In overcoming formidable obstacles, two disabled women have found dreams come true in gaining independence in their own home.
The two Down syndrome women –Sarah, 32, and Bryn, 25 -- this month moved into a suburban Philadelphia two-bedroom apartment where life will assume the typical for two accustomed to the uncharacteristic – a holiday gift, of sorts.
In a training program with Carousel Connections of Ardmore, PA, one of many service providers nationwide, the girls along with part time supervisory help will live much like their siblings and other twenty- and thirty-something-year-old adults who work, cook, do laundry and shop.
“These are two young women that can live a very full life with support wrapped around them when they need it, and be connected,” said Amy McCann, CEO and program director, Carousel Connections. “And they’ll have choices about what kind of work they want to do, what meals to have, where to shop.”
News of the apartment for Sarah came several months ago.
“Sarah has been excited about this for months and months,” said her father, Bob (last name intentionally withheld). “As soon as we started talking about it, she was ready. She expressed things like, ‘alright, I got to start parking.’ And we said, ‘relax, we don’t have a place yet,’ “
But soon a place in Ardmore was ready – a building where two other Carousel Connection disabled individuals live down the hall and a site within easy walking distance of many shops like the one where Sarah hopes to sell her handmade bead jewelry.
A cooking class was the first program undertaken by Sarah.
“The cooking mentor sent a list of ingredients to buy, and kitchen tools and implements needed,” said Bob. “Sarah was in our kitchen with an iPad and the mentor is directly watching.”
Following her school years, Sarah for 10 years worked three days weekly at a light industrial plant in Ivyland, PA before becoming involved in Carousel’s summer program nearby at Haverford College. It was there she experienced living away from home for a period of time.
“Carousel planted the seed early on that independent living is something we can help you manage,” said Bob. “It’s about living your life one step at a time, not climbing a mountain all in one go.”
The “go” happened earlier this month.
“It’s exciting, overwhelming, all of the above,” is how Bryn’s mother, Kim (last name withheld), described the move to an apartment. “It’s been a lot of work and moving pieces, but I think it’s going to work out.”
After completing school, Bryn began a life-skills program for three years in Connecticut, and upon completion this past August, moved home and began her connection with Carousel.
Bryn – a “highly functioning” girl, according to her mother -- will now do it all from the apartment where she and Sarah will resemble “neuro-typical” adults.
“She loves to swim,” said Bryn’s mother. “”She loves to play games and talk with friends online, and loves movies and music.”
Carousel “mentors” come to the apartment on Mondays to help the girls make a shopping list, and accompany them on a walk to the grocery store. Laundry is done next. Tuesdays through Fridays the pair attends Carousel sessions. “They walk there by themselves because it’s close,” said Kim.
What happens on the weekend?
“Sometimes they’ll go to the movies, or bowling or hang out with friends,” said Kim. “As time goes on, the support will get less and less because they will be more independent.”
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