Thursday, June 29, 2017
Mosaic in Pontiac

"I think of her as a queen.”

That’s how Direct Support Professional Anarae Harpenau describes Rena Sims, who receives services from Mosaic. Unfortunately, Rena was not treated like royalty when it came to the red tape and long wait time for a communication device, something she needs to help her communicate. 

She moved into a group home in 1992 at age 29.  She loved living in her home from the very beginning.  One of the biggest challenges she faces is that she requires staff support to ensure her most basic needs are met, including communicating with others. 

Several years ago, Rena attended a self-advocacy training. During the training, people were encouraged to share their dreams and goals for their lives. Rena’s dreams included having a job in the community and being able to afford to take a vacation, goals very similar to those that you and I have for ourselves. 

The group presenting the training was so impressed with Rena’s ability to advocate for herself and others with intellectual disabilities that she was hired as a presenter with their group.  Rena, assisted by staff from Mosaic in Pontiac, helped lead many trainings to teach others how to speak up for themselves, no matter what the challenges may be. 

Rena has blossomed at Mosaic as her staff have learned to communicate and translate for her. Although she does not talk, and due to her physical limitations, she is also not able to communicate through standard sign language, they have learned Rena’s improvised signs and what different sounds mean.  When staff or others do not know her communication system, it causes her anxiety and stress due to her inability to communicate her wants and needs. A communication device would help relieve some of that anxiety and allow her to fulfill her desire to speak out for others. 

What does Rena’s future look like? Well if it’s up to Rena she will speak out for others with intellectual disabilities, she will be a voice for Mosaic, and she will be an advocate for others.  Her communication device will hopefully be arriving soon, thanks to the support of Mosaic’ generous donors who have made it possible to for her to receive the device, giving her the chance to be heard. 

You too can be an advocate. Mosaic Allied Voices is a network of advocates who promote public awareness of disability issues, advocate for equality and help shape public policy. To become a MAV Advocate visit