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Day Habilitation

Day Habilitation services may stand alone with no connection to pre-vocational and supported employment services. In other instances, Day Habilitation serves as a transition to and/or enhances pre-vocational and supported employment supports. Structured activities and supports to promote life-long learning, independence, community integration and self-esteem are the hallmarks of programming offered at agency locations in Niagara Falls, Wheatfield and Lockport. All programming is based on the personal goals and desires of each individual adult. Services are intended to maximize participation in the community through community-based volunteer placements, recreation and career exploration opportunities.

Volunteer opportunities include nursing homes and day cares, cart sales for the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse and home-delivered meals. Day Habilitation services may include mobility training; training and assistance in developing appropriate social behaviors, communication skills, basic safety skills, personal care skills, health care skills, money management skills, and transportation specific to participation in community activities or programming integral to the person’s day habilitation service plan. Health related supports are also available.

Other services include:

  • Assistance in personal hygiene, independent living skills, adaptive daily living skills, pre-vocational skills training and therapeutic recreation
  • Medical oversight, nursing and nutrition services
  • Occupational and physical therapy
  • Psychiatric and psychological services – assessments, behavioral services, counseling
  • Speech pathology and language stimulation program
  • Senior programming and geriatric assessments – state-wide acclaimed individual programming and partnership with RSVP for senior volunteer placements
  • State-of-the-art sensory programming, including specialized rooms for seniors
  • Community-based recreation activities – librarys, walks, Time to Dance’s Graceful and Gifted Program
  • Community-based volunteer opportunities – home delivered meals, day cares and nursing homes to name just a few of the places our program participants volunteer
  • Horticulture therapy through the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse
  • Fine arts with New York State (NYS) certified art education teacher
  • Camp Happiness — a traditional one-week day camp experience for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities from Niagara County. It is offered at Camp Kenan on Lake Ontario through a collaborative effort of the Lockport Elks Lodge #41, the Lockport Family YMCA and Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. A visit with camp is available on the agency’s YouTube Channel.

The Day Services facility in Wheatfield provides individualized day habilitation programming designed for adults with severe or multiple developmental disabilities and health related needs. Programming includes specialized geriatric/senior supports and services, two sensory rooms for individuals and seniors. In the mid 1990s, the agency established a sensory program to provide innovative therapy to our Day Services program participants who require an enhanced level of assistance to perform everyday living skills. A sensory room was designed to expose these individuals to environments that involve integration with their senses – sight, sound and touch as well as their balance and awareness of body positioning. The sensory room provides: 1) a quiet retreat to reduce behaviors through the use of mood lighting, relaxing music, and soothing sounds; 2) a slow paced introduction of environmental stimuli to accustom participants to various sights, sounds, textures and movements; 3) an integration of occupational and physical therapies with activities that involve range of motion, fine motor skills, gross motor skills and balance; and 4) an opportunity for interaction with others while developing strong relationships with care givers.

Now more than 200 participants at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara are considered “seniors,” some of whom require additional therapies. The existing sensory room, where the focus is sensory stimulation, does not have enough specialized equipment for the aging population because the items were too physically interactive. In addition, due to the increasing demand for the sensory room, time has been limited. For these reasons a sensory room dedicated to senior needs was designed to provide the opportunity for all seniors to access the equipment, while freeing up the existing sensory room for the younger individuals.

In 2009, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara officially dedicated Western New York’s only “Senior Sensory Room” made possible by a venture grant from the United Way of Greater Niagara.

Multisensory environments offer a wealth of benefits, all in a safe and unthreatening environment. In the Senior Sensory Room, participants will experience gentle stimulation of the primary senses through adaptive lighting, sounds and textures, leading to achievement of the following measurable objectives: increased range of motion; increased tolerance to mental stimulation; increased verbal expression; increased memory recall; increased happiness and interest in program; increased feeling of being in a safe and secure environment; decreased negative behaviors; maintained attendance at program and improved relationship with caregiver.

Lisa Scalzo, director of day services and aging for Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, summed up the importance of the new room to the participants, “The sensory room creates a unique environment that is designed to improve the quality of life for older individuals. Based on the smiles and level of participation I have seen, it has done just that!”

Senior participants will gain a better understanding of their environments through:

  • Vision: Bubble tubes and fiber optics will be used to encourage awareness to light, tracking, and other visual skills.
  • Touch: Different textures on the sensory room equipment will offer multiple tactile experiences.
  • Smell: Though safety regulations do not allow us to use aromatherapy with consumers, we will use smells from real objects such as oranges, apples, and flowers to create a tranquil environment and improve memory recall.
  • Hearing: With multimedia technology, including a surround-sound speaker system, consumers will be able to experience different sounds and volumes.
  • Taste: Although there is no specific equipment to stimulate taste, the room will also be used to expose consumers to new tastes and familiar tastes to improve memory recall.
  • Vestibular and Proprioception: These senses allow us to feel balance, movement, gravity, direction, and speed, and to process information from our body parts. Many of the items installed in the Senior Sensory Room incorporate these two senses, including: an anti-gravity chair; glide recliner; mat table, and Sonitron beanbags.

For additional information on programming and services for seniors with developmental disabilities, contact: Lisa Scalzo at (716) 504-2617 or email info@oppunlimited.org.

Fine arts program

The fine arts program at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara encourages choice-making, self-expression and exploration of art materials. Weekly art activities and grant-funded workshops are available to participants in the agency’s day habilitative programs. These workshops – in addition to being held at our sites in Lockport, Niagara Falls and Wheatfield have also been scheduled for community locations including the Market Street Art Center, Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University, Lockport Library, Our Lady of Peace Nursing Home, the Kenan Center, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Camp Happiness. Artists have access to a variety of art materials. Projects include painting, printmaking, mixed media and 3-D projects. Mosaics and glass fusing add another dimension to the program. Our pottery and glass classes were implemented in the Fall of 2011. Artists and artwork are celebrated at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara! Work is displayed prominently in our four sites as well as community sites under the title “Artisans Unlimited”. Public exhibits: our artists were featured in a show at Niagara University in May 2011, several times a year at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery through the “Matter at Hand” program, and at Mt. St. Mary’s Hospital and Health Care Center in Lewiston through a permanent exhibit space. In 2010, our artists won two ribbons at the Lewiston Art Festival – 3rd place in Mixed Media Category and Honorable Mention in Acrylic Painting.  Reaching the inner artist is something that Roberta Nickelsen, coordinator of fine arts for Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, believes can be found in every individual. Roberta combines her love of teaching with a passion for creating and appreciating art. Roberta splits her time between teaching at the three agency day habilitation programs, located in Niagara Falls, Lockport and Wheatfield, and expanding outreach in the community to showcase completed works of art.