Nonprofit View: Person-centered approaches can change your life

A person-centered approach focuses on what individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities want to achieve in their lives. It is an approach that enables people to create a plan for charting a course to achieve their goals. Change, Inc. utilizes a person-centered approach to creatively facilitate people’s ability to discover their potential and direct their own lives.

Billy Schmidt is an individual who was supported by Change, Inc., and now is an employee. This is his story, in his own words.

Have you ever been so frustrated that you can’t focus on what you’re doing? Do you wish that you could be in the driver seat of your own life?

Just like people without disabilities, I experience trouble achieving my goals. I can have issues completing tasks and even difficulty focusing. There are times I get frustrated with my situation and so angry that I have trouble expressing myself.

Person-centered approaches enabled me to choose which organization I partner with. Change is an organization where people with disabilities come for their day habilitation services. Individuals come to Change for support, growth and learning opportunities. The staff at Change partnered with me to take control of my life and to help me overcome obstacles. This partnership has allowed me to decide what goals I want to achieve.

My goals are like everyone else’s; I want to have a job, I want to get an apartment, and I want to learn to better budget my money.

Change has helped me get experience so I could reach my goal of getting a job. I spent time volunteering at True Value in Hampstead and at Mechanicsville Elementary School in Gamber. As I my experience increased, I even secured a paid position at Race Pace in Westminster.

A tipping point for me came when the staff at Change asked me, “where do you see yourself in five years?” This made me set my biggest goal yet. I wanted to be an employee of Change, instead of being an individual supported by Change. I wanted to help other people with disabilities.

The first way I got a chance to realize this dream was when I formed Voices of Change, a self-help advocacy group. I help others and myself learn to speak our thoughts without being angry and frustrated. We focus on how to use our voices with respect and dignity. Our group has had the opportunity to speak publicly with several members in the community, including the Maryland State Troopers and Sheriff’s Office and the Carroll Transit Systems in Westminster. We shared our stories with them and helped them understand some ways that they can better interact with people with disabilities.

In 2016, I became the President of the Voices of Change. My goal is to alert individuals about the advantages we can bring when we integrate within the community. As my confidence grew, I asked Change to give me an internship. I spent time learning how to secure the wheelchairs safely in the transport vans and how to assist the individuals getting on and off the van. I passed the American Red Cross CPR class and successfully completed training in OSHA, and seizure disorders. In time, my internship lead to a paid position as a bus aide within the Change transportation department, where I currently help people with disabilities.

Over the past several years, I have I learned that my goals are mine to achieve and that if I focus on them I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I can do anything I dream, and that my dreams aren’t limited by what others think I should do. My frustration and anger have subsided. My quality of life has improved because of my taking control of my life and setting my own goals.

You’re in the driver seat of your own life. Take control and learn how person-centered approaches can help you change your life.

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Each Monday, the Carroll County Times will publish a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it. To be considered, email with the subject line "Nonprofit View."

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