Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Filling a Need North Offers First After-School Club for Mentally Disabled

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Filling a Need North Offers First After-School Club for Mentally Disabled

Article excerpt

When the last bell of the school day rings, many high school students venture off to activities from sports to chess clubs to theater practice. But for students with mental handicaps, there hasn't been much in the way of extracurricular activities - until now.

A new after-school program for teen-agers with mental disabilities began this fall at Francis Howell North High School. The program is run by Family Support Services, a nonprofit agency that until recently was known as the St. Charles County Association for Retarded Citizens.

The school's role is to provide space. Family Support Services provides a coordinator, who supervises the students as they make snacks, play games and take part in other activities until their parents pick them up after work.

The program is believed to be not only the first of its kind in this area but possibly the state, says Family Support Services. If the "club" succeeds, the agency may talk to other school districts in the county to see if they want one of their own next year.

Barbara Ward, executive director of Family Support Services, said, "We're hoping that it will be developed and it will be able to be in every high school in the county."

The need for such programs will grow as schools take in more students with disabilities. Those in the Francis Howell North club already join their classmates in many courses, such as adaptive art and physical education and reading, history and math. Now, these students with special needs can get a taste of after-school fun.

So far, they seem to like it.

At a Halloween party last week, Tina Mayrose and Denise Laumeyer, both 17, ate pizza and drew on pumpkins to take home. They were joined later by Tricia Slayden, 19, who attends the Boonslick State School in O'Fallon but is also a resident of the Francis Howell district.

"The kids are fun-loving," said Joyce Barker, community programs director for Family Support Services. "They are just teen-agers; they like to do teen-age things. …

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