Learning, Across the Lifespan
I met Becky 11 years ago. She was 24 and living at home with her parents.
Her behavior led to severely limited social interactions, even in planned activities with peers who were also living with disabling conditions. Her interactions were troubling to caregivers (highly repetitive vocal behaviors, and more than anything else… Fixating on a given topic for really long periods of time). The vocal and conversational fixating made people uncomfortable. Naturally, they would try to get her to change the subject. When they did, she would escalate and get loud (things unfortunately would snowball from there).
She attended a day treatment program five days a week. While there, she would work closely with peers with typical verbal behaviors. They were very tolerant when she would fixate on topics. They also received coaching about when to ‘step-away’ (when it was too much for them to handle). But importantly, they provided a verbal model of problem solving within tasks that Becky learned gradually over time.
It was really important too that Becky was working at tasks while there, that were tied to her interests. She was working in the dining room/cafeteria. And, with successes, she moved nearer to in-kitchen tasks. Becky’s mom had worked and retired from being a cafeteria worker. Becky was really proud of that – she would often say, “I’m working in the kitchen just like mom.” The peers that she knew at that program were a great source of strength for her, too.
Her mom was a great advocate for her, and she prompted Becky’s admission as a participant in a State waiver program. Her mom knew that Becky would need ongoing support and that one of the goals was community based/independent living.
An assessment was conducted. With behavioral supports and truly invested support coordination… Becky achieved stability. The conflicts that she used to have, they subsided. We made plans for her to experience semi-independent living in her own place in a community close to her childhood home.
She moved in with a roommate, but after a while it was clear that she preferred to live alone. With staff, Becky experienced many new responsibilities, being a young adult and living on her own. This was a very challenging time for her. Staff persisted in an intelligent way to help Becky meet her independent living goals. And, she made great behavioral gains!
Thankfully, Becky still has her dad who lives close by. She has had to deal with the loss of her mom, her greatest advocate, who passed about three years ago. But now Becky is self-advocating!
Programs change too. I worked with Becky for her first 4 years on the program, and it was during that last year that she moved into her own place for the first time with assistance. There are layers upon layers of support available for persons in similar situations to Becky. I’m grateful that I’ve known her within several of these different layers.
Applied Counseling and Consulting Services recently picked up the coverage for support with Becky, and I was so grateful to see her again. She is still living in her own place, in a community close to her childhood home, with her dad close to her. There are fantastic supports all around her, and she has greater opportunities within her life of independence now. Her story continues.