Last fall, I had the privilege of interviewing twenty-five year old Brian and his mother, Teri, about how he pursued his dream of living independently, with support from family and a few services from the state Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA).
Brian shares a duplex with one roommate, once held a job at the police department as a data entry clerk (he types 60 words per minute) where he earned more than $11 dollars per hour, and currently works at his local community college in the financial aid department.
He receives Medicaid Personal Care, which, combined with support from his parents and siblings who live nearby, gives him the freedom and independence he and his family have always envisioned. It hasn’t always been easy, and, as Teri explains in the video created for IFBT’s Community of Practice, it takes years of planning and practice.
Below, Teri talks about her family’s guiding principles in helping Brian create an independent life:
In our family, as [Brian’s older brothers] learned to ride a bike, Brian learned to ride a bike. As they learned to skateboard—and this makes my friends crazy—Brian learned to skateboard. And, in the process of 8 months, he actually broke his foot twice. And he was in a cast.
One of the things that we decided early on, number one: It’s not about us. It’s about Brian.
The second thing: You have to do risks with your child.
Obviously, you want to do them when you still have some control and you can support the risk.
We had skateboarding lessons in our front room. And then he took it outside, and the very first time he was outside, he broke a foot. So he was in a walking cast. When that healed, he did it again. He practiced and practiced. He broke his foot again. And Brian decided that he didn’t want to do skateboarding anymore. Brian made that decision.
So, we did:
1) It’s all about him.
2) You have to let him take risks.
3) You have to have 10,000 eyes on him.
You have 10,000 eyes on your child. You have 10,000 eyes on your other kids. These are the people that keep an eye on him and intervene in case something happens.
So, in school, Brian was in regular classrooms with assistance. Because the people he was going to live with and encounter in the community were those people he was in school with.
He met everyone. And when he went through school, those different people graduated and started doing all the things in the community that are things Brian involves himself in.
One of the bus drivers is a young man that Brian went to school with. His name is John. So Brian sees John when he goes out.
The grocery store clerks are people he went to school with. So he sees them and he talks to them.
They’re all out there, keeping an eye on him, and helping him make decisions, and just watching out.
For more of Brian’s story, watch the IFBT Community of Practice video.