PREBLE COUNTY — Everyone has a story. Below are a few that hold the promise to educate and inspire others. Through each story, we find out how we are all connected. While the people interviewed for this article receive supports through the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities, you’d never know that after meeting them and hearing their story!
Bowers Family Stays Busy
You can feel the positive energy as soon as you walk through the door. Little Olivia greets you with her big smile, grabs your hand and says “hello”! Ruby and Caroline are quick to follow and show you the way into their living room. But, they have to dodge Mary’s breathing tube on the floor, which they sometimes do, other times, well… But all is good.
Smiling and watching the entire time are parents Brad and Dawn Bowers.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Brad says with a laugh, adding, “and very seldom a quiet moment, even at night. But, it’s a joy having all of our girls playing together.”
Olivia and Mary receive supports through PCBDD’s Early Intervention Program led by EI Specialist Becky Hampton. Kristen Gardner, a service coordinator for Help Me Grow teams up with Hampton at home visits.
“Becky and Kristen are great,” Brad and Dawn said. “We have talked to families from other counties and discovered that we are very fortunate to receive the kinds of services that are available here in Preble.”
Specifically, they referred to the opportunity to apply for grants for services and the peace of mind of knowing that they can always contact either Becky or Kristen when they have questions or concerns.
“That’s a real comfort for us,” Dawn said. “Knowing that they are always there and at the same time, sharing what services are available. That’s a relief for us.”
For Brad and Dawn, a typical day includes doctor visits, giving the girls their medications and in their spare time, chasing the kids around the house and having fun.
“We love spending time with the girls doing as much normal family stuff as we can,” Dawn said. “Especially when it gets warm outside. They love playing outside and taking walks. And, we love being at home because it means not going to the doctor’s office.”
Asked if they could have one wish, the couple sat and thought for a while. Breaking the silence, Dawn, her voice breaking, said with tears streaming down her face, “I really want for our children that as they get older, people will see who they are and not see them with a disability. That would be our wish.”
Brad, with a tear in his eye, shook his head in approval.
Olivia then came up and gave everyone a hug and smiled. Then she was ready to go.
Olivia and Ruby participate in SOYA, a Special Olympics program designed for children ages 3-8. While this is taking place, Mom and Dad are with Caroline and Mary meeting with other parents from the SOYA group – talking, learning, sharing and most important, laughing. It proves to be a great break from a busy daily schedule.
PLAY Proving It’s Worth in Gold
When Kevin and Stephanie Stoddard were asked about enrolling their six-year-old son, Sawyer, into the PLAY Project in 2014, they said “ok, sure, even though we didn’t know anything about it”. Today, they are thrilled with Sawyer’s progress.
PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) is a program designed for children with autism and provides training to parents and educators. It is an evidence-based autism early intervention program. Katie Kurtz is a PLAY consultant who coaches and models PLAY techniques and activities so that parents/educators can support the child’s social-emotional growth during everyday activities. This approach empowers parents and educators and provides opportunity for intensive intervention.
PLAY Autism Intervention focuses on following the child’s lead and validating their intentions. Dr. Richard Solomon, creator of the PLAY Project, always says: “By doing what your child loves, your child will love being with you. As adults we often bombard children with teaching certain skills or behaviors. PLAY really gives us the opportunity to slow down and pay attention to what the child wants to do and then build on their interests.”
After Sawyer’s parents learned more about PLAY, they fully embraced the project. Kevin and Stephanie quickly understood how to find Sawyers “fun.”
“At the second visit we spent most of the time throwing him on the bed and swinging him in blankets while laughing and enjoying the play,” Kurtz said. “It seems like every time we have a PLAY visit they have created a new game to play together as a family!”
Kevin and Stephanie’s use of the PLAY techniques and methods have led to Sawyer’s overall improved functional development.
“All it took was one home visit and we saw results right away,” Stephanie said. “And Kevin and I were the ones who had to do things differently. We learned so much, like when Sawyer would walk away that we should just follow him, not try to persuade him to walk back to us.
“He looked at us one day and you could see that things were different,” Stephanie continued. “It was like he said ‘finally, you are playing with me and you understand how I play.’ He is so happy that all of us are in this together!”
Sawyer enjoys playing the Minecraft video game and constructing buildings and other structures with his Legos®.
“He’s just a typical little boy who loves playing with his toys and most recently, wrestling his twin brother, Noah,” Stephanie said smiling.
The family (Noah, 11-month-old sister Finley along with Sawyer) have a great time at Scene 75 and going to the A.S.K. Playground in Eaton.
“I can’t say enough good things about the A.S.K. Playground,” Stephanie said. “The amount of joy we have there is unbelievable. The opportunity for Sawyer and Noah to play together and with the other kids their age has been great!”
Sawyer, however, went through a tough time after Finley was born.
“He was doing so well in kindergarten at East Elementary (Eaton),” Stephanie said. “Then we brought Finley home and he just closed up. We had to start over with him and so after Christmas, we transferred him to the ESC Alternative School.”
Stephanie said Sawyer has adjusted well in his new kindergarten classroom.
“He’s doing a lot better now,” she said. “We are really happy with the PLAY program and since we’ve started taking him to speech therapy, he’s doing even better.”
Stephanie added that when people judge him or stare at him, he begins to feel overwhelmed, so he shuts down.
“I really want everyone to know what Kevin and I and our family already know, that Sawyer is a normal, happy kid,” Stephanie said. “Like all parents, we are so proud of him, Noah and Finley. We couldn’t ask for a better family.”
Richie Working to Land a Job at the VA
Eighteen year old Richie Skiles loves roller skating, attending car shows and of course, eating pizza! But then again, he said with a big grin that he likes “all foods”!
Richie also enjoys going to work every day at Miami Valley South Hospital. He participates in the Project Search Program through Miami Valley Career Technical Center where he works in the Sterile Processing Department at the hospital.
“I clean all of the instruments after surgeries, the dirty linens, I take the trash out and I clean all of the carts,” Richie said. “I like all parts of my job, including the responsibilities I have.”
Richie attended Eaton Community Schools and worked at Eaton Community Pool’s concession stand through L&M Products, Inc. summer employment program.
“I loved working at the concession stand and that helped me choose to get into Project Search,” Richie said. “I want a job after I graduate from CTC and I hope to be working at the VA Hospital in Dayton with my sister.”
Richie’s parents, Gary and Nancy, are very proud of their son and speak highly of Project Search.
“Project Search is outstanding,” Nancy said. “They do so much with the students, including practice interviews, give instruction on how to dress, how to complete a resume and they also teach life skills. We couldn’t be happier with the program and everything that Richie has accomplished.”
In addition to landing a job, Richie is working with L&M Products, Inc. to hopefully get his driver’s license. To drive to work at the VA and then stop on the way home for pizza, it doesn’t get much better than that for Richie!
Home Sweet Home in Preble County!
Growing up in Preble County, Sarah Wagers made many friends and was enjoying her life after graduating from Tri-County North High School.
But after a few months, Sarah’s life would change when she and her mom moved to North Carolina to get a new start and enjoy the Carolina sun. That all came crashing down when Sarah’s mom passed away. Then, it was a long and sad return trip to Preble County for Sarah.
“I was so sad after Mom passed away and I couldn’t find a job in North Carolina,” Sarah remembers.
Once back in Ohio, she moved to West Manchester with family members but Sarah said she really wanted to move in with friends and have roommates.
Along with the support of her SSA, Laura Henderson, Sarah moved to Eaton.
“I’m very happy because people helped me find a new home,” Sarah said.
And with further support from Henderson, Sarah now works at The Gentle Cycle in Hamilton with Charletta.
“I love working and I love the people I work with,” Sarah said. “I like to talk to people and with my new home and my new job, its great!”
In her free time, Sarah enjoys shopping, watching television and going to the movies, just like so many people. After a tragic time in North Carolina, Sarah is thrilled to be home again with her friends in Eaton. Just ask her!
Charletta Howard worked at L&M Products’ workshop for many years but about eight months ago, she decided that she was ready for something different in her life. She found her passion – folding laundry.
“Charletta has a great sense of humor and she’s always being silly, but most of all, she really enjoys her job,” said Angie Perkins, program director for True Alternatives who operates The Gentle Cycle laundry where Charletta works.
Located in Hamilton, The Gentle Cycle employs anywhere from 7 to 10 people with developmental disabilities. Perkins said it is a community drop-off laundry and that gives all of her workers the opportunity to interact with the customers. Something both parties enjoy.
Charletta began working a few days a week in August 2015 but now works Monday-Friday.
“I really like folding laundry but I like getting a paycheck even more,” Charletta said with a smile. “I like to buy my own food and I collect coffee cups.”
She then showed off her fingernails that were covered with lavender fingernail polish – her favorite color.
Charletta, who lives with her sister Eva Howard outside of Camden, recently went on a cruise. Eva said Charletta spotted the laundry cart and didn’t like the way the towels were folded so she refolded them to her satisfaction.
Both Eva and Perkins agree that Charletta is very happy in her new job, likes visiting with her new co-workers and the many customers that come into the laundry mat. Charletta also participates in Special Olympics and volunteers at the Van Dells concert in April benefiting the Preble County YMCA.
As one can tell, we are all connected and alike in many ways. Throughout the year, the Preble County Board of DD encourages everyone to learn more about the 379 people the Board supports in the community who have a developmental disability and to recognize that all of us have talents and strengths that we can offer to make this a better place to live, work and play.
Reach Corey at 937-456-5891 ext. 124, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.