SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 26, 2013

Focused on independence

Program helps young adults with intellectual disabilities

DANVERS — When Emily Korkaris’ daughter, Christina Kalafatis, grew out of services from the public schools at age 22, there were few places for a young woman with cognitive disabilities to live on the North Shore.

Korkaris said the concern was that if Christina moved home, she would lose the skills she had acquired to be independent. And with family and friends in Danvers, it didn’t make sense for her to attend a program on Cape Cod.

“If you ask Christina, she would tell you: ‘I’m a Danvers girl,’” Korkaris said.

Two years ago, Korkaris, with the help of her other two daughters, Angelina and Eleni Kalafatis, founded a residential program for those with intellectual disabilities called LITEhouse Inc., with LITE short for Learning Independence Through Experiences.

The Oak Street home, which can hold up to five people, is aimed at fostering a small community of young adults with similar disabilities. The residents have independence, the ability to grab a cup of coffee or pizza at downtown shops, with the addition of a full-time, live-in staff member to provide transportation or other forms of support. The program’s nonprofit status is pending with the state.

Christina attended Danvers schools until middle school in 2004. Then, when the system could no longer accommodate her needs, the schools placed her in an out-of-district program. Later, the family found a program on Cape Cod called Riverview School, a residential school for young adults with learning or cognitive disabilities. The school goes up to age 22.

As Christina, who spent four years at Riverview, entered the adult world, the family found that there were no programs for her that matched her level of ability and independence.

“Just because they are 22 and are done with school doesn’t mean they have to stop learning,” Korkaris said. “They can keep the momentum going.”

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