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Living with dignity and independence, Daniel pours his heart into painting

Daniel and Wendy, his mother and DSP, have worked with Accra’s Basic 245D program for almost a decade

About ten years ago, Wendy knew she and her son Daniel needed a change. Daniel suffered a seizure, and his caregiver did not know how to properly handle it.

It was time to find more personalized and reliable services. Wendy took it upon herself to become Daniel’s Direct Support Professional (DSP) through Accra’s 245D Waivered Services program.

“Before I started the role of the DSP, it was so stressful to be working with other agencies and having people not show up. There’s nothing worse for a special needs individual than to never know when somebody’s going to show up,” Wendy said. “As Daniel’s DSP, I do show up, and I’m there, I’m a steady influence on Daniel, and that is really critical for the success that he’s had.”

With the Basic 245D program, Daniel receives Individualized Home Supports Without Training, which provide support, assistance and supervision to adults or children who live in their own homes. Daniel also receives Homemaker / Home Management Services, which can range from light household cleaning and laundry to other tasks like cooking and running errands.

Gaining Independence

Now 31 years old, Daniel has a unique mix of special needs. As an individual on the autism spectrum, Daniel experiences mood swings, as well as significant challenges when learning new skills. Wendy strives to help Daniel manage these challenges and works with him to practice specific tasks which foster greater independence. Together, they have come a long way.

“I’m a teacher and an instructional designer. So, I put those skills to work on a curriculum for Daniel, which started with skills of daily living, personal hygiene, you know, how to manage himself,” Wendy said. “We’ve been progressing over the last 10 years quite significantly, where he now lives in an apartment by himself with his therapy dog Max. Daniel has also worked part time in retail for seven years and manages his own medications. And he has been snowboarding with Special Olympics. This is amazing progress.”

“We usually see each other on a daily or every other daily basis to do errands like grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments. We also go on field trips to museums or do fun outdoor activities, if we have time,” Wendy said. “Daniel also expressed interest in learning how to drive, so we had an assessment at the Courage Center, and he is taking driving lessons.”

Peering Inside Daniel’s World through Art

A painting of homes nestled at the feet of several snow-capped mountain peaks with a moon rising behind them.
Abstract painting of a person playing a clarinet

Most importantly, Daniel can fully embrace his passion of oil painting. He has painted for nine years and attends a weekly art class. Wendy helps him enter his paintings in art contests and exhibits, where his unique vision takes center stage.

“He has progressed and changed in his painting styles. At first, it was more heavier oils and brighter colors. And now we’re more into pastels,” Wendy said. “It’s very much abstract, and it’s very different than what neurotypical, schooled painters would paint. Still life for him is not necessarily a still life for somebody else. He takes it out of his imagination, not necessarily out of what he sees.”

Wendy appreciates that she and so many others get a glimpse inside Daniel’s world through his artwork.

“I love seeing the world through the eyes of others. All of us have incredible capacity to do wonderfully good things within our capacity. And I think that, when you have somebody like Daniel, he is a very sweet and good-hearted soul.”

Painting of farm children playing on a mound of hay with stars swirling in the nighttime sky
An abstract painting of three people, perhaps a family

Focusing on Dignity

For close to 10 years, the training, communication and support provided by Accra have helped Wendy and Daniel achieve so much together.

“I think Accra has been able to keep more long-term clients than a lot of other places because they treat their employees very well. They’re good communicators. Other agencies don’t screen as well and don’t train as well. Accra at least has a process for that.”

“I’ve really appreciated that Accra has showed up to all his care conferences. And that my manager has always been good about keeping in touch about changes, and the way things are done. I’m very grateful that they have a robust training, and that they’re on top of things.”

As Daniel learns to drive, pursues his passion of painting and gains more independence, there is one word that Wendy always keeps top of mind – dignity. And it’s something everyone can deploy daily.

“No matter who we’re dealing with, whether it’s Daniel or kids or elderly or whoever, we need to remember the word dignity. That’s really important… We all bring something special into this world, and Daniel helps me see the world in a new way—that is humbling.”