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RAPID Progress

Featured Photo from RAPID Progress

Nonprofit organization, RAPID Progress, is helping adults with intellectual disabilities – and their families – have fun and live more fulfilling lives.

An acronym for Reliable Advocacy for People with Intellectual Disabilities, RAPID has been serving the community for the past 16 years. It’s a program that provides a safe haven of life skills training and social activities for adult children with special needs who age out of typical public-school programs. The organization’s RAPID Activity Center is open to all on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Willow Creek Church in Winter Springs. 

While a typical day at the center revolves around arts and crafts, field trips, and games, the organization has just added new themed segments to its current curriculum.

On August 1, RAPID began a 10-week-on and two-week-off cycle of themes to its programs, beginning with drama. Participants are learning roles in a play, which will culminate in a production that parents can attend. Other planned themes include exploring outer space and participating in a basketball camp.

According to RAPID organizers, the key to implementing these successful themes will be to recruit volunteers who are seeking a rewarding challenge.

“We are looking for people with love in their hearts and special skills to enrich the lives of the participants,” says Sheryl King, RAPID board member, who joined the organization at its outset when she was seeking a place for her son, now 28, who has autism spectrum disorder. All but one RAPID board member has an adult child with an intellectual disability, whether it is autism, Down syndrome, or fragile X syndrome.

RAPID’s new programming will also reduce registration fees, which are currently $25 per day. The new total cost, including supplies, for a two-day, 10-week session is $350, a savings of $150. Sheryl says families must reserve spots by paying in advance. An $80 non-refundable deposit is due two weeks prior to each session, with the balance paid by the first day of the 10-week session. 

A revived focus on fun is paramount, adds Roberta Archer, the lone RAPID staff member, who runs the center with the help of volunteer parents and board members. Roberta, who has an extensive background in special-needs care, served as a provider with the Orlando-based Agency for Persons with Disabilities prior to joining RAPID three years ago.

“I can’t wait to put on a show,” Roberta says of the current drama theme. “They all love music. What we need are volunteers to teach them a dance routine.”

How RAPID Works
RAPID’s Activity Center is open to any family with an intellectually disabled adult child. The minimum age is 18, although RAPID does accept girls and boys as young as 14 during the summer. All participants must be able to function in a small group and be able to go to the bathroom independently. To effectively attend to each individual, every session is limited to 15 participants per day.

“RAPID was founded with the working parent in mind,” says Sheryl. “Everyone involved is a working parent.”

On the first and third Thursday of the month, the group travels to the Oviedo Mall to practice life skills. They start the day in the C.O.P.S. & Volunteer Center, then visit the mall’s bookstore to learn about monetary transactions and join in on storytelling. The group stops at the food court for lunch before taking in a movie.
Beyond the upcoming themed sessions, Roberta works hard to differ each day’s schedule to keep things fresh, ranging from playing games to painting with watercolors. She recently implemented Crazy Tuesday, a day set aside for wearing something zany or telling crazy stories in show and tell.

“The goal here is communication,” says Roberta. “It’s all about them being comfortable and getting them out of their shells. When I see that difference in them, it means they are carefree and feel safe.”

To become a RAPID volunteer, please contact Roberta Archer at 407-280-0542, or Sheryl King at 
407-697-1370.

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