Group empowers people of all ages

Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities hits 70th year.

TROY – The Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, also known as Riverside, is celebrating its 70th year with a look at its growth, change and even more change over the decades.

The mission: “To empower people with developmental disabilities to live, work and play as full members of our community” along with building a community that supports and values people of all abilities.

Over the years, the biggest changes have included emphasis on self-determination and meeting people where they are at, not having everyone in one setting, said Brian Green, superintendent, Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

“The goal is to be a support as invisible as possible with the appropriate level of help to the person we serve,” Green said, emphasizing putting the person in the driver’s seat of what they want. It also involves “thinking of services, rights and planning just as we do for ourselves and planning accordingly,” he said.

Pictures and memories shared by those involved in the organization help tell the story. The beginning was in 1952 when parents started a school for children with developmental disabilities because they were not able to attend public schools.

The effort was ahead of its time. The state of Ohio in 1967 established county Board of Developmental Disabilities with funding from county property taxes.

The Riverside organization took on more challenges and grew both in services for all ages and numbers over the years. As use of the Riverside School on Troy-Sidney Road lessened over time, focus was on case management, adult services, early intervention, training and employment, recreation and a growing Special Olympics program.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, public schools were required to offer education to all children with the education transition to public schools in Miami County in the 1990s-early 2000s.

The last class graduated from Riverside in 2005. All students today are educated either in their local school districts and/or through the county Educational Services Center.

Among the greatest changes has been a shift to community-based services for people of all ages being served and the efforts to empower all to make adult decisions and have ownership over their lives to the greatest extent possible, said Melissa Nichols, community awareness and opportunities director,

One area that doesn’t change is the need for volunteers, Nichols said. The county Special Olympics program has nine sports year-round with volunteers needed to help with each season.

“People may also support us through donations to the program, as we are not able to use tax dollars to run the Special Olympics program,” Nichols said.

Riverside also is creating an Ambassador Program, where it is re-establishing connections to former employees, board members and families of people who have passed away. “Each of those people were at one time a significant part of our history, and we want to make sure to stay connected to them as we continue growing and evolving,” Nichols said. Anyone with a former connection is encouraged to reach out to her at Melissa.nichols@riversidedd.org or 937-440-3002.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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