Category: Clients and Families

SLS Chilling with the Fish in Monterey

Rebecca watched the big shark swim past the thick glass of the tank. Whoa! he said, laughing. Each time the shark circled by, Rebecca reacted with the same joyful Whoa!

A manta rayRebecca visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the first time on a recent trip organized by the Supported Living team for program participants. The visit was a first for many other program participants, too.

Highlights of the day included petting the rays in the touch tank, watching the water flow in and out of the kelp tank and seeing how the different animals reacted to it, observing all the different kinds of fish, and of course, the sharks.

Special outings like day trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium provide unique opportunities for community integration. New situations and changes in routine can be challenging for some program participants, but provide important breaks from the everyday. Sabrina, an SLS facilitator, remarked This was a fantastic way for some of our clients to interact with each other in a setting that is different and interesting for them. We will definitely be trying to set up more outings like these to help enrich our clients lives and to show them different and new things.

The silhouette of a man in front of a blue tank with a glowing jellyfish
Most participants in the SLS program have very limited resources for activities like day trips. This past year, we were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Carl Gellert and Celia Berta Gellert Foundation to underwrite community integration outings like the trip to Monterey. Financial support from partners like the Gellert Foundation makes it possible for our program participants to lead truly full lives in the community!

Las Trampas Cooks: Ingredients for Success!

What could be better than sharing a home-cooked meal, chosen and prepared with care by a friend or colleague? Each month, the 10 students participating in the Day Program Las Trampas Cooks program choose a meal each month based on a theme, and work with staff throughout the month make that meal a reality for each other as well as other Day Program participants and staff members.

In 2018, the monthly themes are based on countries of the world, often chosen based on where a student’s family is from, so participants learn about food and culture they may not otherwise get to experience.

Smiling man with glasses gestures toward a supermarket shelf.Shopping: Once Las Trampas Cooks chefs have chosen their meal for the month, they help staff research recipes, compile a shopping list, and hit the stores! Participants go to multiple stores in the area (Safeway, Costco, Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, Trader Joe’s) and compare prices on the ingredients they will need for the month’s recipe.

Meal Preparation:
Participants are involved in all aspects of creating the meal. As much as possible, they use fresh ingredients rather than packaged. Participants work with program staff to learn about the textures, smells, properties, and uses of the ingredients they are using, as well as learning about kitchen safety, and food service.

Enjoying a meal together:
On Las Trampas Cooks day, Day Program participants and any Las Trampas staff who are on campus are invited to share the results of the group’s hard work. Spending time together eating a delicious meal prepared by friends is a great way to spend lunchtime!

Clean Up:An older man in a red cap and green shirt washes dishes in a sink
You’re not done cooking until you’ve cleaned up! Participants learn that leaving the cooking area cleaner than you found it? is as important as all of the other aspects of planning and cooking a meal. When the kitchen is clean and supplies are put away, we are ready to start planning for next month.
Las Trampas Cooks is a fun and delicious way to gain life skills, explore new foods, and learn more about the world. Here are some of the meals we’ve shared so far this year. We’ve included some of the recipes we’ve used, and we invite you to cook along with Las Trampas Cooks!

A young man with a striped shirt and glasses, a young woman with long brown hair, and a young man with a blue and white shirt and glasses sit at a table enjoying their food.March: (Italy) Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Bread, Strawberry Shortcake
April: (Japan) Teriyaki Bowls, Gyoza, Cherry Parfait
May: (Mexico) Mexican Chili, Sweet Corn Cakes, (Unfried)Fried Ice Cream
June: (U.S.A.) Sloppy Toms (Turkey Sloppy Joes), Potato Salad, Baked Peach Crumble
July: (Greece) Gyros, Greek Salad, Sparkling Santorini Jello

SLS/ILS–Celebrating Independence

Do you remember moving out of your parent’s home for the first time? So many mixed emotions– a little apprehensive and scared, but excited and overwhelmed with joy when all your belongings were in place. When she moved out of her parents’ house at the age of 33, Ariel felt the same way.
In July we celebrate independence. Moving into a place of your own, being responsible for yourself, is one of the most fundamental kinds of independence a person can experience. Unfortunately, for many of Las Trampas program participants the road to independence is littered with challenges. Finding affordable housing is a struggle for many people in the Bay Area, but can be especially difficult for people with developmental disabilities.

  • For most Las Trampas participants, rent is higher than their monthly income.
  • The Housing Authority of Contra Costa waiting list for Section 8 housing is closed and has been closed for years. Even the waiting list for the waiting list is closed!
  • Project based low income housing units are rare in this area. The wait can be years and getting a unit is really the luck of the draw.
  • Did you know that there are minimum income requirements for Low Income and Low Low Income housing.  Sometimes our program participants receive a fixed income that is too low to even be considered Low Low Income!
  • As rents in the area increase, more and more landlords are transitioning their properties away from the Section 8 program when they become eligible to do so, resulting in even fewer options available to a person on a fixed income.

Ariel has been very fortunate that her family is able to subsidize her rent. Otherwise she would not have been able to move out of her parent’s home.  Since moving out on her own, Ariel has discovered the joys and challenges of living independently. She is really enjoying being responsible for choosing and preparing her own meals and selecting her own clothes and household items. She no longer needs her parents’ permission to go out into her community and she loves having a dog to take care of and a roommate of her choice. She is living her dream in a home of her own, and she wouldn’t have it any other way!

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.