“Make your life a masterpiece; imagine no limitations on what you can be, have or do.”
Tim: A Transformative Friendship in LifeSharing Program
In 2008, Tim, a nonverbal 47 year old man with no family, found both a voice and a new family. Tim had previously lived in a group home where he had severe physical outbursts and aggressive behaviors. He would also refuse to attend his Day Program and/or work. Many years ago, Tim’s parents passed away on his birthday in December. Ever since then, Tim wouldn’t tolerate birthday parties or want to celebrate Christmas. Without family interaction, Tim would often withdraw from all interaction and spend time alone in his room or cry.
In October of 2006 at a quarterly review, Tim expressed an interest in the Life Sharing program. However, his extreme physical aggression, destructive behaviors, and communication difficulties raised flags for some people. Many became skeptical about his suitability for the Life Sharing program, but it turned out to be exactly what he needed. A year and a half later, Tim was introduced to the man that he would live with: Dave. After six months of rapport building, the placement was approved.
Since their lives together began, Dave and Tim have made great progress and built a wonderful friendship, but it wasn’t always easy. Tim is not verbal and has a very limited vocabulary. Due to this, he only answers with a “yes” or “no” and can have difficulty communicating. Despite this obstacle, Dave knows Tim’s needs and wants and often “acts as a voice for Tim.” Another challenge Dave and Tim faced were Tim’s behavioral issues. Dave has many antiques in his house that have been in his family for generations. Even with the antiques, Dave didn’t react drastically when Tim started having destructive behaviors. Dave simply reinforced his cupboards to the wall and moved on. Dave has shown his support of Tim through understanding, and they have both worked hard to eliminate behaviors. As a result, Tim hasn’t had a behavior since July of 2010 and was discharged from the Behavioral Support Team.
Dave has also helped Tim experience new things and move forward. Many firsts have occurred for Tim thanks to Dave’s support. Tim has always loved and wanted to ride a motorcycle. Unfortunately, liability and insurance issues made this “just a dream.” Upon learning of this dream, Dave went out and purchased a replica of his first motorcycle. Dave and Tim often ride it up and down the country roads. The two of them also enjoy trips to Niagara Falls, Sight and Sound in Lancaster, Pirates games at PNC Park, visiting Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, poker nights with the guys, softball games, Fantasy Football League get-togethers, and so much more. Since entering into the Life Sharing program, Dave has done nothing but support Tim and brought him into his life completely. Dave’s friends have become Tim’s friends. Dave’s dogs are Tim’s dogs. And Dave’s family is Tim’s family. These two men have intertwined their lives completely and been there for each other.
Despite unpleasant events of the past, Tim now celebrates his birthday with Dave and their poker buddies. He no longer avoids Christmas; it’s even his favorite holiday. Tim enjoys picking out a living 8-10 foot Christmas tree every year with Dave. By opening his home to Tim, Dave allowed him to “experience closeness and friendship that he didn’t have before.” Dave has opened so many doors for Tim, doors that Tim had closed and locked, just by opening the door to his home.
Jesse: Seeking and Finding Independence with Day Program
Direct Support Professional Shelley has seen a “drastic change” in Jesse since she first met him. She recalls that Jesse didn’t interact much with others, instead preferring to sit at a table and draw pictures of people and things around him or draw pictures of trains. However, as Jesse continues to work on independent living skills at the ATF, he is becoming more involved and building new friendships at the day program.
“I think Jesse likes the opportunity to make friends at the ATF and be a part of something,” said Shelley. “He really does want to be more involved and engage in group activities.”
Jesse’s health goal presents an opportunity for him to do just that. When Jesse walks, he requires support from staff and uses a wheelchair for long distances. Walking “laps” around the ATF became part of Jesse’s day as a way to improve independence, keep him physically active, and increase socialization and mobility.
“In addition to maintaining his health and mobility,” said ATF Director Rachel, “it provides several socialization opportunities for Jesse.”
Each day Jesse walks, he invites a friend to walk the laps with him. Walking also allows Jesse to see and be a part of the different things happening in different areas of the ATF. Jesse knows what is expected of him in relation to each of his day program goals. Besides walking for physical health, Jesse focuses on socialization skills and daily living skills.
“Jesse feels really good about himself when he completes any goal,” said Shelley, “but he really likes washing his lunch containers and repacking them in his lunch box. He sees it as his job and feels accomplished when he finishes.”
Cleaning his own lunch containers has helped Jesse develop and maintain motor skills, improve mobility as he supports himself at the sink, and promotes independence. This “job” is something that Jesse has transferred to his home according to his parents, where he insists on being more independent. We are sure that Jesse will continue to apply his independent living skills that he works on at the ATF to his life at home with his family.
Jeremiah: License to Drive
Jeremiah has faced difficulties in his life, one of those being managing his anger. Jeremiah needed extra support to cope with these issues that, at times, inhibited his ability to focus on his goals and achieve his ultimate goal of being as independent as he could be in daily life.
Jeremiah came to live with Fayette Resources to have the day to day support of trained professionals who helped him learn coping skills and helped him focus his energy on positive outcomes. His short temper was a setback, but Jeremiah has always been “motivated to be as independent as possible.” Over the years, Jeremiah has made “amazing progress” and gained more independence. He has been employed for several years, has unsupervised alone time at home and in the community, plans trips for him and his friends, and even got his driver’s license.
In 2014, Jeremiah became interested in driving. He viewed it as another opportunity for independence. Fayette Resources doesn’t have a program to help individuals get a driver’s license, but that didn’t stop Jeremiah. With the help of his Program Specialist and residential direct support professionals, Jeremiah made arrangements with Goodwill to obtain the necessary training to become a licensed driver.
After passing his permit test, Jeremiah started driving lessons. Once he fulfilled the required hours of on the road training, Jeremiah was able to acquire his driver’s license. He was “ecstatic” when he got his license and told everybody about it. He is very proud of this accomplishment and the independence that comes with it.
Jeremiah is already working on new goals and has plans to further increase his independence. He hopes to move out of his group home in the near future. He started learning about his own finances and looking into independent living with the backing of his support team.
Ricky: Communication and Becoming Part of Your Community
Ricky settled in and quickly became comfortable in his new home with Fayette Resources. When Ricky first came to Fayette Resources, he had behaviors and was often reluctant to go into the community.
Since then, Ricky has developed a great relationship with his staff, maintained a “zero behavior rate,” and has enjoyed many activities in the community. His activities for the day are often planned by Ricky himself. He likes to relax at home, go shopping at the outlets, and visit his family. Ricky particularly enjoys going home to spend time with his parents. Recently, Ricky went on a boat ride with his parents, which he loved. His parents have commented on his progress saying that they “have the old Ricky back.” Ricky’s parents have also thanked his staff for the support they provide to Ricky that enables him to be successful.
Ricky, loving his family and loving to shop, proudly bought his parents and other family members Christmas presents and was excited to hand them out. He also personalized a picture frame for his parents with various pictures of him doing things in the community. Ricky’s job at Fayette Resources’ office helped pay for these presents. Usually, Ricky likes to spend his money on things for himself such as iced coffee, food, or stuff for his garden, but he decided to spend his money on his family for Christmas because “his family is really important to him.” He has been shredding paper at the office once a week to earn a paycheck. Working to earn a paycheck is something that Ricky is proud of and really enjoys.
It’s wonderful to see Ricky make such great progress in his everyday life. Ricky’s DSPs and family are proud of his success and know he will continue to make strides towards independence. He has already accomplished so much.
Donald: LifeSharing Program Leads to Success
In August of 2014, Donald transitioned from a group home into the Life Sharing program. Fayette Resources’ Life Sharing Program is an alternative way to provide community living for individuals. The program allows an individual to live in a host family’s home, where they are included as part of the family’s everyday life. This arrangement gives individuals an opportunity to be a part of a family, provides consistency, and helps build long term relationships.
The family environment provided by Life Sharing has helped Donald to make more progress. Donald has achieved increased independence and greater goal achievement because of the Life Sharing program.
“The one on one aspect of Life Sharing has really benefited Donald,” said Program Specialist Michael. “His understanding of responsibility has improved in the new environment.”
Donald’s sense of what is expected of him has also improved. Donald shared the “great progress” he has made within the program at the Life Sharing Conference at Penn State. Donald participated on a panel discussion and gave a small presentation about his experiences in his new home.
Donald continues to enjoy his new home and “family”. He continues to make strides in achieving goals and learning life lessons that help him live his best life.
Corey: Making Goals and Achieving Success at Day Program
Corey participates in one of our Adult Training Facility (ATF) programs. He is full of energy and one of the nicest people you could meet. Corey is ambitious and works hard on his chosen outcomes at his day program. Corey enjoys assisting peers and embraces outcomes that encourage his interaction with peers, especially in the capacity of helping others reach their goals too. He is excited by new challenges and eagerly pursues them. His most recent challenge involved adding more responsibility to his schedule. This involves adding “yellow blocks” to his daily schedule. The yellow blocks symbolize helping another peer.
“Corey was very excited about his new schedule,” said ATF Director Rachel. “He’s very proud of those yellow blocks and helping his peers is always the first thing he wants to accomplish.”
To help peers work on their goals, Corey looks at their goal schedule and plan and then determines how he can best assist them. Corey often enjoys social activities with peers such as board games or card games, that promote a variety of socialization goals. Another way that Corey helps peers is mentoring.
A few years ago, during a planning meeting with his team, Corey expressed that some day he would be interested in working in a grocery store, stocking shelves. The ATF that Corey attends has a small store that helps to raise funds for program activities and needs. Corey started stocking the ATF store with soda, water, juices, chips, and other snacks. He also started taking inventory and shops for items that are needed. Corey has handled these tasks with a great work ethic and is now teaching these skills to his peer, Ronald. Right now, Ronald is learning to stock the Mountain Dew and take inventory of the soda. Corey likes being in this leadership position and says that Ronald is “doing good.”
Corey aspires to one day make a living for himself by stocking shelves at a local store. So, while stocking the ATF store is teaching him skills to accomplish this life goal, it is also presenting him with new leadership opportunities.
Annie: Hard Work Pays Off
Annie received Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 2015 Participant of the Year. She was ecstatic to receive this award and honored to accept it in the presence of coworkers, peers and friends during the annual awards ceremony. Annie’s Direct Support Professional (DSP) staff and her family were proud of her and her accomplishment. Through hard work and a willingness to learn new skills, she achieved a personal goal.
Program Specialist Mark recalled some of Annie’s struggles on her path to employment success. “When I first met Annie, I knew she had the potential to be a great worker,” said Mark.
Finding your strengths and talents in the workforce can sometimes be a daunting task. Annie faced some obstacles on her path to becoming the 2015 Participant of the Year. Daily struggles to determine what drives your ambition and what inspires your work can sometimes find you questioning and doubting your current choices. Annie faced these obstacles and with the assistance of her support team, including her residential DSPs, Annie was able to renew her interest and drive related to her job. Annie worked with DSPs to identify stressors related to her job, set new goals for herself and then she worked hard to achieve her goals. Over time, Annie became more independent and worked harder. Her employer, Goodwill Industries, recognized Annie’s commitment to hard work and excellence.
“I think she’s very proud of this achievement. It’s something that she can be recognized for individually,” said Residential Director Erik. “Participant of the Year may not have been a goal of hers, but improving her work performance always has been.”
Annie is very proud of receiving this award. She made copies of her award to share with all of her friends. Annie worked hard to achieve her goal and being recognized for her hard work has inspired her to set new goals to pursue.
Ashlynn: Family Supports Success
Ashlynn participates in the Life Sharing Program. She has seen success in many areas of her life since moving in with her Life Sharing Family. Ashlynn historically struggled with behavior issues, including becoming physically aggressive, when a situation became too chaotic or overwhelming for her. Ashlynn’s behaviors have lessened and continue to improve.
While in school Ashlynn had an aide that assisted her during bus rides to and from school. The aide was present to calm Ashlynn and help her work through her stress and anxiety and curtail a negative stress response, such as physically acting out towards her aide or peers. She currently rides to and from the ATF on public transportation without the assistance of a 1:1 aide.
Ashlynn became a participating member of her community by joining the local fire company’s ladies auxiliary. She assists at the various dinners and banquets hosted by the fire company by selling 50-50 tickets. Most everyone in the community knows her and will go out of their way to talk to her when they see her out in the community.
Ashlynn has moved on to other goals and is focusing her attention on learning to cook. She has accomplished the preparation of simple meals and snacks for herself and her Life Sharing Provider. She also enjoys being the “big sister” to the grandchildren of her Life Sharing Provider. She also took on the responsibility and commitment of a pet, adopting a cat. She takes her responsibility seriously as the caretaker of her new friend.
Deann: Improving Socialization at Day Program
Deann has made impressive strides with her social skills at the Hyde ATF. She first came to Fayette Resources in August of 2007. During the majority of her program day she showed no interest in interacting with anyone, choosing only to socialize with peers during lunch. If anyone attempted to interact with her, Deann would become upset, yell, and refuse to interact. While social interactions still upset Deann at times, she does interact and relate more with staff and fellow participants at the day program.
“This is a big step for Deann in working on her goal of Socialization and Interacting with others,” said Program Specialist Tracey. “I think achieving her goal is doable, especially after seeing the progress she’s been making.”
Deann has started showing more interest in group activities and will even join activities independently, without prompting from staff. Deann used to avoid activities outside the ATF with her peers, now she is upset if she isn’t able to join them. Deann’s favorite warm weather activity is sitting on the swing outside of the ATF. She now enjoys when people sit with her.
“Even her mom was amazed when we told her that Deann was allowing others to sit with her on the swing,” said Tracey, “because it’s rare that Deann even likes for her mom to sit by her at home.”
Tracey credits the support of the ATF’s direct support professionals for Deann’s progress. They are “always encouraging Deann to do things with others,” and helping her achieve goals. Deann has improved her social skills within the Hyde ATF and we hope to see her transfer this progress into a community setting.