Author: Las Trampas

Meet Terri!

“Shopping!” is one of Terri’s favorite words and one of her favorite pastimes. Since coming to Sheila House last February, she gets to do a lot more of it!

For 25 years, Terri lived at Sonoma Developmental Center. She had tried community-based residential programs in the past, but the impacts of Terri’s disabilities meant that she really needed around the clock care that existing programs weren’t able to provide. Though she was content at SDC, the staff weren’t able to give her the personalized attention she needs to thrive, and her medication made it difficult for her to express herself. With Sonoma slated to close in 2018, Terri’s needed another option and she found it with Las Trampas. The high staff to resident ratios, specialized programming, and extra staff training at Sheila House all contribute an environment where Terri can really shine. She is an outgoing and engaged member of her community and she’s enjoying living in the house with three other women.

Recently, Terri was selected by the Share the Spirit program to be featured in a story in the East Bay Times. Congratulations, Terri and welcome to Las Trampas!

2017 Walk n' Roll brings the Las Trampas Community Together for Fun!

The air was crisp and clear as Las Trampas friends and family, both old and new, gathered at the campus the morning of September 23 for the 8th Annual Walk n’ Roll. Shouted greetings and show tunes echoed through the trees as walkers and rollers finished their lap on the trail and enjoyed face painting, temporary tattoos, Noah’s Bagels, muffins, fruit, and Three Twins ice cream! Thanks to everyone who joined us as a participant, a sponsor, or a donor. With your help we raised $15,000 for Las Trampas programs and had a great time doing it!

Change is in the Air for the Las Trampas Board

Big changes are in the works for the Las Trampas Board of Directors. In June Las Trampas said goodbye to five directors, but are pleased to welcome three new additions to the Board.

Mary Gomes joined the Las Trampas Board of Directors in January of 1982 as a Las Trampas parent. In January 2017, 35 years later, she said goodbye and retired from Board service. An extraordinarily committed leader, she rarely missed a monthly board meeting and was a familiar and welcome sight on campus. Over the last 35 years, she has worked side-by-side with the Clipped Wings on many a successful fundraiser and a number of lucky bidders have won the beautiful wooden salad bowls made by her husband John. Mary rallied the family every year to participate in Walk n’ Roll, often gathering multiple generations from many different branches of the family.

Pat Flaharty
joined us as the chef for the Chef’s Table program in 2012 after hearing a presentation to his Rotary Club. As he learned more about Las Trampas and got the know the amazing folks here, he wanted to do more and volunteered for Board service. Since then he has helped build Chef’s Table to the creative and fun monthly event we enjoy today. The dinner parties he donates to the What’s In Our Hat silent auction are widely sought after, and he has always been ready to share his Las Trampas experience with new friends and supporters.
Mary and Pat were both long-time directors who are much beloved by the Las Trampas community. Through their long Board services and active participation in Las Trampas life, they have become institutions and we will miss seeing their bright smiles!

Judie Wilson, Inga Miller, and Sara Castille all joined the board more recently, but will be no less missed. They have all brought to the Board a passion for the work of Las Trampas and a wealth of information in the areas of healthcare, law, and developmental disabilities. We cannot thank them enough for their strategic guidance and commitment to the well-being of Las Trampas’ clients and staff.

New directors Annette Surtees, Terry Murray, and Charles Ashworth promise to bring the same strategic vision and commitment to the Board, as well as skill and experience in human resources and finance. We look forward to sharing their stories with you as we get to know them better.

Thank you so much to Mary, Pat, Judie, Inga, and Sara. We wish you all the best in your endeavors and hope you’ll come back to see us. And a big welcome to Annette, Terry, and Charles!

Las Trampas Welcomes New Board President!

Our new Board President Charles Henry is not your everyday, ordinary guy. A graduate of the University of Southern California and University of California Hastings Law School, Chuck served for 32 years in the Public Defender’s Office of San Joaquin County as a Senior Trial Attorney and Chief Deputy Attorney.

But don’t be fooled by his impressive resume and professional exterior. Chuck has quite the adventurous past, having served as military intelligence in Korea. I served for 13 months during 1970 into 1971, briefing the General Staff. Some were very famous and served in important, historical operations, including the D-Day invasion in France on June 6, 1944. During a portion of his tour, he also briefed the US Ambassador to Korea and the Deputy Ambassador. It was certainly an exciting and learning experience.

He has also served on the boards of many legal organizations, including Inns of Court Executive Committee, San Joaquin County Board of Governors, and chair of the San Joaquin County Judicial Liaison Committee.

I joined the Board of Directors (at Las Trampas) in late 2012, said Chuck. During his reign on our board, he has been a major contributor to our Infrastructure Committee, overseeing planning for our upcoming campus renovation.

I learned about Las Trampas by attending two or three “What’s in Our Hat” events at the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa. We were guests of Eric Rudney, said Henry.

What gratifies me the most about our work is that we are providing an avenue and opportunity for our clients to lead fuller lives in their homes, at work and in the community, he said. Also gratifying is witnessing so much united and conscientious effort by staff, volunteers, Las Trampas leadership and our Board in undertaking the remodel of our Main Campus.

I am committed (as well as the rest of the Board) to completing our new Campus and expanding our programs.

Meet Johnathan!

Meet Johnathan!
Johnathan is a total care client who has used a wheelchair for his entire life. He is nonverbal, has poor vision, and needs assistance to change clothes and a tube to be fed. It has always been assumed that he is unable to comprehend or communicate. That is, until Speech Language Therapist Pam Chapman devised a plan to determine if he can express more than we realize.

She gave him the simple instruction to arch his head back to the left if he wants to say no and to the right if he wants to say yes. Can you do that she asked him. He arched right. Was that real Johnathan did you just understand that and again, he nodded to the right, all the while sporting a huge grin because, for the first time in his life, he was heard.

Johnathan’s parents have always had the inclination to explore possible vehicles of communication for their son, who has always exhibited signs of emotional and intellectual capacity beyond his ability to convey. However, they did not have the tools and resources to begin. This is why Las Trampas offers communication classes as part of its Adult Day Program: to bring families closer together by bridging the gap of communication that exists between them and their non-verbal loved ones.

Chapman and the rest of the Las Trampas staff continue to work with Johnathan, and have been enjoying the vibrant personality and sense of humor that is finally beginning to surface. Johnathan loves to make jokes and he laughs often and always. He loves Mango Tango smoothies from Jamba Juice and absolutely adores his mother, who he lives with.

We are thrilled at the progress that Johnathan has already made in our communication program and we are so grateful for the chance to continue helping him discover his capabilities in order to lead a full life at home and in his community.

Confessions of an ILS Client

I am a young guy who lives in the East Bay. During most of my adult life I have faced the challenges of noise sensitivity and social anxiety. According to a doctor in San Ramon, the root of some of my problems is largely a vertebral disc in my neck that pinches a nerve to the degree that my body is in the fight or flight mode at times. I am taking medication and emphasizing relaxation techniques to overcome this issue, which I believe is improving quickly.

Noise sensitivity has always been a struggle for me.

I experience sudden responses to unexpected sounds nick-image-2and lose in focus on activities or objectives. I could be walking on a sidewalk toward a grocery store, or just making my way over to my car in a parking lot when I hear an engine revving, leading me to stop, look at the source of the noise, and shift my body in the direction most comfortable for the situation. Generally, a noisy social situation is likely to move me away from the area because I do not want to interfere in a conversation and have the police called on me (it’s happened), or be remembered as an odd member of the community.

Despite the fact that such responses seem ordinary to me, I’ve noticed that no one else reacts similarly to excessive noise. I am continuing to work on being calm while walking in public.

nick-image-3Social anxiety has been my main obstacle since young adulthood. I have a history of obsessive-compulsive-repetitive-movement habits. On occasion, while walking toward a destination I step on uneven walking ground and back up to start over. When strolling through a busy area, I perceive myself to be overwhelmed by all the activity around me and become unsure how to make a turn towards something I want without being influenced by someone nearby. As a result, after turning, I turn back to try again, which makes me look indecisive and peculiar.

During my late teens to early twenties I maintained a medication routine that led to complications. I had the dosages lowered, and I eventually stopped taking both. My sensitivities went back up.

I figured I would rather live with them than depend on any other pharmaceutical.

I am in the process of learning how to manage my learning disability, or Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis, and my body’s high sensitivity to a variety of stimuli. Importantly, I have learned the social significance and common sense of public activities closest to home. My experiences define a young adult aiming to improve a psychological disability, manage a physical condition, and relate with others in the communities where he works and lives.

Thank you for spending your time reading about a young adult striving to fix his sensitivities for the sake of himself and others. My hope is that people everywhere will begin to understand that this alert bodily state exists, and that a community member with nervous system sensitivities can function in the community. My hope is that as awareness spreads so will tolerance, understanding and acceptance.

The Amazing Adventures of Amy and Jeff

Las Trampas client Jeff and his sister Amy overcame their obstacles to enjoy the summer trip of a lifetime together. Any recounts their trip and reveals how she makes every minute count for both her and her brother.

Just this past summer, my brother Jeff and I went on a couple of great trips. Jeff slept most of the way through our flight, after figuring out how to use the fold down tray for his favorite drink in the world wait for it, COFFEE!

At the beginning of our journey in the Hudson Valley, my brother, Cliff, picked up our tents at REI. From that point on, we began our camping adventure which lasted the entire 3-day, 3-night festival – something Jeff had never experienced before. The nights were dark and it was hard to find the porta potties, but Jeff and I did pretty well. He slipped and fell once though which prompted me to ask myself: would he do better with a wheel chair?

img_4569On our way to the Falcon Ridge Festival, my brother Cliff picked up his tent at REI which was at the beginning of the Hudson Valley. Jeff and I camped all through the festival for 3 days and 3 nights, something we had never had before. You can tell from the photos that he really embraced the hot days filled with trekking back and forth to camp. He was a real champ.

Public transport can be a challenge. For instance, you always have to take the stairs to the subway. Moving down the aisle of an airplane can be a challenge as well. It is getting more and more difficult to get a “handicapped” seat on a plane, so I always get a seat at the back, closest to the bathroom. Another challenge, Bathroom accidents. I always carry diaper wipes and extra underwear and pants. New York City in general is tough as it is an older city with uneven sidewalks (I’m always on the look-out for “trip factors”, stairs, doorways that have awkward steps, etc.)

jess-shipI think Jeff really enjoys the fact that he doesn’t have to be in a wheelchair however, now I always request a wheelchair at the airport. When we go to Disneyland or Universal Studios we always rent a wheelchair. I have noticed that as Jeff gets older, he moves slower, so we always allow a lot of extra time. Lighter shoes help (crocs are great), easier for his paralyzed side.

We played and swam in the Atlantic Ocean on Long Beach Island and on the bay side of Cape Cod, in the Lakes in Vermont and the hotel pool. I see my brother in the water and it hits me, he can glide through the water weightlessly. What a wonderful feeling for my brother who has Cerebral Palsy.

jeff-strawberries
We visited friends, drank beer together, and picked raspberries. We managed to have a family vacation, after which we all loved one other even more than before.
My advice to other families traveling with a loved one with special needs is to plan ahead. Check in often with your loved ones as new environments can be intimidating. Jeff’s social skills are lacking, he often gets very shy, looks down, that sort of thing. So, we practice “greetings, saying his name, etc.” We make sure to rest well.

Jeff was most impressed with the fact we had camped in a cow field. He said now I can check that off my bucket list.” Me too, now that I think about it.

Sweatpants & Parenting: Clothes Make the Man

It’s 51 degrees out. Which means my autistic 21-year-old son Mickey is wearing shorts and sandals.

It’s too cold! I protest.

But it’s May.

I get it. He hates socks. Loathes sneakers. Long sleeves drive him crazy. If we let him, he’d leave the house wearing shorts and sandals in January, and probably without a coat. Winter weather doesn’t deter him. Which has turned me into the kind of mother who says, I’m cold, so you have to wear a sweater.
liane and sonI remember battling my own mother, who forced me to wear skirts with scratchy crinolines (yes, I’m that old). Is that what it’s like for Mickey when we ask him to wear clothes that itch or cling or rub, or bother him in ways we don’t even know, because he can’t parse the particulars of his discomfort. Because I hate it, he says.

I know how miserable I feel wearing Spanx. Is that how he feels about dress pants with a belt, Loafers, A blazer? Worst of all a dreaded tie.  I want regular clothes, he says.

I respect his sensory issues. I want to honor his right to choose what he wears. Unfortunately, there are just some circumstances where you can’t wear what you want, and it’s not only due to weather. Sometimes respecting his right to choose smacks up against the need to dress appropriately, whether it’s a volunteer job, visiting a house of worship, going on an interview, or hiking. It’s dangerous to climb a mountain in sandals, and disrespectful to go to synagogue in a T-shirt and shorts.
Just for today, he pleads. I’ll be careful.

Why am I making a big deal about shorts and sandals? Am I worried someone will say, How can you let him go out that way,  and judge me as a bad parent? Yes, it’s chilly, but he’s not going to die of exposure if he goes out underdressed for this weather. Maybe if he does realize it’s cold or wet and he’s not as comfortable as he thought he’d be, he will learn from it, and next time wear something more suitable. Or not.
lianeI try not to intervene with his choices unless health or safety is at stake. I may say, ?What do you think your friends will be wearing today or I don’t think those colors match, but I won’t stop him if he’s really set on the combination. It’s a fine line between encouraging self-expression, and letting him leave the house wearing clothes that may make him an object of teasing or ridicule.
Haven’t I made similarly inappropriate choices? Worn high heels out of vanity, when I should have opted for more comfortable or practical footwear? Shivered in a thin summer dress I wanted to show off, instead of wearing something more sensible.

Mickey is a young adult now. He is chafing against our restraints. His struggle to pull away from us is developmentally appropriate. The business of adolescence and young adulthood is to separate from your parents, to find your own way in the world. Part of growing up for anyone is learning to make, and live with one’s own choices.
He starts out the door in shorts and sandals, then goes back to his room. When he emerges, I see he has added a baseball cap and sunglasses. I’m going to sunbathe today, he says.
ketchup imagePack a sweatshirt, I say. He doesn’t.
I look handsome, he says.
Very cool, I agree. And resolve to say nothing more.
Because it’s his choice to make. This isn’t about autism.
It’s about autonomy.
Written by Liane Kupferberg Carter, Las Trampas guest blogger and author of Ketchup is my Favorite Vegetable.
Purchase Liane’s book on amazon HERE.

Meet Pat Flaharty!

I became familiar with Las Trampas about 15 years ago through my Rotary Club Lamorinda Sunrise. As a group we have done painting of homes, several on-campus landscaping projects and deck building. About eight years ago, Bonnie Peacock (former Development Director) spoke to our club and mentioned that the chef for Chef’s Table had moved away and that the program was unable to continue.  chris chefI  said! I can do that, and it has been a

wonderful journey since.

I have have learned so much from our clients. They have taught me patience and above all that life is all about being present.

Helping our clients learn independent living skills is very rewarding and their enthusiasm to cook, or just watch, is very fulfilling.  I have hotel and restaurant training from City College of SF. After a few years at the Disneyland Hotel, I started my insurance career and retired 8 years ago. I am very active cooking at home.

Carol (girlfriend) and I have wonderful dinner parties and I am now a bread baker. I took a class for a week at the SF Baking Institute last year and now make a mean sourdough baguette and Tartine Bakery’s great country bread. Friends and I often cook together. We are not intimidated.

Since becoming involved with Chef’s Table I was so moved by Las Trampas’ program and its clients that I asked to be considered for a Board position and was invited about four years ago to sit on the board.

Pat Flaharty has been an invaluable addition to our board and leads our Chef’s Table Program every month. Last month, the folks grilled burgers (a client favorite) to feed the entire day program.

Independence and the Special Needs Child

As my son grows older (he’ll be 12 in March) we are grappling more and more with the challenge of developing his independence.

For most 11 year old kids, catching the bus home from school, walking around the corner to a friend’s house and having sleepovers are no big deal. They are age appropriate activities and what most kids that age are able, and willing, to do.  However for kids with special needs, engaging in age appropriate activities is not always possible.

There are no checklists you can consult. No peers to check off against.

You have to trust your instincts, and your child’s, to work together to reach milestones of independence in their own time. And hope you get it right!
Gilbert’s autism and his vision impairment mean that he does not do many of the things that his peers do. He does not catch the bus. He doesn’t walk the streets alone and he has never slept over at a friend’s house.  This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to do those things or that we don’t want him to.

It just means that we have not yet developed the skills we all need for him to do those things successfully and without undue anxiety.  However we can’t wrap him up in cotton wool forever so we are actively trying to break one of those barriers down  catching the bus home from school.

As he is halfway through year 5, we have just under a year and a half before he moves to high school. Our plan is to have him in a position where he can independently get himself to and from school by the time he begins year 7. It’s important for us to get him used to this change well before high school so he has one less change/stress to worry about when the time comes.

We already know how hard that transition will be, no need to throw any further stress or challenges into the mix.  To get things moving, we set this as a short-term goal in his NDIS plan for the year, lining up with our overall long term goal to develop his independence. With the help of the NDIA we included funding for Guide Dogs Australia to accompany Gilbert and basically train him to catch the bus independently. And we are finally getting to a position where he might just achieve that goal. 

Last week we had our first session where two representatives from Guide Dogs Australia accompanied him on a public bus.  The decision was made not to immediately put him on the school bus as it is crowded and noisy. We wanted to introduce him to bus travel in a less challenging setting.

Gilbert was shown how to look for landmarks so he would be in a position to alert the driver when it was time to get off at his stop. He was also guided as to how to get on/off the bus safely, shown the basic of public transport etiquette (as much for his autism as for his vision) and was helped to safely cross the two quiet streets that separate the bus stop from our house.  It was a successful trial.

Despite the windows being foggy from rain, making it harder to see, Gilbert was able to make out the local Aldi which is located just before his bus stop. He managed to safely cross the streets home and seemed to enjoy the novelty of coming home on public transport (he has been on buses before but never without us.)

So this week we are taking it up notch, he will be coming home on the school bus, again with his mentors from Guide Dogs Australia. I’ll be interested to see how he deals with the noise, the movement and the crowd of students that are sure to be on board.  My biggest fear is that something will happen to him on the bus which will upset him and see him lash out.

I’m hoping having his mentors there will help defuse any such situation and will provide him with guidance on how to deal with such situations, should they arise in future.

I also hope that the bus driver is understanding and can keep a look out for him. I’ve advised Gilbert (and his Guide Dog Australia mentors) to try to grab a seat at the front, near the driver, to reduce the chances of upset and to make it easier for him to get on and off the bus safely.  Fingers crossed it’s another successful trip for him ? and for us.

Letting go is never easy but I know we need to start loosening the reins, ever so slightly, so he has the same chances as his peers to develop independence.

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