Embracing the Future: Jarred’s Graduation, Looking Forward to the Path Ahead
One last time, before heading off to his new home as an adult, Jarred Segal held out his Augmented Alternative Communication (AAC) device and touched it to say, “Goodbye, everyone.”
There was pizza, singing, and dancing at Jarred’s going away party at the Sea Spray House. There were also many memorable moments with his long-time staff. One was when Rachel Butler, Direct Support Professional, supported his hand to cut cake for people who have been in his life for the past 14 years.
Looking back, Dennise Segal, Jarred’s mom, remembers initially being uncertain whether a children’s residential program (CRP) was the right choice for her son. “I said I’d give it 30 days.” Yet after just two days, she saw the changes in his behavior. Today, she sees Jarred’s CRP experience as “a gift for Jarred to have a life.”
Jarred came to Brookville Center for Children’s Services (BCCS) at five years old, when Dennise learned about BCCS through her sister who had a child in the program. She was seeking options, feeling that the preschool Jarred attended at the time was not the best fit.
“It didn’t feel right, I knew he was not getting the support he needed at that school,” Dennise explained. Jarred has autism, and Dennise was searching for organizations that would meet his needs and be a place where he could learn and grow. The process was tiring, especially since moving forward with BCCS would force a change in Jarred’s routine. Something that, at the time, Jarred had trouble handling.
During his intake interview with BCCS, it was clear Jarred felt the pressure of the impending change. His frustration was so great that he could not leave the car. Sherry Black, Program Supervisor at BCCS, met with the family where they were—right in the vehicle—and explained to Dennise how Jarred could begin his journey at BCCS.
Next steps included evaluations and consultations to determine the services and supports Jarred would need to make significant improvements in life and learning.
After starting at BCCS, Dennise was relieved to see marked improvements in Jarred’s behavior.
“He loved going to school. He seemed less frustrated, ever since he started using the iPad,” said Dennise. Jarred is nonverbal and communicates via his AAC device. AAC devices are filled with words and phrases that a person can access to communicate with the world around them. There are even AAC apps available for the iPad.
After a couple of years at BCCS, talks began to have Jarred transition to the CRP. Although Jarred was making great strides in school, at home he was still having some challenges.
He had trouble sleeping through the night. There were even instances of him eloping, which led to his family being more diligent in monitoring doors and windows.
Again, this time of transition was most difficult for Jarred’s mother, who was heartbroken about the prospect of having her son leave home. This became a contentious point in family discussions. The final push came from Dennise’s mother who told her to consider “what would be best for Jarred” and his personal development.
On entering the Sea Spray House, Jarred began to develop new habits. He slept through the night and even began doing chores — setting out his clothes, doing laundry, and cleaning up after dinner, tasks even his older siblings weren’t doing at the time.
“He ended up being a positive influence on his brother and sister. After seeing Jarred’s improvements, it was easier to convince them to do the same and take care of their laundry and make their bed,” said Dennise.
These life skills, along with hygiene and maintenance tasks, are focal points that CRP staff support residents to accomplish. As the CRP works in conjunction with BCCS, a person who receives both services’ experiences 24/7 learning, leading to improvements in both their academic and everyday lives.
Now at 22 years old, Jarred has gained a significant amount of independence, can express his needs and feelings, even dictate his schedule. Jarred’s use of his communication device has brought out his personality.
“He’s come so far, the change in him and how much he’s matured. Expressing himself on the tablet opened so many doors for him,” said Dennise.
Jarred is now known for his impressive memory and love of reading. A huge fan of the Disney franchise, Jarred keeps a collection of classics like “Toy Story” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in his room.
Since Jarred first moved out, he’s remained very close to his family. He goes out with his mother every week. They often can be found enjoying a slice at Mo’Nelisa’s Pizzeria or a dinner at Outback Steakhouse. His brother also takes him out on weekends to enjoy quality time sharing video games, movies, or road trips.
“Now he’s the one telling us when he’s free to go out. It’s much better now because we know the time we spend with Jarred is just a fun time. It was a gift for Jarred to have a life and I can’t thank the CRP enough for working with him,” said Dennise.
At twenty-one years old, Jarred graduated from BCCS and the CRP. Before his move, he began preparing for his transition to a house in Medford, operated by sister agency, Citizens Options Unlimited.
This process can trigger anxiety in families, but Jarred’s mother wanted him to continue with the family of organizations that supported her son for over a decade—and cultivated Jarred’s full capacity for independence. His transition from the Sea Sprays seemed effortless, compared to the moves of the past.
“He did wonderful his first night,” mentioned Medford House Manager, Niquette Daniel. Agency staff are there every step of the way to support him. To get Jarred acclimated, “a staff member from 28 is there to help him sleep” mentioned Shakir Davis, a CRP House Manager.
For the first week, a staff member visited Jarred nightly, making sure he went through his sleep routine easily. So far, there have been no issues. Jarred is aware of the changes happening and his life but is also cognizant that certain things will remain the same.
In Medford, he will live closer to his family, who can visit and schedule outings with him more frequently. Even CRP Direct Support Professional, Julie Schnarrs, who typically takes Jarred out to dinner every week or so mentioned that before leaving, Jarred touched her hand to his heart and used his device to say “Julie, Jarred dinner Fridays.”
“It’s a bittersweet feeling seeing him leave,” added Julie, “but it’s what’s best for him and it’s good to know that he was comfortable with the move.”