Resources for adults with disabilities are on the rise in our community.
While programs for children with developmental disabilities are plentiful, those support services become scarce as children graduate from high school and reach adulthood. However, several organizations around Jefferson City are working to provide developmentally disabled adults a safe and enriching environment in which to spend their days.
“The needs of a child with a developmental disability do not go away when that child becomes an adult,” says Tiffany Burns, executive director of Day Solutions Foundation. “When those young adults graduate from high school, their families are faced with very difficult decisions. Many families want to keep their adult children at home but need a safe place where they can go during the day. Additionally, these adults need to be stimulated and encouraged to meet their personal goals.”
Day Solutions, a day habilitation program for adults with developmental disabilities, provides a safe and stimulating program where clients learn skills to improve their lives, develop relationships with their peers, and actively participate in the community around them. The team at Day Solutions helps every client reach their goals by teaching skills to address their individual needs. Skills include everything from buttoning a shirt, doing the dishes, and reading to writing or using money. Day Solutions has recently expanded their programming to include employment services.
“Most importantly, we provide our clients with a positive and rewarding environment filled with love and respect where they are truly able to flourish,” says Burns. “We strongly believe in lifelong growth and learning. Several of our clients have finally learned to read and advance their writing and math skills while at Day Solutions.”
At UPC Gibbs Center for Independence, the day program focuses on maintaining and growing skills that are vital to everyday life in an environment with protective oversight — a service that is hugely important to families of disabled adults.
“For many people with disabilities, if they don’t use their skills, they lose them,” says Gibbs Center director Sarah Judd. “We want to maintain the skills they have and teach new skills.”
Currently, 33 people ranging in age from 18 to 79 participate in the day program at the Gibbs Center with abilities ranging across the spectrum. One registered nurse and two certified nursing assistants round out the staff of 13 who are caring for the adults, meeting their needs and helping them access the community. Personal choice is a big priority at Gibbs, and the staff works hard to honor clients’ choices.
“If someone comes to us and says I want to be a painter, my job is to make them a painter,” Judd says. “We have a young woman with cerebral palsy who couldn’t hold a paintbrush. There is really expensive adaptive equipment available, but instead, my staff cut a piece of Styrofoam to fit inside her hand and put a paintbrush through it so she could paint. We had to make it pink, her favorite color, and now she has her own piece of custom-made adaptive equipment.”
The Gibbs Center also began offering employment services this past August. Staff works with clients on an individual basis to develop vocational skills during the day program. The Gibbs Center also provides on-the-job training by partnering with local businesses and pairing them with a Gibbs Center client who is capable of meeting the needs of their company.
Judd says the Gibbs Center also operates two vans that travel around the community each day with the goal of helping clients be as independent as possible.
“Our people benefit the community,” Judd says. “They’re rich and loving and fun people, and the community benefits from getting to know them.”
One of Judd’s favorite success stories is that of a man with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, uses a communication device due to limited speech, and loves coffee. Staff members began taking him to a local coffee shop, where they would order for him. They began encouraging him to order on his own using his communication device, then encouraging him to make the monetary exchange.
“He learned budgeting and appropriate social interactions,” Judd says. “It’s hard for adults with disabilities to have these interactions, but our staff was able to facilitate that community integration. When he would come in, the locals would welcome him like Norm on “Cheers.” For us, that was the best part of everything he learned. He was part of his community.”
Her experience at the Gibbs Center has taught her that dignity is important to adults with disabilities, Judd says.
“People want to do things for themselves, and they need skills to do that,” she says. “Adults with disabilities can do more than people give them credit for. There is dignity in knowledge, and it’s important for us to give them their dignity and independence, give them a choice in what they want to do, and help them be a part of their community.”