explained, would impart emotional stability.

“To me, there’s so much about what happens on a farm that meets these needs,” Funk said.

Marion County Special Education Cooperative employee Thane Schwartz submitted a more practical solution. He said almost half of the cooperative building in Marion — about 5,000 square feet — is empty space that could be used for classes and recreation areas. The personnel at the cooperative building could tend to adult participants. Nearby resources, such as the USD 408 Sports and Aquatic Center, could provide exercise outlets.

“There were so many good ideas I wouldn’t have thought of,” Vinduska said. “This exceeded my expectation.”

The drawings and ideas scribbled onto large sheets of white paper with colorful markers were a contrast to much of the forum where the obstacles to an adult-care facility took precedence.

Parents were concerned about funding such a project, if Marion County could support such a facility, participants from outside of the county could be attracted, if enough qualified employees could be brought in? Also addressed were concerns whether the facility would focus on moderately disabled adults close to independence, adults with severe physical and mental disabilities, or both?

The questions were numerous, with few answers easily available.

The group of interested parents that attended the meeting — about 35 people all together — agreed that they wanted to keep their children close to home. Many of the parents were already sending sons and daughters to facilities in Newton and McPherson.

Many local leaders were also in attendance. Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke and Economic Development Director Clint Seibel shared their thoughts with the groups. Linda Ogden with Families and Communities Together and Elizabeth Schmidt of the Harvey-Marion County Community Development Disability Organization presented their expert outlooks.

Reminding forum participants that they did not have to reinvent the wheel, Rick Staab and Todd Case represented service providers in McPherson. They listened to the conversation but did not interject ideas.

Vinduska and Wiens hope the forum will be the starting point for multiple discussions to come. Interested individuals looking to join further plans for an adult care facility in Marion County can contact Vinduska and Wiens through Parents as Advocates for Individuals with Disabilites at paidofmarionco@yahoo.com.

PAID and Harvey-Marion county CDDO will be sponsoring a follow-up meeting March 24, 31, or April 7. The exact date and time will be announced in the next two weeks.

Last modified Feb. 23, 2011

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