Success comes in many forms, but should always be celebrated
aving a sense of accomplishment is different for everyone. It could be getting a passing grade on a school project, completing a puzzle, or practicing dance moves. Accomplishments of any magnitude should be celebrated. This is also true for children and young adults with an intellectual or developmental disability.
Feeling a part of something is important.
There can be many definitions of success. Marie and Justin Proudman of Hamburg, NY, parents of four children, spoke about their family. To say they are proud of them — pun intended — is very telling. Two of their children are a set of twins — Dominic and Zachary, age 20 — both living with autism and cerebral palsy. The boys have always attended a non-local school and currently attend Erie 2 BOCES in Holland, NY. Dominic and Zachary are non-verbal; however, that does not stop them from sharing their joy. One of the many activities they enjoy is being at Cradle Beach, a non-profit organization offering enrichment programs in an inclusive
environment for people with and without disabilities. As the Proudmans spoke for this story, their twins were interacting at Cradle Beach. Marie and Justin shared that their twins have met many friends, who also attend Cradle Beach, thanks to the People Inc. Southtowns Afternoon Respite (SAR) Program in Hamburg, which focuses on having fun, while offering socialization, arts and crafts, sensory activities, and community outings for people, age 10 to 21, with a developmental disability. Establishing friends has been a great benefit for them. “The fact that they have friends, it would not have been an opportunity without SAR,” said Marie. “It’s normal for kids their age to go to the mall, arcade, and to have a typical life as much as possible.” The staff of the program help make this possible, as they organize these and other experiences in the community. Due to various challenges, daycare or a YMCA were not appropriate options for Dominic and Zachary. A service coordinator provided information about the Respite Program and they have been enrolled since about age 10.
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Growth Strategies — by Nicole Forgione
When asked how they mark milestones, the Proudmans said they try to give their sons a typical life, not making things purposefully different, and provide opportunities similar to peers who do not have a developmental disability. Marie shared that their oldest boys started to walk at age 8 and it was the best feeling. Justin pointed out that when Dominic and Zachary turned 16, they took them to the DMV and they both got a non-driver ID. “They want to be part of the world — a world they fit in,” said Marie. And when asked how they express themselves when they are happy or meet a goal, Marie and Justin said their twins, “scream with joy, smile as big as the moon and love to give high-fives.” The Proudmans enjoy spending time together as a whole family with their four children, like going to the arcade, ice skating, and going on trips to the Outer Banks. The younger brothers, age 5 and 11, have an understanding that their older brothers are differently abled and are incredibly kind and accepting. Marie also shared there have been issues over the years when people may seem uncomfortable when their twins communicate or act differently. “Keep in mind, at the end of the day, we just want to be a part of something,” Marie said. For them, that something is the People Inc. Southtowns Afternoon Respite Program, where staff take groups, including their boys, on various community outings, like hanging out at the mall food court. “The program has had a tremendous impact,” Marie said. “Life is okay to be different and that can be great.”
42 WNY Family May 2022