Let’s Build Community Centers

One of the long-running themes in my public writing is the fact that I’m raising a child with special needs. The chores related to making sure that Ian overcomes his autistic issues and becomes a fully functioning member of society never ends. At some point tonight, after I finish this newsletter, I must answer some emails from his school and his therapists. 

I have a whole separate newsletter about disability stuff, because I know the general audience at Apt. 11D can only handle so much. But let me bend your ear for a moment. My latest round of work for Ian has opened up a whole new world for me, and I want to share. 

While I hope that my son’s special math and music skills will translate into a real job some day, I know that full independence for an adult with autism is never a guarantee. At this time, only a small fraction of people with autism — even those that finish college — find a full time job and lead a typical adult life style. So, I have to simultaneously prepare my son for college and prepare ourselves for the fact that he might never find work, friends, or a life outside our house.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Build Community Centers

  1. I agree 100%.

    When I left my media/digital content career it was really with the belief that life in my neighbourhood was better with good things to pursue in my neighbourhood. I’m a big believer in “third places,” wherever people find them.

    Our community centres are good buildings here, but their use is often focused on recreation – arts classes, seniors’ clubs, fitness, sport. Groups can rent them but often get better deals from local churches to use their basements etc. I think what’s hard in the Toronto public sphere is the “hang out” time – taxpayers have a hard time with it. Libraries have been stepping in a lot.


  2. I also am a very big believer in the concept of community spaces. I dream of the theoretical Hull House (I don’t know enough about the actual one) in every form where it exists. Multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-activity, multi-income, . . . . I fear our loss of those spaces (a problem pre-dating the pandemic).

    Critical to the spaces is that they are used by a wide array of people. I’ve described my hope for a community makerspace, but, I want that space to be a place *I* can actually use or I’ll end up buying my own machines and then, won’t go.

    People won’t use those spaces if there is a tipping point of “too many” people with substantial needs and anti-social behavior (if people are shouting obscenities at other users, it won’t mater to most whether that’s the result of an addiction, mental illness, or developmental disability). And I don’t know how we manage the different needs and wants while still keeping everyone together — and, really, I don’t know, and I want to see different experiments.


  3. Just visited my two kiddos colleges for family weekends and was noting my memory (which might not be fully accurate) of community spaces in college (which is already a highly curated group of people) and the differences I see now versus then. One kiddo is working in a group space (targeted to those who identify as women); other kiddo’s college is fairly small and has heavily invested in one dining center, newly opened as a community space.

    But I think even in the closed environment of college, there’s quite a struggle to create what my dream of community space is.


    1. My memory is suspect but we had a bunch of spaces at my small university – student union space, labs, library meeting rooms, dorm lounges. At the bigger school, I was a commuter (and married) student, so I was mostly just in and out — a big problem here in Toronto where most students don’t live on campus.


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