Growing up will be a little easier thanks to the Hamilton District Society for Disabled Children

Cassie Liviero is a 13-year-old who dreams of some day becoming a veterinarian. She knows that she has many years of hard work and schooling ahead of her. Cassie also knows that she will face additional challenges because of her disabilities related to cerebral palsy. Thanks to the Hamilton District Society for Disabled Children (HDSDC), Cassie’s journey to adulthood will be much easier.

The HDSDC has recently donated more than $230,000 to the Children’s Developmental Rehabilitation Programme (CDRP) at McMaster Children’s Hospital. The money will be used over the next three years to develop programs geared to young adults, including a program that will help them with the transition to adulthood. For people like Cassie, this donation will make an incredible difference.

Cassie has cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and has been a client at the CDRP since she was two years old. She is able to operate her power wheelchair independently and currently attends Notre Dame Catholic School in Caledonia. She will begin high school next year and will also need to start planning for her future.

“The high school years are when young adults with disabilities need to start addressing major life issues, such as housing, further education or employment,” said Karen Margallo, an occupational therapist with the CDRP.

The CDRP treats children with neurological disorders from when they are born until they finish school. As children get older, they need to be prepared for the move from pediatric to adult services.Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Freeman, (who also has cerebral palsy,) knows how difficult the transition to adulthood can be. Matthew was a CDRP client from the age of three until he turned 18 and as he got older, the focus of treatment shifted to building his independence, defining his career goals and addressing accessibility issues in post-secondary education.

“The CDRP did all they could to help me plan for the transition but once I finished school, I was largely on my own,” said Matthew. “It was a bit of an eye-opener when I realized that if I didn’t arrange to have someone there first thing in the morning to help me get out of bed, I might not be able to get out of bed that day at all.”

Despite the obstacles he faced, Matthew persevered. He has completed two degrees at McMaster University and plans to do a PhD in political science with a focus on disability studies.

The CDRP has had a long-time partnership with the Hamilton District Society for Disabled Children (HDSDC). From 1978 until 2003 the HDSDC has provided more than $959,531 in funding for various projects at the CDRP, including summer camps, a Motion Lab, a spasticity management program, computers, playground equipment, staff development and many other initiatives. They also funded two of the CDRP’s staff members for a number of years.

“The HDSDC has a strong, supportive relationship with the CDRP that has evolved over many years. We are happy to contribute to a program that is so important to youths with disabilities,” said Nalda Dalziel, executive director of the HDSDC.

In addition to the transition program, the recent donation made by HDSDC will be used to develop a care management program to assist with service coordination issues and a program that will address the provision of fitness and recreation programs for children and youth with disabilities.

“These new programs represent exciting opportunities for our clients and we are indebted to the Hamilton District Society for Disabled Children for this opportunity,” said Heather McGavin, Clinical Manager of Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitation at McMaster Children’s Hospital.