Advisor helps parents see the possibilities
Charmaine McIntyre’s passion is helping parents whose children have disabilities think about a vision for their son or daughter.
“It is a really great feeling to be able to help families understand there are possibilities other than those typically presented—to help them access resources they weren’t aware of.”
McIntyre, an advisor for the Special Needs and Moving On projects, is perfectly suited to supporting parents in their quest for better options for their children.
As Regional Coordinator for Inclusive Post-Secondary Education at Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL), she is currently working on an initiative to create more opportunities at the post-secondary level for young adults with developmental disabilities.
“It’s wonderful to see a lot of young adults—who maybe never thought it would be possible—come to university or college, and work towards reaching their dreams and career aspirations.”
The colleges that have an agreement with AACL support students with disabilities to study in a program of interest to them. They attend as auditors but participate alongside their cohort. “It’s an avenue to have students with developmental disabilities attend class and have an individualized course of study that aligns with their learning needs.”
McIntyre has been an advisor for the past two years. For part of that time, she was an advocate at AACL.
“In my role as advocate I did lots of work supporting families to access an inclusive education in the kindergarten to Grade 12 education system. I know the supports and services families are looking for and the Moving On Project is an especially good fit because I understand the transition from being a teenager to a young adult and some of the trials and tribulations the families go through.”
Being there for families
The best thing about being an advisor though is “just being able to be there for the families when they are going through some of their struggles. Families don’t often have a safe place to have conversations... They’ve experienced so much hurt and rejection in so many parts of their lives in wanting the best for their son or daughter. I provide an opportunity for parents to be able to say when things aren’t good and not have to feel judged.”
McIntyre supports parents to understand they and their children can succeed, and is a firm believer in planning and looking for opportunities. For example, she helped guide a single mother of three through the system to obtain the right diagnosis for her child with special needs and access home support so she could work with peace of mind. She also assisted another family with a younger son interested in community sports to connect with community groups to see what was possible. “He has been successful and developed friendships and continued with them to the next level of hockey.”
When she’s not at work or on the phone with families on the projects, McIntyre and her husband are busy parenting a young son, Henry, aged 3. Like so many working parents, she doesn’t have a lot of time for herself, but when she does she enjoys reading, yoga and live music.