Linda Timmons
Linda Timmons, President and CEO

The Right People, Supports and Environment Are Life-Changing

Over and over at Mosaic, we’ve been able to show how the right people providing the right supports in the right environment can make a positive impact in someone’s life. I’m happy to share a story about that, because for Alexis Winstead, the impact is truly life-changing.

When Mosaic was contacted about accepting Alexis into our services in Delaware, the staff from her former provider recommended we say no.

“She came from another service provider,” said Onome Okandeji. “I was the manager, and their staff called me aside and said, ‘You don’t know what you’re getting into. It is a difficult case. She runs her wheelchair into people, and she starts crying and can go on for hours and hours.’” Even her mother would not visit at the time, because Alexis would show the same aggressive behavior toward her.

“It was everything you can think of a person in a wheelchair could do,” said Shavonne Brathwaite, state operations director. “We stood back and observed, and we even had to think twice about it. But we want to be that provider who says ‘yes’ when others say ‘no.’”

So Alexis moved into a Mosaic group home. There was a staff member from her former provider Alexis liked and kept asking for. Mosaic staff contacted her, and twice the person promised to come and then did not show up. Alexis reacted poorly to the disappointment.

“She exhibited the screaming and yelling and worked herself halfway out of her wheelchair,” Onome said. “She just started crying. I tried to talk with her and asked, ‘What do you want me to do?’”

Mosaic staff did not get angry or upset with her behaviors, but showed patience and kindness. “She came to see that here we weren’t going to react when she behaved like that,” Onome said. Those behaviors have dramatically diminished since she’s been at Mosaic.

It’s clear to the staff who work with her Alexis wants to have a relationship with them. Mariam Dougangabisi is the house manager and said Alexis learns the schedules of staff and knows when they’ll be there and when they’re off.

“She is able to tell the differences in everyone,” Mariam said. “She knows what people’s strengths are. She knows I like coloring, so she’ll ask me to color with her, and we’ll sit down and color with her telling me what she wants.”

Mariam remembers how Alexis used to cry whenever she didn’t get what she wanted. But staff have really worked to engage her and explain why she can’t get or do everything she wants.

Now, Alexis has more often started using words to express herself, and that’s a big change, Mariam said.

Treating each person individually is part of the personalized services we work to deliver at Mosaic. That includes helping people choose how to decorate their own room. Alexis chose a lot of purple (her favorite color) and a collection of children’s books, as those are the stories she likes to hear.

“You can read to her, and she loves it,” Onome said. “She interacts with the reader. She’ll sing, too, with audiobooks.” Frozen is her favorite. Mariam said Alexis’ knowledge level and engagement have increased, and she will identify the things she sees on the pages.

Alexis also enjoys being involved when staff cook and set the table. Mariam said Alexis loves watching cooking shows, so she’s always ready to tell staff how to cook. When working directly with her, they often use hand-over-hand actions to help her with tasks, such as eating. (Hand-over-hand involves placing a hand on top of hers to help guide her actions.)

One of the biggest changes came when staff helped Alexis reconnect with her mother. With her birthday coming, staff planned a party (as they always do) and invited her mother to attend. Onome said it took a bit of convincing because of the previous behaviors, but her mother agreed to come and was pleasantly surprised. Now, every Wednesday, Alexis talks with her mother and niece on the phone, and her mom comes occasionally to visit.

Working to get family members involved is not something we have to do, but we go that extra step. We want people to have many life-giving relationships—especially with family when possible—because we know relationships are good for people’s health.

Mosaic’s purpose statement is simple: We are called to love and serve. Onome believes that is what made the difference for Alexis. “It is love. She calls us names, and we turn it into a joke, and then she’s laughing. She feels the love.”

That’s something I want everyone we support to feel. Thank you for being a part of this incredible mission to serve others.

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