IDD Persons Thriving in Our Community: A Month in the Life of John

The lives of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) can be challenging when they are not orchestrated in a way that provides that person with community involvement, autonomy, and connection. John is one such individual who has lived with a great Host Home Provider (HHP) family for 20 years, brought together through Evergreen Service Providers’ residential program for IDD Individuals.

Even though John’s abilities to communicate and interact socially are limited by IDD, with the support and commitment of his HHP family and living in an accepting, respectful environment, he thrives – now more than ever.

John had typically participated in activities offered through various approved organizations, which are considered elements of Supported Community Connections (SCC) – programs that are designed to help IDD Individuals learn, develop skills, and become more connected with their communities. But with COVID came changes.

Like so many other in-person activities, these programs shut down. As the pandemic subsided and facilities re-opened, staff shortages limited the number of IDD clients that could be served. And not just any group was a fit for John. Calvin Sr., John’s HHP, could not find spots for him.

The solution? Working through Evergreen, his son – also Calvin – completed training to become certified to function as an SCC program coordinator and assumed responsibility for the planning and oversight of John’s SCC activities.

This has been an incredible, positive change for John. Calvin Jr. plans activities, a month at a time, that are specifically suited for John, with exposure to a variety of experiences, social contact when and where it works for him, opportunities to learn, and to discover what interests him. With typically at least four days of SCC activities a week, Calvin accompanies John so he’s available to assist and intervene as necessary. They go to some great places. Here’s a look at John’s recent activities for a month and how they helped him thrive.

  • A library is a weekly stop, at least. They visit different libraries, some of which offer programs where John can listen to someone read or look at books on his own. Calvin sees that John observes other participants, which not only holds his interest but is helping him learn library manners.
  • One of John’s favorites is Anythink Wright Farms in Thornton. It’s a library and activity center which offers new experiences for John such as 3D printing and wood burning, along with interactive group and reading activities. John likes to disassemble things, so these crafting activities help him learn about materials and how things work.
  • Parks, Trails, and Open Lands are frequent destinations. Visiting the parks and walking the trails is at the top of the activity list for John. It gives him great physical exercise and the opportunity to be outdoors and experience the connection human beings naturally feel with nature.
  • Visits to Denver’s Sloan’s Lake are frequent and usually timed to meet up with a group of IDD Individuals who were in some of John’s previous day programs. It’s a great opportunity for John to interact and maintain those acquaintances in an environment that is not stressful or confining for him.
  • Volunteering at the ARC Thrift Store in their community is something the two do together a couple of times a week. They have a specific responsibility that allows them to work both in the store and in the back area – collecting empty hangers from the racks and sorting clothing by size, preparing items to be displayed in the store. Calvin says this is a fantastic opportunity for John to interact with people – customers, ARC staff, and other volunteers – and that it’s one of his favorite activities.
  • The Trail Winds Recreation Center offers opportunities to participate in various activities. John’s favorite is playing basketball. He has progressed from dribbling to shooting baskets. He’s now also watching people swim but hasn’t decided to try it – yet! Here Calvin is able to help staff members understand what John wants and his boundaries, which allows him to be himself.
  • A pet ranch and Adams County Animal Services gave John the opportunity to interact with the animals and even help with a little grooming.
  • Other destinations that rounded out the month included the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Thornton Arts & Culture Center, The Colorado School of Mines Museum of Earth Science, Flatirons Scuba, Red Rocks Cycling Club, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Buffalo Bill’s Grave, and Barnes & Noble. They will sometimes go to a bowling alley, but John is there for the arcade games – he loves the bright, colored lights and tactical experience.

When choosing activities for John, Calvin takes into consideration activities that worked well (or not) for John in previous SCC programs. But he relies heavily on how well he knows John after so many years as a family member. And he observes John’s responses to activities. Does he enjoy it, feel success, feel frustration, lose interest quickly, feel too crowded if it’s a group setting? He also knows John’s level of tolerance, his comfort zones, and signs that he may be getting tired or bored with an activity and can take steps to keep the situation and experience positive.

Calvin also helps John stay connected with his immediate family. He periodically takes him to spend time with his brother, who takes him out to church and other outings for the weekend then brings him home.

Calvin documents all John’s SCC activities and communicates with Evergreen’s staff about his responses and progress. Calvin shared that, “By choosing places where John can be himself, specific to the environment, John is progressing. He is improving his communication skills, experiencing success, especially with basketball, better able to spend time with groups like those at the libraries, and learning a little more about taking care of himself.”

Calvin feels really good about what he does with John and that, “It’s rewarding to be able to provide John with time he can enjoy, exposure to places and experiences he may not have otherwise, and opportunities to have his own space, which helps him thrive in the ways that he can as an Individual.” Calvin said being John’s SCC coordinator also has given him the opportunity to explore, learn, and grow – thriving right along with John.

Bryce Deitz, Program Manager at Evergreen, explained, “The one-on-one outings with Calvin provide John with exposure to the community and opportunities that work well for him and that he may not have otherwise, and they have developed a strong bond.”

Evergreen Service Providers is committed to finding each IDD Individual the perfect setting for them – one in which they form lasting, loving relationships, experience dignity and stability, can grow in mind, body, and spirit, and thrive in their own skin. John’s story is an example of what can happen with the right HHP family and environment.

We know the decision is never easy when considering placing your loved one in a setting other than your own home. Evergreen will walk with you each step of your journey to find just the right fit.

We greatly appreciate Calvin Bushner Jr. for sharing details and photos of John’s community involvement and how the activities they do together enrich both their lives.

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Arvada, CO 80002
PHONE: 303-431-0306

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Evergreen Service Providers is a small, non-profit, 501 (c)(3) agency. Based in Arvada, Colorado, we’ve been serving Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1991.

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5460 Ward Rd # 230
Arvada, CO 80002
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