Amber’s journey started with her mother Donna’s advocacy, her willingness to take risks, and ability to work through the difficulties to confirm her daughter will have a full life.
Donna was informed at Amber’s birth that Amber would never walk, talk, or live beyond a year. Donna was encouraged to admit her daughter into an institution. This did not sit well with Donna; instead, she brought her daughter home, believing Amber would learn and grow with the right supports. Donna worked with schools, friends, community resources like Birth to Three Program and others to provide opportunities for Amber, which made a difference and Amber responded with her fun, perky, willingness to learn.
After Amber graduated from Northland Pines High School, Donna felt Amber was ready for the next step; deciding to assist Amber with moving into an Adult Family Home to further support her independence. This home provided safety, structure, and more learning opportunities, further contributing to Amber’s self-awareness and confidence.
Additionally, Amber joined classes at Headwaters Inc. in Rhinelander which promoted independence, skill development, self-advocacy, career exploration and started the process of building a sense of community through volunteerism. Amber eagerly enrolled in community travel-training classes, city scavenger hunts, and personal safety classes. Amber joined classes to assist with work skill development, spent time working in the production area and then branching out into her community. She baked dog treats and braided fleece dog toys for the Oneida Co. Humane Society, sewed catheter bags for hospice patients and sewed Bags for Boo Boos for the Three Lakes School District. Amber helped sort and package items at the Food Pantry, and when the new project of Hodag Food Wagon came about, she worked on that project too. Headwaters introduced Amber to the State Self Determination Conference. Eventually, she started joining the virtual hangout space offered by Wisconsin Board of People with Developmental Disabilities, meeting other self-advocates around the state. Due to exposure to peers moving forward with their lives and independence, Amber started learning about living with others. Her desire for her own place began to simmer. Donna responded and together they decided Amber would take the next step and move into her own apartment. Donna admits this was a scary decision for her. Not knowing how Amber would do, knowing there are risks and the possibility to fail all contributed to some sleepless nights according to Donna; however, she continued to work with her daughter on her newest dream, an apartment. Lakeland Care staff initiated the process and started sharing housing resources and ideas for supports to assist Amber in finding and securing an apartment with support staff.
Donna stayed active with the move process and supported her daughter in her apartment by helping to coordinate workers using Self Directed Supports, which offer Amber the opportunity to choose her staff. Donna also used agency staff to provide the supports and learning opportunities needed so Amber could begin to manage herself in her apartment successfully and safely. Amber flourished with the supports that meet her ever-changing needs. Due to her eagerness and determination, Amber implemented the things she is learning and the need for formal supports decreased significantly. Amber continues to build on her community connections by attending bible study and church regularly with her mother. She started joining the potluck gatherings in her apartment, making new friends and preparing wonderful dishes to pass.
Today it is Tuesday. Amber and her friend from her apartment complex are getting into a taxi and heading out to the YMCA. Amber is working on using the taxi with her friend because she will need a way to get to her newly acquired job at Quality Inn. Amber is eager to share that DVR assisted her with securing the job she has dreamed about for quite some time. Her employer, Allen, welcomes her into the team providing natural support and a sense of belonging. Amber is eager to share her work skills and be a reliable, contributing employee. She no longer attends programming, as she is just too busy and feels she has what she needs to be herself.
This is a story about a variety of people working as a Team to make sure vision and dreams could be molded into reality and accomplished… including Guardian, family, peers and support staff along with community members. Everyone provided connection, insight, and a positive team effort that, when paired up with Amber’s determination and effort, contributed to the success that Amber is living today.
Lakeland Care is honored to have assisted along the way, providing funding for supports through the Family Care program that paced with Amber. We join her in celebrating her journey thus far, and are eager to join Amber as she continues to strive for her best life ever!