By Nola Millin
I started at the pre-school program when the Centre was located in the basement of the Red Cross building on Ouellette Avenue, long before it was JMCC. I progressed into the school program which was on the main floor of the Red Cross building. When I entered the school program, my mom (Betty Millin) became Executive Director of the Crippled Children’s Centre, which was the name of the JMCC at that time. It was interesting having my mom in the same building as where I attended school – talk about not getting away with anything! I remember the hours my mom put into getting what became the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre into existence. I remember seeing blue prints and hearing countless stories about this exciting brand new building that we would have “one day.” That “one day” finally arrived and the Children’s Rehabilitation Centre of Essex County opened. My mom became Business Manager of the Centre of Essex County. Unfortunately, she only got to work at the Centre for about 6 weeks before she was tragically killed in a car accident. Ironically, we were returning home from having participated in a fund raiser for the Centre.
After my mom’s death, the teachers, therapists, and the social work department were super with me. Obviously everyone knew my mom and they all knew my mom’s greatest desire was to have me grow up to be very independent. Trust me, everyone worked together to make sure my mom’s desire was fulfilled!
As the years followed, the speech pathologist who was at the Centre began introducing me to various speech generated devices. We even worked with a professor at Michigan State University who designed custom built speech generated devices. Unfortunately, it was the mid 90’s before I found a device that I could use effectively. A few years later, it was felt that I should try attending classes in a regular secondary school. I ended up having to go to a high school that wasn't at all accessible, but it was the only school that would accept a student with my type of disability. That inaccessibility factor was overcome with help from the football team. I had guys carrying me in my wheelchair up and down flights of stairs. The first year I only attended one class at the high school then I would return to the Centre for the remainder of the day. The following years I attended more and more classes at the high school. I eventually graduated from the high school. While in high school, my step-father, who I had been living with, passed away. Once again the teachers, therapists, and social work department rallied around me. I decided to move out on my own and pursue my education instead of moving to the States and live with relatives. I moved into a place called Alpha, where I still live today.
I now have a B.A. in Psychology, a B.A. in Disability Studies, and a honours B.A. in English. I’m an online instructor of basic psychology at St. Clair College. Also, I work online for the International Society for Alternative and Augmentative Communication. As well, I have a motivational speaking business on the side. I give presentations by using my speech generated device.
I return to JMCC from time to time in order to speak to the children in the JMCC School. I try to encourage the children who use speech generated devices. I also collaborate on various projects with the Augmentative Communication Clinic. Through the hardships I endured as a teenager, the JMCC was there for me with love, care and support. That’s why every time I enter the doors of JMCC I feel as though I’ve come home.
By: Nola Millin