At the ripe old age of five years, little David was admitted to Woodward State Hospital School. He was just a little boy, left in a big brick building with 200 other handicapped boys. It was a heartbreaking day for his parents and his big sister, but there were no educational programs to serve him if he continued to live with his family. For 27 years his parents faithfully commuted from Northern Iowa to bring him home to visit every single month, praying that someday there would be a program for him close to home. During his many years at Woodward, Dave was involved in both educational and vocational training. His trips back home served to remind him that an institution was not where he really wanted to live. The things most children take for granted like having a toy to call your own, eating supper with your mom and dad, privacy to take a shower, a bedroom of your own, playing ball with your friends, talking on the phone with your buddies, were not things he experienced growing up. He longed to be close to his family, to have a home that was really his own, for more than one weekend a month, to have a job and friends like everyone else. Finally when he was 32, a group home was opened in Fort Dodge that allowed him to be close to his family.
It was an exciting day for him to move back close to his family. To go from having a small single cot in a large dorm room shared with 25 other men to a small group home was an extraordinary change. Once in the group home, Dave and his family set their sights on something even greater, a home that would feel like it was really his own. He struggled with learning the many things required to eliminate his years of institutionalization. He attended additional vocational training, and socialization programs offered through the LifeWorks Community Services. He set goals for himself and little by little with the help of devoted staff and his family; he became more and more independent in his skills. In 1991, Dave’s dream came true, and he moved into the first waiver home in Fort Dodge. It was something his family really never thought could ever happen for the little boy they had taken to Woodward so many years before.
Today, Dave lives with three other men in a home that really is his own. He has a job at the local nursing home that he loves. He enjoys earning money, and equally he enjoys spending it on things that make his quality of life enjoyable. Those things that others take for granted, Dave relishes with great enthusiasm. He loves to go shopping for things that he can use in “his home”, like a new barbeque grill, patio furniture, his own computer, and a new bedroom set. Staff has taught him how to keep his checkbook, budget his money, shop for groceries and plan his spending for things he wants. He has traveled to Florida, Texas, and California, flying on his own and enjoying professional football games, the Alamo, and Disney World.
LifeWorks staff has also taught him many other things that allow him to be independent. He has learned to cook, use his computer to play games and e-mail his family, do his own laundry, manage his own medication, and he independently travels about Fort Dodge on the bus, of course that is pretty simple after flying around the U.S. on his own.
He has developed an enjoyment of bowling, and does so usually once a week. He loves to eat out, and enjoys doing this with his housemates and with his sister and brother-in-law, who comes to visit him regularly. Although he does prefer eating out, he can and does cook. He was quite excited to provide cookies he had baked for a family gathering. He loves to use his grill to make supper for himself and his housemates. Although Dave’s parents have passed away, he still enjoys a very close relationship with his sister, brother-in-law, five nieces and nephews, their spouses, and 11 great nieces and nephews. He remembers birthdays with funny cards that they all love to get, and he frequently calls on the phone to just chat with them and let them know what the weather in Fort Dodge is like. He visits them on holidays and special occasions, like a recent wedding. He is an absolute delight to his family, who love to take him bowling and see the enthusiasm he has for the joy of the game and his joy for life.
His LifeWorks staff has been invaluable in helping make Dave’s dreams come true. They maintain a close and personal contact with his family, keeping them appraised of things going on in Dave’s life, and they continue to support and encourage him to develop skills, experience new things and become even more independent. They have helped make up for those many years in an institution–they are his second family.
Written by Judy Friederes
Date written: March 18, 2008