Becoming Independent

Our Heroes

Like the people they support, Becoming Independent embraces resiliency.

Since the COVID-19 Shelter in Place order, Becoming Independent has continued to provide essential services to some of the North Bay community’s most vulnerable citizens, adults with developmental disabilities. Becoming Independent staff worked diligently to find creative ways to utilize virtual platforms that allow clients to connect socially, stay active at-home both physically and mentally, and to explore new interests!

Becoming Independent’s Day Programs focus on building skills in the community. Naturally, these are the most impacted. The individuals who spent their days volunteering, engaging in recreational activities, and/or exploring personal interests in the community are now faced with a new and challenging landscape. What do you do when proximity to others, so essential to these activities is prohibited?

Not surprisingly, the greatest challenge of this current crisis for the people served involves social isolation. For a large majority of the over 1,000 individuals that Becoming Independent supports – and indeed, for most of us – social engagement with peers, coworkers, and community members is key to quality of life. For those who depend on Becoming Independent’s provision of delicately balanced behavioral supports, both social distancing and significant interruptions to daily routines proved to be particularly disruptive.

Telecommuting began for direct support staff in week one, with a focus on the tools and strategies necessary to provide a safe and effective curriculum. Last week, a pilot group tested virtual curriculum and the mutual delight of all who participated was evidenced in Zoom screenshots. While one team visited the Georgia Aquarium, another took a trip to the Vatican!

Derek, one individual served in Becoming Independent’s autism program benefited from the virtual visit to the Vatican.  His mom, Tracy, commented on Becoming Independent’s FaceBook page: “Derek LOVES his zoom adventures! Thank you so much for staying connected!!! BI is the best!” 

Other adaptations include phone conferences ranging from \”Social Hour\” to \”Mental Health Check-In\” and a formal virtual curriculum was recently unveiled. Classes include communication skills, such as phone etiquette and American Sign Language, while social activities offer a weekly Zoom-based book club, Do-It-Yourself art projects, and at-home exercise classes.

BI’s Employment Services continue to provide job training, coaching, and support throughout the Shelter In Place, in-person as well as remotely. For the BI clients who find themselves deemed essential workers in environments such as grocery stores, staff engagement is particularly important and valuable. BI’s job coaches are providing critical COVID-19 training workplace safety, supporting individuals in ensuring appropriate personal protective equipment is being accessed and used properly, and helping to navigate transportation to and from work in an environment where public transit has been drastically reduced.

In these times, it is clear that Becoming Independent remains more committed than ever to finding innovative ways to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community, ensuring that everyone emerges from the Shelter In Place as connected, strong, and healthy as possibly.

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