From an ALLY parent:
I want to tell you about my son, Jonah. Jonah is 23 years old. He loves video games and learning about animals. He lives on his own with three roommates in a supported environment. He is a happy, hard-working young man who loves his family and friends. Jonah also has Asperger’s Syndrome.
After Jonah was born, his doctor told us he was behind on the developmental scale. He was behind when it came to walking and talking. He was 3 years old when his day care providers told us he didn’t communicate well. He had a lot of behavior meltdowns. So we had him tested and discovered he had developmental delays. Two years later he was diagnosed with Asperger’s and later, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
That was a hard diagnosis 23 years ago because not much was known about Asperger’s then. Jonah started having a para-professional with him during school and my husband and I started asking those big questions: Was he
going to be able to live on his own? Was he going to be able to get married? What kind of job was he going to have? We had to learn about things like Medicaid and utilizing our social worker and their resources.
After high school, Jonah moved into a transition program, but the question still remained; what’s next? We knew we wanted him to find a program where he could learn different job skills, how to work with others, and how to follow directions. We looked at several different programs, but nothing seemed quite right.
Then we found ALLY.
ALLY People Solutions serves persons with intellectual disabilities, mental health conditions, and their loved ones with employment and life skills services. ALLY seemed to stick out. They offered classes Jonah could take and learn new skills, like cooking and photography. There was also a Personal Empowerment class. I thought that was a great class for Jonah to take to learn more about himself. And they offered in-house employment
opportunities for their program participants.
I had a gut feeling about ALLY. After looking at several organizations, Jonah and I sat down together and discussed things, both of us agreeing that ALLY was the best fit for Jonah.
ALLY and its staff were very welcoming. We didn’t know what questions to ask so they were very good at giving us the answers to questions we didn’t even know we would have. Jonah has had the best experience ever at the Vadnais Heights ALLY branch, where he takes classes, participants in activities, and works in the card studio. They’re very good at giving program participants structure, which is something Jonah needs. If you give too much free time to folks that are used to having structure it can backfire. Vadnais supports that structure all the way. If it’s not work, it’s learning another skill or getting out in the community. I think all of that is so important. They’re very routine oriented and communicate well with me and Jonah’s staff. Jonah loves going to ALLY every day, working with the people there, and going on outings like volunteering for Meals on Wheels or
attending a Saturday fun day event, whether it be going to the apple orchard or a day trip to Duluth. ALLY offers a variety of programming so if there’s not a job that needs to be done on any given day, then the participants aren’t sitting and doing nothing. There’s always an activity, which is fantastic. ALLY has given Jonah SO many opportunities to grow and socialize.
The other piece is transportation. Transportation is huge and difficult to coordinate. We are very thankful for Jonah to have ALLY transportation services whenever he’s working and ALLY has been very good about making sure he gets to work and home safely every day.
Jonah has learned a lot of work skills since being at ALLY. He’s learned that if you want to achieve something you’re going to have to work a little harder to get there. He’s setting goals. He’s starting to understand that there’s a cause and effect to being positive in your work environment. Jonah loves animals and hopes to one day get a job out in the
community where he can work with them, so the ALLY staff is helping him hone his work skills so he can make that goal a reality one day.
Looking back now, it has been quite the journey. Jonah has had many challenges over the years; academically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. When your body is frustrated, but you don’t really know how to handle that, your emotions can sometimes come out in negative ways. And that can sometimes spill over at work too. Thanks to ALLY, Jonah is learning how to keep those emotions in check. The staff at Vadnais is very good at helping Jonah with those baby steps, helping him process and recognize how to work through his feelings on a daily basis. The staff is always very encouraging.
I know how scary it can be trying to ensure that your child will be able to live a happy, healthy life. Our family found ourselves struggling with the idea that Jonah was 18 and an adult, but was he ready to be an adult and take on responsibility? The best advice I can give to another parent is to find a support system. ALLY has been a wonderful support system for Jonah and our family.
Just like any other nonprofit, ALLY relies on donations from individuals like you to continue to provide services for program participants like Jonah. As we near the end of the calendar year this Holiday Season, I ask you to please consider making a donation to ALLY. With your help, Jonah and other individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions can continue to live full lives and show people their abilities rather than their disabilities.
A gift to ALLY this Holiday Season is tax-deductible. Will you make a gift of $100, $75, $50, $25, or any other amount today so that people with intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions have the opportunities to work meaningful jobs in their communities to live a full life, and have a sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and dignity? ALLY is committed to helping all program participants earn minimum to prevailing wages regardless of where they work or the type of work they perform.
Because of the generosity of others that my son is able to go to ALLY every day and have a job he enjoys and is proud of. Thank you for that. We appreciate your support. ALLY’s success is built on the support of the community. For additional information about ALLY or to make a donation, visit www.allypeoplesolutions.org/donate.
Thank you for considering ALLY this Holiday Season.
Parent of ALLY Program Participant