Stories of Community Transition
Spotlight on Success: BuddyBy: Justin Kotz (Allies Inc.)
Little in life has given me the professional or personal satisfaction as my time with Buddy. I first met Buddy when I worked in his group home on the overnight shift. This was a challenging time. I had been accustomed to Buddy swinging at me, yelling, staying up half the night and carrying on. It was a widely held opinion at this time that Buddy simply did not cooperate with anyone, except of course his mother.
My feeling changed however, the first day I was asked to fill in for his one on one staff. I told the supervisor I would be happy to work with Buddy anytime. Soon there was an opening and I got my chance. Buddy and I hit it off right away. Allies gave me a "whatever works" platform and we took full advantage. Buddy and I could be found in the park, at the beach, on the board walk, at the zoo, at the mall, on boats, in pools, bowling alleys, in the city, in the woods, any and everywhere in between. It took quite awhile before we had to repeat an activity. I allowed Buddy to be himself. If Buddy was carrying on in the backseat making strange sounds, instead of shushing him up, or turning up the radio, we may be found driving up the parkway screaming at the top of our lungs in chorus.
I wish I could paint a perfect picture but it wasn't always the case. In the past when Buddy would become aggressive "as needed" medication would be used to calm him down. I noticed that the medication made him tired during the day, and naturally he would stay up all night, and repeat a moody, uncooperative cycle. At some point I made a decision to incur whatever Buddy threw at me, punches and all without giving him extra medication. It didn't take long before Buddy's "as needed" medication was discontinued. A typical day with Buddy looks like this: 9a.m. either Buddy is ready to go or I'll finish helping him get ready.
We'll head to a park and Buddy might do a lap in his wheel chair or walk in his walker. We may climb the jungle-gym, use the monkey bars, go down the slide or use the swings. We use many different parks all over the tri county area as they all present different exercise challenges. Buddy may push his wheelchair up an incline ramp for some cardio. Exercise is essential in keeping Buddy in a good mood. As Buddy has limited use of his legs, his upper body has become quite strong from decades of compensation and indeed his biceps make my arms look like yarn. After some exercise we may eat our lunch in the park or go out to eat. Buddy's mom is very much involved in his life and contributes to assist Buddy in going out to lunch. After lunch we'll walk through the mall, go to the library, stroll down the board walk. etc. I usually bring Buddy home at 5:00 pm. Buddy enjoys a routine, we have a lot of variety worked into set times.
I've had to think outside the box a lot with Buddy. For instance, Buddy wouldn't use his nebulizer. I'd hand it to him and he'd hand it right back to me. I bought a power inverter and tied the nebulizer down in the van. I found that Buddy preferred using it while in motion in the van. It's like that a lot with Buddy. One day he hates yogurt, and then you find out he actually only hates guava, or peach yogurt. While he communicates in many ways, he doesn't use traditional words, and a lot of trial and error is necessary. I've discovered he likes a wide array of music. Some of his favorites include a classical "harp sonata", Rage against the Machine's "Ghost of Tom Jones" and especially and perhaps appropriately, the Ray Charles ballad "You Don't Know Me."
Buddy now attends Options day program in Toms River three days a week, instead of the traditional five days. Buddy and I do our planned activities the other 2 days. Attending Options was a big transition for him. Options graciously allowed me to attend with him initially, while conducting a phased withdrawal, where I gradually reduced my presence. Now Buddy attends by himself. While I do miss Buddy, I know it is important for his development to attend a program with his peers and not be too reliant on any one staff. I am happy that I will have left Buddy in a better situation then I found him in.
Spotlight on Success: MilagrosBy: Antoinette S. Johnson
Milagros (which means "miracle" in Spanish), is having the time of her life being a resident of a great community. On May 15, 2008, she made her transition from a developmental center in New Jersey to her new home in a Central Jersey community, and life has been very exciting for her since moving. "She lives in a supported living apartment," stated Charles Robinson Jr., assistant director of the Community Access Unlimited Agency, which provides Milagros with her daily supports. Charles has worked with Milagros since June 23, 2008. His dedication to Milagros comes shining through as he puts in long daily hours. He does not notice the long hours because he feels a sense of accomplishment when he does his job.
Although Milagros spent most of her life in a developmental center before she moved, the transition did not happen overnight. It was done very carefully to make sure that all of her necessary supports were in place before moving. She had a team of dedicated people working with her to ensure her transition would be as smooth as possible.
Milagros shares her home with two female housemates and has great neighbors all around her who look out for her because they care. She participates as an active member of her community by going to see movies at a neighborhood park, attending local barbecues, and eating out at Red Lobster. Milagros enjoys going to a day program and volunteering at Trinitas Hospital. Community Access Unlimited also has a fantastic line-up of activities that are conducted on a monthly basis for anyone who is supported by them to participate. Activities include: craft shows, bowling, reading and cooking classes, game night, dinner outings, bingo, and various parties.
Everyone that meets Milagros states that she is a warm-spirited, loving individual. "I think she is very affectionate, and if you sit next to her, she is very open to new people; she is lovable," stated Patricia Oviedo, support coordinator for Neighbours, Inc., who helped to develop Milagros' transition plan. Patricia has worked with Milagros for many years and is happy that she is now meeting new friends and living a new life in the community.
Milagros is now able to spend time with her family which was difficult to do in the past because of the developmental center's distance from the family residence. The family is very involved with Milagros' new life.
One of the positive things that Milagros is able to do now is travel. She has been to Six Flags Great Adventure and many neighborhood stores. One day soon, she will travel out of state possibly to places like the Bahamas and Cape Cod. She also likes music and going to dances. Positive things that she has learned include putting away groceries, placing her clothes in her hamper after undressing, and making sure the dishes she uses go into the sink.
Charles admires her "spunk and get up and go." He describes her as happy, outgoing, and energetic. Another member of her support staff, Betty, admires Milagros as well. She says, "It's amazing to see her transformation." In her transformation, she has learned a lot by taking part in household responsibilities.
None of this could be possible if it were not for the team effort of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, Neighbours, Inc., Community Access Unlimited, and Woodbridge Developmental Center where she lived before moving.
It can definitely be said that the miracle of life has been bestowed upon Milagros, and she is living it to the fullest. She is an awesome human being enjoying her new life in the community!