Agencies to host developmental disabilities support forum

GREENFIELD — The state’s Department of Developmental Services offers assistance programs to individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families — but limitations of the programs may discourage some from participating.

To counter this, local agencies will host a free forum on self-determination — designed to inform and educate people of how they can utilize DDS services to best serve their needs.

“Steering One’s Ship” — a four-hour forum taking place on Oct. 13 at Greenfield Community College — will teach people how to “take authority and control over and really provide what they want for their lives instead of having to fit into a program that already exists,” said Dana Dansereau, one of the program’s coordinators.

For example, said Dansereau, a family may want to enroll a child in a vocational program. Rather than having to choose one DDS program, the forum will introduce a variety of options that they can integrate to design the best plan for them.

The program will feature a keynote address from Lauren Surprenant, a Belchertown woman who talks through an assistance communicative device, said Dansereau. With the assistance of her mother, Linda, she will share her experiences of being a student at Holyoke Community College.

There will also be a panel discussion, featuring families of individuals with intellectual disabilities who will share their experiences with DDS programs.

A DDS representative will be on hand to provide information on programs, said Dansereau.

The forum is sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Subcommittee of the Central/West Regional Citizen Advisory Board, a group that works alongside the regional DDS agency.

It is also being sponsored by local agencies — The Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change - Western Region, United Arc and Family Empowerment of the Inclusive Community Center — all of which will have members present for the forum.

The forum runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include lunch. Registration and a continental breakfast begins at 9:30 a.m.

All participants will receive a free copy of a “Full Life Ahead” workbook, which provides tips and strategies for individuals living with developmental disabilities and their families.

To register for the forum, contact Felicia Spiess at 413-774-5558 or via email at Include your contact information when leaving a message for Spiess.

Chris Shores can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261 x264

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