A powerful voice

. September 18, 2012.
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When she first moved to Findlay, Jenn Aldoy wasn’t sure where to find help for her son Jonah, then four months old, blind, and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. “We knew no one and had to figure out how to get him services,” said Aldoy, who eventually found the Blanchard Valley Center and other services in Hancock County available to those with disabilities and their families.

Now another group will be added to the mix. A local chapter of The Arc (Advocates for the Rights of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities) of Ohio will begin this month, bringing local and national advocacy, as well as even more educational opportunities, to the local network of services for the developmentally disabled.

Understanding Issues

A local chapter existed many years ago, and The Arc has had an unofficial presence in Hancock County through speakers and other services. Chapters already exist close by in Wood and Lucas counties. With a local chapter, however, individuals and families will have a regular voice at the state and national level and other ways to understand political and funding issues that affect their lives. “I’ve always thought it was imperative that families with children with special needs understand the system issues and understand the political side of the issues,” said Cindy Bregel, a local advocate and the mother of a daughter who is developmentally delayed. “It’s important to talk to your legislators on behalf of your family members – a lot of our children can’t speak for themselves.”

Finding resources

The Arc is the largest national community-based advocacy organization for those with disabilities and their families. It encompasses all ages and all spectrums from autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X and other developmental disabilities. Founded in 1950, The Arc has more than 700 state and local chapters around the country. The Ohio state chapter represents more than 330,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Gary Tonks, Ohio’s Executive Director, said membership in The Arc gives families a powerful voice. “People on Main Street might not know who we are, but people in the statehouse and Washington do,” he said. “We are the grandmother of the special needs movement.”

Dot O’Brien, whose daughter Shirley has Downs Syndrome, said she looks forward to the social opportunities a local chapter can offer her daughter. She was involved in a local chapter in another state, and found it was a great way for her daughter to meet other people. “They got a chance to get together for lunch or go to the movies,” she said. “The thing they loved the most were the dances. We’d have a formal dance once a year, and that was very exciting for them.”

Jonah Aldoy, now almost four years old, is a little too young for dances. But his mother knows The Arc will be a valuable addition to the services network in Hancock County.“It’s all about resources as far as I’m concerned,” said Jenn Aldoy. “And we need to know what’s out there.”

For more info on the local chapter of The Arc, contact Cindy Bregel at 419-423-4536 or visit www.thearcofohio.org