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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Sheridan

From Shy to Self-Sufficient: How Amilcar Found His Voice

Working toward your goals can be one of the most fulfilling parts of the human experience. Everyone deserves the chance to feel proud of the steps they’ve taken to achieve a dream. But when a person lacks the resources needed to reach the life they’ve imagined, where do they turn? For Amilcar, a caring and dedicated support system was a massive first step in bridging that gap.

When Amilcar came to Association House in 2002, he was a reserved 8-year-old. Social interactions were tricky, and he struggled to find his independence. While he was able to attend a welcoming and inclusive after-school program, it couldn’t accommodate his mental and developmental disabilities. After-school programs for children with these needs can be hard to find and access. It can be challenging to get the specialized support that helps them grow.

After he finished school, Amilcar transitioned into the Life Skills Education program, which was designed with intellectual and developmental needs in mind. Soon, Amilcar started receiving the support he needed from mentors and participants, and something new blossomed within him. Meeting new people meant he could practice his social skills among peers facing the same struggles as him. Outings to the zoo allowed him to bond and learn with his new friends. Selling snacks and counting out change gave him the confidence to expand his skillset. He broke out of his shell and found his own voice.

“I speak up for myself. If I need something, I let them know. Or if anything bothers me, I could talk to them,” Amilcar states proudly.

When Amilcar found his voice, he began setting his sights on long-term goals. The list was long, but he was motivated to achieve each one knowing his friends and mentors from Association House would support every step of his journey. One of Amilcar’s biggest dreams was getting his first job. Through the Life Skills Education program (LSE), he learned money management and independent living skills to make his dream a reality.

The LSE program gives people with intellectual and developmental needs tools and resources to develop social, work-related, and cognitive skills for everyday life. “We provide knowledge for them. We provide opportunities, we provide support skills.” LSE Supervisor Ellen says. “But I think that the support we provide them, the day-to-day interaction, the program is more like a family rather than a service. We get to see who they are. We get to see and hear their needs.”

Amilcar’s occupational therapists worked with him to assess and grow his skillset and match him to a job that he could not only excel in, but also enjoy and feel proud to do. Today, he works on the Sanitation Crew at Skyline Design. But Amilcar isn’t done dreaming. Now, he’s looking forward to a trip on his own to Puerto Rico.

“I’m ready because I can do this!” he declares.

Because of the consistent guidance that Amilcar receives in the LSE program, he’s able to dream as big as he wants. All he needed was the foundational care that can lift any person to their full potential. Although we all might start on differing paths in life, everyone deserves a chance to put in the work and reach their goals. Amilcar’s story shows us that through the right supportive channels, dreams are never that far away.

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