“I came to Leake & Watts because of all the opportunities that would help me learn to take care of myself,” explains Denise, a 22 year-old resident of the Glover community residence for adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. “It was hard on my mom to have to take care of me all the time. I didn’t like that. I wanted to be able to take care of myself, but I didn’t know how to control my behavior.”
Even as an 18-year-old, Denise knew that it would be a challenge to learn how to be more independent and positively manage her emotions.  Although she loved living with her family, she wanted to learn how to make her own decisions and take responsibility for herself. So with the support of her mom and family, Denise decided to move to Glover. She has learned a wide variety of skills from the residential staff that have helped her to live more independently, and has also received a great deal of support in dealing with her emotions. “I used to get upset and break things, but now I know that I can talk to the staff about anything. Especially Kimberly – I have a really good bond with her and I look up to her as my own sister. She has helped me learn how to control my aggression.”
Denise not only lives in Glover House and receives support from residential staff, but also attends our day Pre-Vocational programs. “I work in the café, I do some maintenance work and I deliver mail to people in their offices. I’ve learned how to cut a bagel correctly, handle money and be polite to customers.” Significantly, Denise’s training on the job is supporting everything that she is learning at home about controlling her behavior.  “I’m still in the learning process with things,” she explains, “And that includes how I should handle conflicts with my coworkers. Sometimes I get angry and want to fight with them, but the staff has taught me that I need to be a bigger person than that. I’ve learned how to apologize.”
“Denise is doing really well now,” says Lilia Parks, Assistant Director of Residential Services. “She has better judgment overall, but she has also learned how to realize and acknowledge more quickly when she has made a mistake. That has helped her take a lot of control over her life and now she makes a lot of decisions for herself. We are all very proud of her.”
Living more independently now, Denise is happy with everything that she is learning.  “I don’t know yet what type of job I would like eventually because I like all the different things that I’m doing in the café and the maintenance department.  But I know I want to move up, and Leake & Watts is really helping me figure out what I am good at so that I can get a good job.” By joining Leake & Watts’ new self-advocacy program for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, she is building on what she has learned in our Pre-Vocational Program and discovering how to set the course for her own life.  Ms. Parks says that Denise has already learned how to advocate for herself in order to find employment that helps her meet her goals.  “After Denise saw someone on campus performing a different set of maintenance duties, she came to me and asked for a different position and we are working with her to help make that happen.  She has really become a good advocate for herself and that will help her navigate other positions in the future.”
“I have more confidence now that I’ve got a job and don’t have to depend on my family,” says Denise.  “Having a job has also helped me learn more about myself.  The self-advocacy group is also teaching me how to get support for what I want in the future, like someday I want my own apartment.  With everything I’m learning, I know that I am going to have a good future.”