“She’s always loved music and dance and the stage,” says proud mother Donna Long of her daughter Lucy.
For Lucy, the love of dance and creativity runs in the family. “Both her dad and I do it, so she saw that from a young age and followed our lead,” says Donna. “Her brother was a director at the theatre here In Kelowna and she did some theatre herself. So she’s had a lot of exposure to being on stage and having an audience.”
Over the past couple of years, Lucy has been developing her dance skills with Alisa Fallowfield, her support worker who also runs a local dance studio.
She began by taking an adaptive dance class for adults with developmental disabilities, and from there has continued learning and practicing in other classes and one-on-one sessions with Alisa. The wide variety of styles she’s learning include cha-cha, waltz, breakdancing, hip hop, ballroom, salsa, jive and even tap.
Recently, Lucy and Alisa’s dancing activities have extended beyond the studio to a number of community venues, including classes at the local recreation centre and a large outdoor event called Dancing in the Park that takes place Friday nights during the summer.
“I love to watch her dance because she just enjoys herself so much and wants other people to participate,” says Alisa. “Everyone is just kind of drawn to Lucy when she dances.”
Beyond the pure enjoyment, dance has benefited Lucy in other ways as well, says Alisa, “Her confidence has increased a lot and she’s made friends through it, so it has benefited her socially.”
Dance has helped Lucy build connections to her community, and it has also forged a strong bond with Alisa. “It’s a close friendship for both of them,” says Donna. “I’m certain Alisa will be involved in her life for a long time. It’s just one of those relationships.”
While Lucy has been learning the steps to her newest dance routines, Donna has also been learning the steps for another important process in Lucy’s life: the transition to adult services with Community Living BC when Lucy turns 19 this November.
For Donna, starting the process early has been helpful, “We found it was beneficial to begin the process when Lucy was 14. That’s when I started to look forward and figure out what would happen next.”
Getting a strong understanding for the step-by-step process through participating in information sessions offered by the local CLBC office has alleviated a lot of stress about transitioning, says Donna, “It has been very helpful to have people who can break the process down into steps. The staff at CLBC were able to share the details in pieces so that I wasn’t just buried in information and overwhelmed. It really made a very big difference to our family.”
As she turns 19 and transitions to adult services, Lucy plans to continue pursuing her passion for dance and there’s even plans for a public dance performance in the near future. She has also recently become involved in her own entrepreneurial ventures which include making and selling weighted blankets and dog toys as well as producing buttons for local business and organizations. Her past button clients include an autism awareness event and a local dog show. “She really enjoys it,” says Donna, “She takes care of the whole process herself. She cuts the paper, operates the machine, stamps the buttons and delivers them herself in a box to the customer.”
Whatever activity Lucy gets involved in, she is sure to put her best foot forward.
Donna’s tips for family members
Encouraging a family member’s recreational pursuits:
“With any interest she’s had in anything, we’ve encouraged her to try it and to meet people who are involved in those activities. Through that, she’s developed her own interests and passions.”
“My approach is always to sign Lucy up for any program that is in the community. And if they say “No”, I ask them to provide the reasons.”
The value of being included in community:
“I’ve always seen Lucy as being out in the community as much as possible. I always feel like she’s safer the more that people know her in the community outside of support workers and program staff.”
The youth transition process to CLBC services for adults:
“It’s important to know that CLBC will get involved with you even though your child is under 19. CLBC staff were more than open to helping our family prepare for Lucy’s transition as young as 14. For families, my best advice is to contact their local CLBC office as soon as possible, to find out how to start that process early.”