Mikey’s Story (Behavioral Health Services)
When Mikey was referred to our School Therapeutic Services (STS) program, he was about to enter kindergarten. Since a young age, Mikey was a very anxious child. He had many behavior issues in preschool and daycare that made his parents and the school concerned about his transition to all-day schooling. At the beginning of the school year, Mikey was unable to attend full-day kindergarten. He was extremely upset each morning, unable to even enter the school building. Whenever he was able to stay, he had extreme difficulty with transitions of any kind. The only way that he was able to stay in school a few days a week was if one of his parents stayed with him. All agreed that Mikey needed immediate help. The school called the STS team. Interact’s STS program offers services to children who have serious behavioral or emotional issues in select Philadelphia schools. STS provides targeted treatment for specific problems that prompt referrals, but also provides resources that promote social and emotional growth, coping and social skills to children through individual and group sessions. The primary goal of STS is to help kids remain in their schools and out of more restrictive environments like “special” or “disciplinary” schools. After only a few weeks of working with Interact’s therapists and behavior workers, Mikey now attends school all day. He has a one-on-one worker and a therapist who work with him on overcoming his anxieties and regulating his emotions and behaviors. The STS staff worked with Mikey’s parents to establish routines and activities that would ease his transition to the classroom every morning. One of the most successful activities his team came up with was “the kissing hand.” In the morning, before he leaves for school, Mikey’s mom kisses his hand. Every time he starts to feel sad or anxious at school, his STS worker asks him to touch his cheek with the “kissing hand” and think of his mom kissing him. He has learned other coping strategies and “tricks” that now help him keep calm and focused. Today, Mikey writes cards to his parents “telling” them what his favorite part of school was. At the end of the day, right before he gets on the school bus, he turns to his therapist and STS worker and blows them kisses – with his “kissing hand,” of course!
Matthew’s Story (Intellectual & Developmental Disability Services)
Matthew participates in Interact’s Community Integrated Employment (CIE) program. This program helps people with disabilities successfully access jobs in the community. The intent is for individuals to be as independent and autonomous as possible.Part of the program includes “travel training”, where individuals are trained on using public and private resources to get to and from their job. Although Matthew had a complicated route, requiring four different buses to get to and from his job, he only needed to be travel-trained once. This is an amazing feat for anyone! Matthew has a great work ethic and goes above and beyond in performing his job. Matthew started working at Giant Supermarket in 2012. He was trained at the Willow Grove store for two months before moving to the Flourtown store. With his transfer to the store location in Flourtown came more travel training with Matthew on the new bus route, and once again, Matthew mastered the route the first time with his Job Coach. Despite having to take several buses to and from work, Matthew always arrives on time and hasn’t missed a day yet! Matthew is deaf but this has never stopped him from succeeding at what he wants to accomplish. Whether it was getting a job, traveling on four buses, or flying solo to visit his mom in Maine, Matthew has used the skills he learned through Interact to be successful in many areas of his life. In the beginning, Interact’s Job Coach visited Matthew at least three times a week on the job just to make sure that he had adjusted to his new location and work assignments. However, Matthew quickly made natural supports, which meant his Job Coach was able to fade out sooner and offer him follow-up services only as needed. His coworkers have made him part of their community. Although many of them do not use sign language, they take time to be sure that when speaking to him, he can read their lips or they hand write notes to him which he can read. In fact, his new store said what his last store did – that Matthew does great work and is always willing to do whatever is needed of him to get the job done. For example, Matthew was hired as a front end bagger, but he does more than just bagging. He’ll collect baskets around the store, gather shopping carts outside, help customers place their groceries into their cars, return perishables to their shelves from the front end, and sweep up the store when it is not busy. Matthew enjoys working at Giant and takes pride in the work he does there. He always displays a positive attitude and gives quality customer service to each person, treating them each the same–just as he asks others to treat him.
Tori’s Story (Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services)
Tori started receiving residential and employment support services through Interact in 2003. With the help of a job coach, Tori hit the trail searching for a job. It took a few months, but she was hired by Shoprite in Germantown to work a counter position, and worked there until the store closed in 2006. Six months later, she found another position with Shoprite, this time in South Philly. She was named Employee of the Month, but she wanted to work closer to home, so she started searching again. During her time between jobs, Tori worked as a member of the paid on-call staff at Interact’s administrative offices, where she would help with answering phones and filing. Tori enjoys working and is well liked by everyone because of her positive attitude and work ethic. She was hired by McDonald’s, where she was voted Employee of the Month, and she recently moved to Applebee’s in Andorra where she is making more money! On her days off, Tori likes to visit with her mom and her friends. Ask Tori about her experiences and she’ll tell you, “My life is full and this makes me very happy!” Tori Is Worth It!!!!! – In 2014 Tori’s story became part of the State Capital Campaign I am Worth it PA. The State Capitol Rotunda was filled with large, bright posters highlighting amazing Pennsylvanians…..individuals supported by PAR member organizations. Each poster introduced viewers to someone living in, working in, or enjoying their community; that someone also happened to have autism or an intellectual disability…Tori receives services from Interact and was featured on one of those posters!
Sharon’s Story (BHS – Community Supported Recovery Program)
Sharon, who has been receiving therapy services for several years through Interact and now is part of our Supported Independent Living program, sums up her experience this way, “Interact saved my life.” That sounds like a dramatic statement, but this former suburban mother’s undiagnosed mental health challenges caused a rapid downward spiral ending in homelessness on the streets of Philadelphia. When she landed in a shelter at the Salvation Army in Roxborough, Sharon started coming to Interact for outpatient therapy. “From the minute I walked through the door, I felt safe. I wasn’t judged by my therapist, I was supported. And through group therapy, I found support and acceptance from others. I realized I wasn’t alone in my struggles.” Sharon knows that the road to recovery from her mental health challenges is an ongoing process, but she also recognizes how far she has come in her recovery. “You don’t get better unless you learn to love yourself and learn to let go of things you can’t control,” she says. Sharon credits learning journaling as a helpful tool that has enabled her to “let it out and then let it go.” And when asked if she’s learned to love herself, her whole face lights up, “Oh, yes!” Sharon likes to participate in Interact’s Carriage House Caterers, which generates program income to support some of the activities of the Community Supported Recovery Program. “I feel like I’ve been given so much though this program,” she says, “this is my way to give back.”