Wednesday, October 12, 2016

An Independent Life

 MCIL works with an individual for independence

By Allison Donald

Allison Donald speaks at a rally in Memphis
This year I worked with a twenty- two year old woman who had a traumatic brain injury when she was just twelve years old.  When she and her mother walked into my office for information and referral services they had just moved to Memphis from California.  After speaking with the young woman, she made it clear that she wanted to be more independent.   I went to work with her on identifying the barriers that were keeping her from being independent.

The consumer’s goals were very clear: she wanted to be more social, she wanted to attend college, and she wanted her own apartment.  My first suggestion was to join L.I.F.E (Living Independently For Everyone), which a social peer-group for young adults 18-35. L.I.F.E. meets every Thursday at the Memphis Center for Independent Living.  Her interaction with the group has allowed her to open up about misconceptions and fears. She is able to talk without judgement about being a person with a disability to other members of the L.I.F.E. 

The MCIL peer-group has also pushed her to be more social outside of the center.  The consumer is also a part of a youth bible study group at her church and she was just nominated as the feature poet for a piece she wrote about her journey as a person with a disability.  She also wants to participate in sports again, because she loves to be outside and active.  She took the initiative to sign up for the Special Olympics and began training this summer with a coach provided by the Special Olympics program in Tennessee.  She hopes to compete in some swimming and track events in the near future.  

The consumer has proven to be a social butterfly, but she also has some educational goals as well. Choosing the right educational path has probably been the most challenging goal for her to meet, because she couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted to do.  She was set on attending college, so we began the process of applying for admission to Southwest Tennessee Community College. 

The consumer came back in my office about three weeks later and told me she had been accepted.  I was happy for her, because she needed assistance filling out that application and she felt comfortable enough to ask me instead of depending on her mother.  I knew she was happy, because that was a weight off of her, but I also knew that she wasn’t one hundred percent behind the idea of college. 
I was surprised that the consumer came to my office after about a month and told her mother and I that she didn’t want to go to college anymore.  All was not lost, because I gave her some resources about the Vocational Rehabilitation program in Smyrna, TN.  The consumer and her mother visited the campus and absolutely loved it.  

Allison Donald with ADAPT
The young woman will be a member of the next class in Smyrna.  She will be in the office administrative program; a program that is also a good test for her.  She will get an opportunity to experiment how it feels to be independent. The program will reinforce those independent living skills everyone needs to manage their life. 

I am impressed by the motivation of the consumer and the time in Smyrna will be the first step to her big goal, which is to get her own apartment.  

“MCIL is a helpful, peaceful, and welcoming place for information,” she said.  

I think that is the feeling we hope all our consumers have.