Written for JF&CS of Atlanta
He first entered Independence Works silent and shy. As a new client, Daniel spoke on occasion at most, and volunteers had come to believe that he was almost nonverbal. Daniel’s uprooted scheduled had changed entirely from the dependable school class list with familiar faces to up in the air. The teachers and students he had grown so used to seeing every day weren’t coming back. Independence Works is used to cases like this, but that doesn’t make the individual experience less worrisome to go through. Many volunteers contributed their time to try and get to know Daniel, and after a year of attending IW every weekday, a new young man sprouted in his place.
Special Education programs allowed Daniel to stay in his high school all the way to twenty-three. While most people experience leaving high school behind at some point, everyone gets a little worried. It’s no different for Daniel – he wasn’t nonverbal, just shy.
With his comfort taken into IW’s care, Daniel began to blossom. Instead of standing in the corners, he’s taken center stage, with an almost literal sense of being. Daniel is a delight. He’s known as musical: he’ll turn anything and everything available into a microphone, going into the offices and displaying his singing talents for the volunteers. If you turn on Queen, he’ll sing for you. One of the delights of working and volunteering at Independence Works is seeing the reserved and nervous come forward with new and bright personalities, getting to know each person as the individuals they are. He’s a passionate volunteer with several programs, his favorites being the ones that help the animals in and around Atlanta.
“Daniel is so happy in the IndependenceWorks Program. He always tells us what he did, and the activities are great. He went to the Cowboy museum last week and continues to discuss. His vocabulary has increased, and his social skills are improving. It is a wonderful program, and we feel lucky to have received the NOW waiver so he may attend on a daily basis.”
Recently, Daniel has started to utilize the Jets Program; this allows him to get to and from IndependenceWorks with more ease. From there, he goes to the Atlanta Zoo or FurKids. He’s passionate about the cats and socializes well with them as much as he can. He can talk night and day about Komodo dragons and other cool creatures he’s found at the zoo. If he’s not traveling, then he’s in art class and can be found with some ease making a Mickey Mouse out of clay. He always gets excited when its time for music therapy. There’s a humorous side that has begun to form from Daniel. He’ll quote a dozen movies or Queen. While he can be difficult to understand at times, he’s high functioning and creative.
With his social growth over the last six months, IW has even put forth the idea that he could enter the workforce with some care. It’s an exciting time for the family, and finding IW Has been an aid. As is, IndependenceWorks is happy to continue seeing Daniel and his family each weekday.