Margaret’s Story

image00Born: Oak Park, IL
Current City: Olympia Fields, IL
Age: 71
Favorite Community Activities: Going to restaurants, pet shops, and parks
Favorite Foods: Fried chicken and ice cream
Favorite Things: Music, clothes, and Beanie Babies

Growing Up

Margaret was the firstborn child in her family and never knew her siblings until she was an adult. She was diagnosed as profoundly developmentally disabled and grew up in Dixon State School, an overcrowded and understaffed state institution. She has never learned to speak or to communicate and was subject to many illnesses and injuries while living at Dixon. She was heavily medicated for many years because of her constant movement and loud humming. Margaret moved to Howe Developmental Center when Dixon closed and that brought her closer to family. However, many problems persisted– sleep and health issues, lack of privacy and continuity in her home.

Margaret’s Success in the Community

Six years ago, at the age of 65, Margaret moved to a CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement) home on a suburban street, surrounded by other family homes. She now has her own room for the first time since she was two years old. It is very clear to anyone who knows Margaret that this is an improvement for her. She enjoys deciding for herself whether to relax in her room, listen to music, or to spend time with her housemates. She has 24/7 supervision as she did when she lived in state operated developmental centers. She goes out on evenings and weekends both with the group and on her own with one staff person. She has a team of medical professionals involved with her care who understand her and her needs, which include pureed food and thickened liquids.

Margaret still has challenges like everyone else, but the difference in her demeanor and general happiness is dramatic. She rarely hums now unless she is in some sort of physical discomfort. She is generally calmer and interacts more with others. She has accomplished things once thought impossible and is enjoying spending more time with family and friends in her own home.

Community integration offers people with disabilities equality, opportunity and an improved quality of life. Research proves that even those with the most sever disabilities can live happy and safe lives in the community with customized living plans.

“After 60-years in an institution, Margaret now has an amazing life and for the first time has made a new friend. My sister was one of those people that everyone said couldn’t make it in the community. Not only was her transition successful but she smiles more and is the happiest I have ever seen her. It was a scary decision but I am now certain that she is the safest and happiest she has ever been.” – Katherine, Margaret’s sister and guardian