Living with people with developmental disabilities shaped my storytelling
I have lived with people with disabilities my whole life.
My mom was a teacher, and my dad was a social worker helping adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They were also both certified to be individual providers who share a home with those with disabilities.
And they shared a lot.
When I was 10 years old, my family had our first client with disabilities move into our townhouse. Then we welcomed another woman who had down syndrome. She and I shared a bedroom for a short time, and she lived with us for a decade or so.
Since 1991, we have welcomed 22 people into our home. One woman has been with our family for almost 25 years.
So, when I learned about a new program called Intensive Support Team (IST) through the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Cuyahoga DD), designed to help older youth with disabilities and severe behaviors, I knew I had to share the story during National Disability Awareness Month.
For my story, I met one of the young adults participating in the program, LaChristopher Stewart, who has learned to cope with his anger and frustration by going outside and cooling off. LaChristopher has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a cognitive psychosis. He was outside when I walked up to the house.
Inside, I met his mother, Sandra Moore, who said she learned through the program to deescalate situations by giving her son space when he acts out, rather than yelling. I also met the members of his Intensive Support Team whose work is so important.
I thought about the hard work that goes into improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and it made me think back to my childhood. We actually moved to a bigger house so we could care for more people with developmental disabilities. There were my parents, me, my two brothers and four people with disabilities at any one time. At one point, my cousin also lived with us.
My dad was passionate about being a positive influence in other people’s stories. I think it was rooted in him having a sister with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As I learned LaChristopher’s story, and his mother’s, I thought of my parents’ story and the lives they touched because they cared.
As a storyteller, I share those stories to shine a light on important issues, courageous people and their lived experiences.