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Families come in all shapes and sizes...

Paul And Mom

Families come in all shapes and sizes in America these days and ours is no exception. As a single mother, I adopted my daughter from China when she was six months old. I had become the guardian of Paul a few years before that. Paul had been in my class in my first year of teaching. I took a special interest in him when I discovered his biological family was not involved in his life. I would become his legal guardian after he turned eighteen.

Paul has significant physical, cognitive and behavioral disabilities yet he wants the same things in life that any other adult might want. He craves his quiet time, but loves people and interacting in any way in the community.

Soon after becoming Paul’s guardian, I placed him on the waiting list at DakotAbilities. Paul was receiving services from another agency for people with special needs. It was hard for them to meet his need for privacy and his own space. I was thrilled to receive a call that DakotAbilities had an opening in their supervised apartment program. Although they were concerned about managing his behavioral needs, I helped convince them with a photo of Paul cuddling my baby daughter.

Today Paul shares a two-bedroom apartment with his best friend. He is proud to “cook” and “shop” by himself with help from his caring staff. He thinks doing his laundry is fun! Paul attends far more community functions, eating out, concerts and sporting events than I can even keep track of. Paul’s “work day” consists of therapy and work related activities at the center since behavioral limitations do not allow him to be independent in the community. Paul is happy to come home to his own private space at the end of a day. He spends time with our family every other weekend when he can squeeze us in.

Paul’s behavioral challenges have lessened over the years, yet they continue to plague him from time to time. The kind staff at DakotAbilities do not let these behaviors define who Paul is. They accept him, respect him and take such good care of him. They recognize his amazing sense of humor and all of his fun personality traits. At his recent annual meeting, the topic of his behavior was not brought up until the meeting was nearly over. That’s because they know that Paul is Paul- first, second and always. Thank you DakotAbilities!

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