Transition to adulthood looks different for everyone. For young adults in Guernsey County, it means having strong relationships with peers and the community. Guernsey County Board of Developmental Disabilities (GCBDD) started a young adults advocacy group when they realized that some people with developmental disabilities were isolated and lacking things to do after transitioning to adulthood.
Tanya Hitchens, SSA Director at GCBDD, is passionate about the self-determination aspects of the group and has provided virtual group meetings until they can meet in person again. “When I think about self-determination, I think about being connected to the community and those pillars of self-determination” she shared.
In each group session, she has incorporated speakers from the community, such as firefighters or police officers. One participant, Ann, says, “I like when Tanya speaks because you learn new things. I learned how to be safe from the firefighter last year.” Jake, another participant, likes to have something on the calendar to look forward to and talk about. His mom says that he goes around and proudly brags to people saying, “I have a meeting tonight with my group.” Some self-advocates take turns running the group meetings too.
It’s clear to see why they needed to continue virtually when they could no longer meet in person. Mrs. Smith teaches for the BEST Program at MidEast Career and Technology Center, a program designed for kids with developmental disabilities to help with transition. She expressed that, “We are able to continue our connections and make relationships with the kids even through the screen” and that kids are comfortable with the technology.
When they can meet in person again, Tanya says they will continue a virtual aspect for group members who are unable to meet in person, like one participant who is away at college. Others have requested to participate even when they are away on vacation, showing just how meaningful this program has been. Tonya explains how they accomplish this sharing, “We’re just real with them, we’re silly, we’re goofy, we talk serious.” Building and maintaining these relationships have enriched the lives of those who have participated in the program. To learn more about self-determination and community life engagement opportunities, visit dodd.ohio.gov.