Sunday, October 20, 2013

Plan B

About a year and a half ago, we began searching for a day program for Alex so that he could develop more skills and independence as well as spend time with peers. After visiting two programs, we immediately knew which one we thought was ideal for him. The first day program, housed in a beautiful facility, offered a variety of interesting and entertaining activities we knew he would find engaging. Moreover, everyone—staff and clients—seemed to be enjoying themselves, and we thought that Alex would be happy there, too, because he really liked visiting there. By contrast, the second program did not seem to offer well-planned activities, and the facility just had a sad feel about it, making us feel sorry for the clients. During the brief time we visited there, Alex kept asking when we were leaving and when we could go home. Clearly, this was not where we wanted him to be. Recently, the agency that ran that day program had its group homes closed down by the state for violations. Sadly, their residents had to be relocated to new groups homes after many years, often far away from their families, or their families, some with elderly parents, took them home to care for them. Interestingly, Alex’s intuition was correct about not wanting to stay there even though they were quite eager to have him enroll in their program.

After deciding upon the day program we believed was best for Alex, we filled out all the needed paperwork to enroll him. At first we were told there was an opening for him, and then that invitation was revoked because of concerns about his history of aggression. Even though medication was keeping his anxiety and agitation under control, they wanted him to do his trial evaluation under one-on-one supervision with their staff. Moreover, they wanted to wait until a major construction project that would more than double their facility in size was completed this fall. Although we were disappointed that we would have to wait, we understood their reasons and thought that he would be given a chance this fall once the construction was completed. After the addition to the facility was finished, Alex’s case manager and behavioral therapist began inquiring about when he might be able to start his trial evaluation there, and they were given vague answers about his being on a waiting list. Again, they cited his past aggressive behavior, despite his behavioral therapist and case manager noting the improvements he has made in the past several months with medication and therapy. While we certainly understand their concerns for the safety of their staff and other clients, we are disappointed that his progress does not seem to be a factor in consideration. In addition, their agency has taken some of the clients whose agency was closed by the state. Although those new clients do have a greater need, I suspect this also pushes Alex farther back on the waiting list.

Since our original plan that Alex would be enrolled in our chosen day program this fall does not look imminent, we decided that we needed to come up with an alternative plan that will keep Alex moving forward in his progress, a “Plan B.” First, we asked his behavioral therapist to have her counseling agency complete a new behavioral assessment of Alex based upon his more recent behaviors since the first assessment was done eighteen months ago. She agreed that with the progress he has made a new evaluation would provide a better picture of Alex’s current behavior for anyone who works with him. In addition, we asked his case manager if we could come up with a new budget for his disability funds. Since he is not currently using funds allocated for a day program, we would like to use them toward more behavioral therapy and perhaps other supportive therapies, such as music therapy.

After finding out that this change of plans would be acceptable for his budget, his behavioral therapist and I began brainstorming ideas of ways we could use additional therapy time. Thankfully, his behavioral therapist Jennifer is wonderful with Alex and is available, willing, and eager to work with him during an additional session each week. Even though she has only been working with him for a few months (after the first therapist moved out of state and the second one was promoted to a new position), we feel a comfort level with her as though we have known her for years. As she and I discussed possible activities for Alex’s second session each week, we agreed that increasing his social skills by doing fun activities would be best. These Friday sessions that will begin in November will include me so that Alex gets used to not having either of our undivided attention. We have discussed playing games and going on outings to the library, restaurants, the bowling alley, and stores—all of which we hope will improve Alex’s social skills and his ability to function well in different settings.

Not only are we grateful that Jennifer is able to do additional work with Alex, but we are also pleased that she has taken on this new responsibility with genuine enthusiasm.  Moreover, Alex adores her and looks forward to seeing her every week; he is delighted that he’ll now get to see her twice a week. What a blessing to have her in our lives! While Alex will be developing his skills, we will continue to hope that eventually he will be accepted into our chosen day program. As I told his case manager when I proposed the changes to her, we hope that the increased therapy time will ensure that when the day program is ready for Alex, he will be ready for the day program. While I’m not always patient about waiting, I know that God has a perfect timing, and I’m really looking forward to the fun Fridays Alex, Jennifer, and I are going to enjoy in the meantime.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6


Marjorie said...

Sorry the day program you liked doesn't seem to be coming through in the timeframe you'd hoped for. Glad you're coming up with other ideas for him, for now, and that Alex adores Jennifer!

K. C. Wells said...

I'm so glad you and Jennifer were able to come up with some alternatives for Alex!

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Marjorie and K.C.
Thanks so much for your nice comments; it's great to hear from both of you! Through this process, we've learned that God's timing and plans are better than ours (which is hard for a control freak like I am to admit!), and I'm sure that this delay has a good purpose in getting Alex better prepared for the next step. In the meantime, we're looking forward to Fun Fridays with Jennifer. :)