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03.19 NEWSLETTER
CONSULTATION | TRAINING | IMPLEMENTATION
BUILDING STRONGER COMMUNITIES BY PROVIDING EXPERT GUIDANCE ON INCLUSION OF PERSONS WITH DIVERSE ABILITIES
Hello <<First Name>>,

Spring is here - a time of year to feel renewed and energized! March has been an exciting month of making new connections and exploring opportunities to build stronger communities where persons with diverse abilities are welcomed, engaged and supported to BELONG. 
I'm excited to share with you about my recent visit with CARA Centre & The Institute of Technology Tralee, of Ireland and the amazing work they are doing around sport and physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities. I hope you enjoy this month's newsletter.


Lisa Drennan

MERGE Founder

MAKING CONNECTIONS IN IRELAND

On March 14th, MERGE founder Lisa Drennan visited  CARA Centre and Institute of Technology Tralee in Ireland for a chance to meet with administrative members of the Cara Team, as well as faculty & students of the Adaptive Physical Activity Program. 
In addition to learning about their organizations, history and mission, she presented on Participation Models for Inclusive Physical Activity and Recreation Programs for 2nd and 4th year students and faculty members.
"It was an honor and a pleasure to meet with the team from CARA and IT Tralee and learn about the incredible work they are doing in the realm of sport inclusion throughout Ireland", shares Drennan, "it is my hope that this is the start of a long-standing partnership".
At MERGE we are a firm believer that collaboration, sharing of best practices and understanding all the resources and talents our worlds have to offer strengthen the communities we support to be more inclusive of persons with diverse abilities. 

MERGE PRESENTING AT UPCOMING CONFERENCES

It's conference season! As camp and summer program providers take part in opportunities to prepare for summer and learn best practices in the field - MERGE Diverse Abilities Inclusion Consulting will be there. Attendees of the breakout session Strategies to Build A Camp Culture That Is Inclusive of Campers with Diverse Abilities will explore the philosophies and elements of inclusion and learn how to implement the recommended preventative strategies that build an inclusive environment for a traditional camp setting. MERGE will be presenting at the American Camp Association New England and Massachusetts Recreation and Park Association Conferences in this coming week. 
CAN'T MAKE THESE CONFERENCES? YOU CAN STILL HAVE A MERGE TRAINING BROUGHT TO YOUR CAMP STAFF TEAM.
INCLUSIVE ADAPTIVE SWIM PROGRAM STARTS SECOND PHASE
The KDC-Y Swim started it's next session of inclusive adaptive swim programming and it's off to a splashing start! Kennedy Donovan Center (KDC) has partnered with the Cape Cod YMCA to create an opportunity for the individuals they support to receive aquatic instruction in an inclusive model. Classes will be led by inclusion trained instructors for KDC swimmers ages 4-16 who will be partnered with a swim peer buddies from the Cape Cod Swim Club and the Y-Achievers Club. In this next phase, MERGE works with the aquatics staff of the YMCA to "hand over the reins". In order for inclusion to be successful, strategies and procedures should ideally be implemented independently of an inclusion specialist. "By the end of this session, the aquatics team will have all the tools and resources to run this program on their own, utilizing the inclusion strategies learned and demonstrated. This allows for a sustainable movement toward a culture of inclusion" shares MERGE founder Lisa Drennan. 
MERGE PROVIDES EXPERT GUIDANCE ON IMPLEMENTING INCLUSION PROGRAMS. LEARN MORE TODAY

QUESTION: HOW CAN FAMILIES OR SUPPORTING STAFF PROMOTE INCLUSION?

ANSWER: For years recreational activities for persons with disabilities would generally occur at specialized events or activities put on by supporting agencies, group homes, or day programs. These “special”, “adaptive”, “ability-focused” programs offered instruction of participants designed to respond to a particular or various impairment, in isolation from participants without disabilities. With person centered planning, self-advocacy and a greater understanding of the benefits of inclusion, came rise to the movement of true community inclusion in recreational settings.
The focus now shifts to our entire community having a responsibility of building inclusive cultures in recreation. YMCA’s, Boys & Girls Clubs, town recreation programs and sports organizations are committing to build inclusive programming to be more welcoming, engaging and supportive of participants with diverse abilities. This journey cannot and will not be successful without the support, guidance and input from those of us within the field, from the direct support staff, family members, supporting agencies and most importantly from the individuals with diverse abilities.
So, what is your responsibility? How can you assist and be part of this culture change? These top ten tips* are designed to help you realize the importance and value your role is in creating more inclusive cultures for the persons you support to engage in community recreation opportunities.
  1. Involve the Individual You Support
  2. Identify Interest, Type & Location of Programs
  3. Identify Your Staff Contact
  4. Learn About Their Supports & Experience
  5. Dealing with Roadblocks - Have A Plan in Place
  6. Build A Collaborative Team
  7. Be an Active (and Honest) Part of the Intake Process
  8. Understand that All Players on the Team Are Valuable
  9. Explore How You Can Strengthen Their Programs
  10. Patience & Good Communication Can Go A Long Way
  *part of a MERGE training designed for family members or direct support staff on accessing community recreation programming.
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MERGE Diverse Abilities Inclusion Consultant · 3 Sandy Ln · Pembroke, MA 02359-3422 · USA

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