Allies day habilitation program in Wall Township taps into staff passion and talents to empower attendees

The Allies day habilitation program located in Wall Township works to empower and support attendees through the passions and talents of dedicated staff.

The program is located about 5 minutes from the beach and everything that goes with it. In the warmer months, this means there are plenty of opportunities to go to the beach or boardwalk as part of planned outings. In the winter months, however, some of these opportunities dry up. As a result, James Daskalakis, director of vocational services for the Shore region at Allies, and staff have gotten creative to make sure opportunities for enrichment and growth are constant parts of the program, no matter the weather.

“What we are looking to do is change things from the inside-out,” Daskalakis said. The result of that effort has been the introduction of several regular activities that work to promote independence and skill development for attendees of every skill level.

The first program Daskalakis and the rest of the Wall Day program team have introduced is a cooking activity. The activity includes the group working together to decide which dish to create. After reaching a consensus, the group travels to the grocery store where they work together to identify ingredients and make the needed purchases. Once the group has returned, they work together according to their skillsets to create the meal.

“This kind of activity allows for different levels of support,” Daskalakis said. “Each individual can contribute in ways to challenge their growth and development on individual levels.”

Other fresh ideas being developed and implemented include art classes. Each day, staff will work with 10-12 attendees to guide them through a project. Daskalakis compared the class to something that Bob Ross might endorse. Through guided instruction, participants are free to express their individuality while participating as part of a cohesive group.

“The point is to help participants create their own interpretation of what we are creating,” Daskalakis said. Additionally, every attendee of the program is a big fan of the opportunity to participate in these classes. “I have not had one individual yet who has declined participation in this art class.”

Overall, the variance in ability levels and goals of program management pave the way for interactive and fun activities.

“I want to teach our members functional academics that have a direct and immediate response to the improvement of their lives,” Daskalakis said. Each piece of the curriculum is designed to meet this goal. “Overall, I want our members to feel empowered and realize that they have choices.”

Much of this aim comes into focus when looking at some goals Daskalakis sets for attendees. Setting goals for participants, such as an ability to identify signs or identify community helpers like firefighters and police officers is a huge part of the mission at Wall.

“I want participants to be as independent and successful as possible,” Daskalakis said.

While Daskalakis and the rest of the program staff are working every day to empower the people who attend their program, they are also looking toward the future to plan future programs. Nothing is set in stone, but Daskalakis hopes to implement a bike-riding program and also broaden the integration of vocational services with the day program.