Designing a Group Home for Inclusion

Designing a Group Home for Inclusion

“How come I’m not crying?” Sandy wondered as she set up her son’s new room. Because transitioning your child to residential living doesn’t have to be a devastating experience! Especially when the staff are committed to making the house a home for your loved one.

Understandably, Sandy and Kevin were reluctant as they arrived at the latest living arrangement for their son, Craig. While they trusted the process, there was still a sense of dread. They had pictured a more solemn, barren home before they had toured the new group home-run operated Incompass Human Services.

Transitioning Craig to residential living was not a decision that Sandy and Kevin took lightly. It is every parent’s hope that they can meet every one of their child’s needs. But as Craig grew over the years, so did his needs. Safety concerns, behavioral difficulties, and food restrictions became more prevalent. Perhaps it wasn’t what they imagined for themselves when Craig was born, but his quality of life was their top priority. So, they reimagined their family’s reality.

The essence of this reality was captured perfectly the first time that Sandy and Kevin walked into the residence. “To whoever designed this home – wow. It was homey, comforting, and brought us a sense of peace,” said Sandy. She likened it to a vacation that they had taken in Italy. Stepping out of the airport initially and being overwhelmed with a sense of awe.

When asked if Craig felt the same way about the home, his parents explained that he uses alternative methods of communication because he is nonverbal. But they knew he was comfortable. “He sat down on the couch like he’s always lived there,” said Kevin.

Incompass group home residents are very thoughtfully chosen with the individual’s needs in mind. “We know that moving into a new home is a huge adjustment for families and their loved ones,” said Oscar Gyamfi Legendre, Assistant Director of Residential Services at Incompass. “We take pride in listening to family members and learning some of the routines of their loved ones because nobody knows our new resident better than them.”

Craig is on the autism spectrum, along with the rest of his housemates. Staff on each shift are specially trained in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and can anticipate and effectively address difficulties that arise because of the staff to resident ratio. Naturally, the acclimation to a new environment can be a bumpy one. Sandy and Kevin were proactive in making the transition as seamless as possible, creating a book so that staff could get to know Craig better. As well as recording videos of them preparing meals that are within his restrictive diet.

“Not only were they receptive to our input, but they also acknowledged that it would help to maintain Craig’s quality of life. And make it even better,” said Kevin.

They were blown away by the staff’s commitment to the individuals and their attention to detail. Along with his autism diagnosis, Craig also lives with epilepsy. This means that safety precautions are of the utmost importance. Staff arranged for Craig to have a lower bed frame to help reduce the risk of injury if he had a seizure while sleeping, and the floors were carpeted to help with impact. Ample opportunities for leisure, both in and out of the home, are provided for individuals including an air hockey table, treadmill, and a wonderful swing in the backyard for nicer days.

Sandy and Kevin credited two Incompass Care Champions for their memorable experience moving Craig into his Tyngsboro home. Legendre and Daniel Nginyayu, House Manager. As they said their goodbyes for the day, Nginyayu insisted, “Everything is taken care of.”

We could go on and on, but we’ll leave you with these words from Sandy and Kevin instead,

“We know now that we have found our son’s forever home.”

Autism Acceptance Month: A Sibling Bond

Autism Acceptance Month: A Sibling Bond

There is a certain unspoken bond between siblings – a fierce loyalty and love that knows no bounds. When their mother passed, it was only natural that Jack would assume care of his older brother, Jimmy.

Jimmy faced two immediate hurdles when he was diagnosed with autism at a young age. The stigma of living with an intellectual or developmental disability, as well as severely lacking supports and programs. As his guardian, Jack works with Jimmy to make sure he is living the fullest life possible both at home and in the community.

It is no secret that the pandemic has been incredibly disruptive for day-to-day life, but even more so for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who depend on consistency and routine. Jack noted that the level of care Jimmy has received over the years is incomparable, especially since the onset of the pandemic and initial suspension of our in-person supports.

He mentioned that Jayne Rachier, program manager at Incompass, has gone above and beyond. “Jimmy hasn’t returned to day programs since last March because we’re worried about his health, but Jayne calls every week to check on him.”

After nearly 30 years attending our day programs, it goes without saying that Jimmy has left his mark on staff and peers alike. Prior to the pandemic, you would find him co-leading the morning exercise routine and reviewing the Morning Meeting Board to get familiar with the day’s schedule. There is one activity, however, that Jimmy finds the most solace in. Music.

Music isn’t only a source of comfort but also serves as a tool to build his communication skills. Jimmy has been nonverbal for the majority of his life but gets creative in the ways he expresses himself. If there was ever a special occasion, such as a multicultural celebration or Urban Youth activity, Jimmy would open with the National Anthem. Baseball bingo activities were commemorated with his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.

Health and safety concerns may have halted these experiences, but it certainly hasn’t slowed Jimmy down one bit. He faithfully wakes up his brother each morning to lead his exercise routine at home. We all plan on taking a page out of his book – teamwork makes the dreamwork. Looking forward to having you in the Incompass halls again soon, Jimmy!