MIAMI COUNTY — While March may be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Miami County is aware of the importance of empowering residents living with developmental disabilities to be full members of society all year long.
While supporting these residents to live, work, and play as full members of their community, Miami County’s local board of developmental disabilities, Riverside, serves around 950 people in the county.
As their mission states, “Riverside’s vision is to build a community that supports and values people of all abilities.” Riverside’s value of community is seen in their approach of community integration in their programs and serving people in the comfort of their own homes and environment.
“I think we probably have a long-term relationship with Miami County with a really good reputation of serving individuals all the way from when they come into our first contact,” Riverside Superintendent Brian Green said.
That first contact can begin as early as a few months after birth and can continue up until the individual passes away.
“We have a really strong presence as far as (the) Early Intervention Department and working with families,” Green said.
Green explained that Miami County residents sometime do not know that Riverside can intervene as soon as a parent or guardian suspects that the child might be developmentally delayed. Their services are also free.
“We can come out, make an appointment, do an evaluation, and if that individual is determined that they are a little behind or a little bit delayed in any way, we can get intervention services in there right away and at the key times for that child,” Green said. “It’s so important to get in during those years.”
“Then the services after that take place in the home in the child’s natural environmental and they’re free as well,” Community Relations Director Melissa Nichols of Riverside said.
Nichols mentioned a single mom she spoke with whose child was having trouble with swallowing and hearing. “His developmental delays weren’t really profound at first,” Nichols said. “They thought he was a typical developing child and he slowly started to show signs.”
The child’s pediatrician initially referred the mother to Dayton Children’s Hospital, where she took the child for screenings and therapies. Nichols said the mother was paying around $100 for each visit to Children’s.
“Then she was able to get the services provided in her home through Riverside and what a substantial savings that was, but she’s also a single mother and it was just such a relief to know that she had somebody here, close by,” Nichols said. “Now it’s a team of people and now she feels like she’s got the support that she and her son really need to help him catch up and advance through his early years.”
“We’ve had a pretty successful program for many years,” Green said. Riverside used to conduct their services within their facility, but now the services are brought to the natural settings in the home, Green said.
“I think somebody’s life is better if you’re surrounded by your closest members of family,” Green said. “Clearly, the preference would be if they can stay within that circle and you have those natural supports, that’s the best environment.”
Intervention specialists go in and work their families, learn their routine, what they’re struggling with, and so on.
“They’ll say okay, so when your child wakes up in the morning, what are your challenges from there? Is it bathing, feeding, sitting up, grocery shopping, whatever it might be,” Green said.
Green explained later that Miami County does have an aging population that may not be able to provide the same level of support as they once were, which is where Riverside steps in again. Riverside also hopes to help people create other connections and friends within the community, though, who may also help provide different kinds of support.
“Our hope is that we help these families into that process where we do enter in friends into the mix and they have support,” Green said.
“Our approach is to try to get behind the person to help support them in any way possible to be as successful as possible, independent, accomplishing whatever goals they might have, but trying to do that in a way that keeps them engaged in the community and not having it be a segregated system where they come to a building and they look at people who are just like them for eight hours a day and then go home,” Nichols said. “We want them to be out in the community, enjoying and doing the things that they want to do just like everyone else.”
The organization provides service coordination and funding for residential care, adult day services and job training to many individuals served by the program. Riverside also offers case management, early intervention, physical/occupational and speech therapies, recreational activities, Special Olympics programs, community housing coordination and other valuable services to people of all ages who have developmental disabilities.
Once the child turns three, if there is a benefit to keeping some of the services after that, Riverside will continue their services. For example, Riverside has a program called “PLAY,” which stands for Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters.
“What happens in that is the PLAY specialist goes into the home with the family and then works with moms and dads … to figure out how to engage with that child at their level and enter their world, get their attention, and to sort of bring them kind of out to try to engage them other activities that they’ve always wanted to,” Green said, adding that PLAY has been a successful program.
Once the child enters the school system, Riverside becomes more like a partner with the schools. As time goes on, Riverside continues to offer programs of help, like Special Olympics. At around the age of 14, Riverside steps back in if the individual is still eligible and in need, offering help like job training and transitioning into adulthood.
Throughout Riverside’s involvement in the lives of the people with developmental disabilities, they adjust their levels of support based on the needs of each individual.
“Some require much more intense needs,” Green said.
Riverside also leverages some of their local funds in order to receive more federal funding. One example Green mentioned was in the case of pepole they help who are on Medicaid.
“We’ve been able to utilize Medicaid and leverage our local dollars with them,” Green said. “For one dollar spent for somebody who is on Medicaid we put on a waiver … we spend 40 percent locally. Or 40 cents on the dollar and Medicaid kicks in the other 60. So that’s really helped us out.”
Riverside is located at 1625 Troy-Sidney Road in Troy and can be contacted at (937) 440-3000.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall