Nova Scotia

Construction of home for children with intellectual disabilities begins next week

The first sod was turned Wednesday to celebrate the start of construction of a new Sydney River, N.S., home for children who have autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities.

Home is for children 2-18 who have autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities

From left to right: Cape Breton Ability board member Norman Conners, Sydney-Whitney Pier MLA Derek Mombourquette, CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke, Breton Ability Centre CEO Harman Singh and Breton Ability Centre resident Brian Dipreso at the sod-turning cerermony on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

The first sod was turned Wednesday to celebrate the start of construction of a new Sydney River, N.S., home for children who have autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities.

"It's a very exciting day, we are really looking forward to what is going to come and how this is going to really look when it's all built," said Harman Singh, the CEO of Breton Ability Centre.

She said construction is expected to begin next week and the aim is to have the building completed by March 2021.

The home will provide enhanced around-the-clock support for four children and will able to house people ranging in age from two to 18. The building will have an open design that will flow together.

Singh said it is being designed to meet the sensory needs of children with autism, such as by selecting wall colours that are not overly stimulating and having sound barriers.

"The less the sensory overload, the less stressful the environment is and the more calming and productive it will be," she said.

Despite these design features, Singh said it will feel just like any other house. She said the space will be tailored to the interests of residents.

Harman Singh is the CEO of the Breton Ability Centre. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

"If somebody likes Superman, well it's going to be filled with Superman stuff. If somebody likes Bob the Builder, well Bob the Builder will be there," she said.

Brian Dipreso, a resident of the Breton Ability Centre, had the honour of turning the first sod.

"I always wanted to do it," he said.

He's excited for the construction to get underway so he can watch the machines.

"Can't go near the machines when they're over there building the group home no, got to stay away," said Dipreso.

Funding sources

The Breton Ability Centre received $1.2 million in funding from the provincial government for the construction of the home.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality also helped with the project by providing land.

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