Independent with Grace

Leaving home and moving into an apartment is a big step for most young adults.

That rite of passage can be especially challenging for twentysomethings who have a developmental disability. But with the right support and training, they can make the transition to a more independent life with grace and confidence.

Just ask 24-year-old Jami Rae’.

Last year, Jami, who has moderate mental retardation and cerebral palsy, moved out of her mother’s house and into an apartment at one of Boone County Family Resources’ supported living sites. There she cooks, cleans and does her own laundry. She also has a roommate and holds down a fulltime job.

How many young adults can claim that type of responsibility?

“In the beginning, Jami missed her family a lot, and her support staff worked hard to make her feel comfortable and welcomed,” said Lydia Schoene, Jami’s support coordinator at BCFR. “As Jami got to know her roommate and neighbors, she started feeling more comfortable and began enjoying her newfound freedom.”

Today, Jami works at Central Missouri Subcontracting Enterprises, better known as CMSE. She was hired in March after sharpening her work skills with BCFR’s Life & Work Connections janitorial crew and ACT’s day service program. The on-the-job training gave Jami the opportunity to interact with a supervisor and co-workers and to realize the importance of following directions and being punctual. When a job opened this spring at CMSE, Jami jumped at the chance to “have a real job and make money.”

While Jami is a reliable worker, she’s also a good friend. She is especially fond of her roommate, Susan. They attended Camp Wonderland this summer and can often be found sharing a meal or watching television together. They’re favorite show is “Little House on the Prairie.” Who is their favorite character?

“Laura!” they shouted in unison.

The bond between the roommates is obvious, and so is Jami’s contentment with her new independent life. When she isn’t working or spending time with Susan, Jami enjoys horseback riding at Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center, talking on the phone with family and friends, listening to music – she has a poster of the Backstreet Boys in her bedroom – and working on Art projects. In February, she volunteered at the 2012 Polar Plunge for Missouri Special Olympics.

This summer, Jami planted a small garden that included five different fruits and vegetables. She was responsible for watering the plants and keeping them healthy. Despite the drought, Jami had a harvest to share with friends.

“She seemed to really enjoy the gardening project and hopefully will continue this project in the future,” said Justin Wann, a BCFR Client Services Coordinator.

If that wasn’t enough, Jami also plays softball and is preparing to compete in a tournament at Whiteman Air Force base.

“Jami is a fun and bright young woman who has over the past year been getting adjusted to living on her own and gaining the independence so many individuals her age strive for,” said Kim Cearlock, who supervises Jami’s supported living site. “She often has a smile on her face and is quick to share a laugh with whoever she encounters.”

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