By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – On any given Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, September through May, the Thrive After School Community (TASC) at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough gathers with the purpose of having fun through social activities.
Thrive Support & Advocacy in Marlborough celebrates and nurtures the abilities of people (adults and youth) with developmental disabilities. The TASC program for ages 7 through 25 is one of many that provide experiences, services, learning and education.
“We really try to create social and respite opportunities so that not only does it help the individual but it also helps the families,” Caitlin Devaney-Fortwengler, director of youth services explained. “When you have a child with disabilities, sometimes having that block from 2 to 5 p.m. every Tuesday through Thursday is a huge weight off the family’s shoulders.”
Devaney-Fortwengler said that their youngest participant is 13 and attendees have a variety of diagnoses in all levels of functioning. Some of the older participants may even hold a job or go to a day program.
“There are a number of kids that come from Algonquin but there are those who get transported here from Marlborough High School, Marlborough Middle School and Hudson. We have kids from Hudson, Marlborough, Northborough and Shrewsbury,” she added.
These students partake in social activities as well as educational opportunities such as first aid and CPR. Especially popular is a cooking unit held every Wednesday.
“A fun group that comes in is called Knucklebones from Boston,” Devaney-Fortwengler said. “They bring with them a lot of creative play and activities that help with fine motor and gross motor as well as social skills and team building.”
What is really special about the program is that the kids can pick and choose what they wish to do. It is geared to the interests of the kids.
One participant was celebrating his 21st birthday so a group of kids were baking a batch of cupcakes in the staff kitchenette to celebrate while kids were playing Legos and guitars in another room close by.
Devaney-Fortwengler noted that music therapy is a big component of the program as well as martial arts, Zumba and yoga.
“We bring in a variety of activities but when there isn’t a special or someone coming in to teach, we set up opportunities for the individuals to work in a group and … we give them different options. Our goal is to keep them busy but we don’t want them to feel like this is school,” she explained. “It is an unstructured structured group.”
Devaney-Fortwengler said that the most satisfying part of the program is when participants make social connections and best friends.
“Those are the things that I love,” she said. “It seems like we are just an afterschool program but … we are really trying to work with the kiddos and help parents overcome challenges.”
For more information about the services and programs of Thrive Advocacy & Support, visit www.icanthrive.org .