For Laine Fabijanic, there’s no staying inside the lines when ‘adapting limitations’
Everyone has limits, but society limits people with disabilities in many unknowable ways.
Instead of being exclusive or creating separated programs, Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation has been enhancing its current program for people with disabilities to enjoy all the same recreation.
“That’s a big tenet of therapeutic recreation, is in having fun and increasing someone’s quality of life through play,” said Laine Fabijanic, the city’s community and therapeutic recreation supervisor.
Fabijanic has been working for Glenwood for two months and is already excited by all of the possibilities.
“The goal with this was to bring on expertise that would help us offer better opportunities to the community, for everybody,” said Steve Frederick, recreation manager for the city.
Whether it is special harnesses on the climbing wall, offering chairs for people with limited mobility in a dance class, assistance with working out for people recovering from injury or adapted art classes for all needs, Fabijanic’s focus is making recreation accessible to all.
“Everything’s adapted and inclusive,” she said. “If we need to separate out we’ll do that, but the idea is that it’s an inclusive experience. So folks with disabilities are a part of our typical programming on every level.”
Her dream has long been working in therapeutic recreation, and she has worked with many organizations in the valley throughout the years, including starting her own company. She always felt Glenwood Springs was the perfect outdoor and recreational town to offer more adaptive options.
“I’ve been manifesting this for like 20 years; it’s been a need in our community forever and it’s so great that the position exists and that I get to fulfill it,” she said.
Fabijanic said that it is unique that the city was already set up to adapt to any person’s needs instead of having separate programming.
Fabijanic moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1999 after she got her degree in Therapeutic Recreation at the University of Georgia. Fabijanic has also worked as a certified therapeutic recreational specialist in the valley for years.
She said that therapeutic recreation is no longer being offered at her university, and Metro State University Denver was the only university in the state and region that used to offer it, but three years ago they stopped. It is still on the school’s catalog for classes, but the department was unable to verify whether they still offer courses.
The position is becoming more in demand, but the education for it is becoming more scarce.
“My vision with this position is to have a lot of social opportunities for our community to engage in, that are fun and based in the outdoors, provide connection, inclusion, utilizing arts and culture, trail systems and everything in parks and rec,” she said.
“Adapting limitations,” as Frederick phrased it, seems to be in Fabijanic’s core.
“I don’t like to stay inside the box,” she said. “In fact, that’s probably how this started. When I was in preschool, I kept getting sent to my cubby because I wouldn’t sit on the line.”
She said her dad loves to tell that story.
“‘She never sat on the line, ever,’” she said, quoting her dad. “I’ve been an outside-the-box thinker since inception. So I’m always looking for creative solutions. There’s no limitation.”
Intergenerational programming is important, too, giving older adults a chance to share a wealth of knowledge and young people a chance to learn from others. One of the outside-of-the-box ideas she has is getting as much community input as possible.
“We’re really looking for input from people who are living here and looking for activities,” she said. “Maybe they have programming ideas or interests for their loved ones doing more.”
Another idea she has can give parents more of an opportunity to root their children on, with what she coined as “recreation paras.”
“We want people who would like to volunteer with us to be a buddy on the courts for kids with disabilities, so their parents can hang out on the sidelines and cheer them on and not have to be on the court with them,” Fabijanic said.
Her goal is to insert herself anywhere she can offer inclusive and adaptive benefits, while also building a close bond with the community.
Spring Special Olympics just closed registration, but people are still welcome to call Fabijanic and Frederick if they missed the registration and still want to partake. For the events, they will be offering spring soccer, track and field and swimming.
“We will never leave any family member or kid behind who wants to participate,” Frederick said. “They just need to call us and we’ll figure out how to make it work.”
They both said they want the same flexibility with all of their programming. Communication is very encouraged for ideas, and for help.
“If you’re interested in anything that is recreational or what you enjoy to do with your free time, let us help to facilitate that,” Frederick said.
Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-384-9131.
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