Get Inspired - Blazing Trails in a New Environment
March 13th, 2016
Finding an environment where your child will flourish and grow as they transition to adult life can be filled with uncertainties. As Julie L.’s son Greg prepared to graduate in June 2013, Julie began an extensive search to find an environment where Greg could continue to grow and enjoy his community.
Greg had been homeschooled in a 1-to-1 environment from the time he was a child until he turned 18. He then moved to a 1-to-3 teacher to student school environment for the last three years in the education system. Beginning his transition three years before he aged out ensured that Greg and his family could learn what was needed to seamlessly transition to adult life.
Julie toured nearly 16 programs in Morris, Essex, and Union counties, searching for an appropriate program for Greg. The activities offered at many of the 1-to-6 staff to consumer ratio programs were appropriate, but Greg needed more support. The 1-to-3 programs were geared towards individuals who needed more medical care or behavioral support. Neither environment was appropriate for Greg.
Julie petitioned the state for Greg to attend The Arc of Essex County Day Program with a 1-to-1 support. Unfortunately, the petition was denied, but wheels were already in motion at The Arc of Essex County to open a new day program, specifically designed for individuals on the Autism spectrum, with a lower staff-to-consumer ratio. When asked if Julie and her son were interested, the response was a resounding yes.
“I kept thinking, ‘I hope this is going to happen.’ I’m basing this decision on talking to people and knowing what my other bad choices were,” said Julie. “My only other choice was a home option. But I wanted to give him something more; something that was less isolated.”
The new program, Bridges, opened in October 2014, 16 months after Greg graduated. He was one of the first enrolled. To his family’s delight, Greg has not regressed and has adapted his skills to the new environment and team.
“Greg comes home happy and he cannot wait to get on the bus in the morning,” said Julie. “I don’t know where Greg would be if Bridges didn’t exist. I want The Arc of Essex County to know that I appreciate everything they do and that their great work does not go unnoticed.”