The Power of Love
I’m happy to share a beautiful story about the power of love—the love of a mother, the love of a grandfather and love from others who can help make a person feel they belong and are cherished.
Jo Anna Santistevan said Ashleigh, who is the eldest of her two daughters, was born three months premature with cerebral palsy and two collapsed lungs. It took more than 13 surgeries to help her walk. “But she got through them, because she was a tough kid and had the will to live. As she grew up, she was easy going and very active in the community,” Jo Anna recalled.
However, when her beloved grandmother passed, Jo Anna said Ashleigh overall became extremely distressed. This was compounded with her sister entering adulthood and moving out to live on her own. Jo Anna said, “She would say to me, ‘Faith moved on with her life, why can’t I?’”
One cold night, in an attempt to live independently like her sister, Ashleigh left the family house on foot. When she was safely brought home by the local sheriff, Jo Anna said, “That’s when I thought, if she wants to move out, I’ll make it happen for her somehow.”
They tried assisted living, but Ashleigh had trouble taking care of herself. Then came a three-bedroom group home followed by a state-run, regional residential center. At both, she would angrily scream at staff and her peers, plop down on the floor and not get up, and in one instance, she locked her door and destroyed her room—something for which she and her family had to pay.
Because Ashleigh’s grandfather was familiar with Mosaic, he asked the local Mosaic staff if they could support her through Mosaic at HomeⓇ, one of our 24/7 residential services. This is when someone shares their home with a person who has a disability to help her or him to become an active member of the household and their community.
Jo Anna said, “It seemed to be a great, next option for Ashleigh.”
Coincidentally, Alisha and Tim Smith, a married couple who have been Mosaic at Home providers for eight years, were available to share their home with someone. Mosaic staff thought they and Ashleigh might be a perfect match.
“Upon learning more about her, we thought we could help her feel she really belonged—that she had her own home and family like Faith’s (who by now, was married with a child),” said Alisha. “I met with her with the hope we were a good fit for her, and she would be a good fit for our family.
“Since she joined our home and family almost a year ago—and finding the right balance of support and independence—her behavior issues have reduced significantly, and we’ve never seen the anger or screaming her previous staff reported,” added Alisha. “I think she did that at the other places, because she saw her peers acting out and getting attention for it. Here, she finally feels at home and comfortable enough to be herself.”
With the one-on-one services the Smiths provide Ashleigh—as well as Mosaic’s support—she’s developed many positive skills she uses in her everyday life. Alisha said, “She’s very verbal and communicates much better by telling us what she wants. She now chooses what she wants to do such as where she wants to eat (the family’s dining room table or outside on the deck), where and when she wants to watch a movie (either with the family in the living room or if she’s tired, on the television in her bedroom) and how involved she wants to be in our family’s activities in the house or out in her community.”
At her day services, Alisha said Ashleigh also decides there what she wants to do every single day, such as making pottery, going to the movies or out to eat and shopping at the mall with the friends she’s made.
Jo Anna is happy Ashleigh is in a place she loves. “Having a special needs child is challenging; you just have to find the right environment that best fits the individual.”
Mosaic depends upon your gifts to empower people such as Ashleigh to have a meaningful life by feeling loved and encouraged to make their own decisions and set their own goals—in other words, to live the life they choose and deserve.
Isn’t that something we all deserve?