March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM)! With recognition days like International Wheelchair Day on March 1st and World Down Syndrome Day on the 21st, DDAM is a great time to reflect on the work we do at Valley Village and our mission – to protect, foster, develop, and advance the rights and interests of people with developmental disabilities. We sat down to speak with Susie Effatian, Valley Village’s Residential Director of two years, to discuss how Valley Village homes help each of our clients live as independently as possible.
Susie has worked at Valley Village for 22 years and became the Residential Director in 2019. She oversees all eighteen of Valley Village homes and the nursing department. “Basically, I’m ensuring everything runs efficiently! A lot of things fall under the umbrella of my job – making sure the program plans are in place, making sure clients are getting an active and fulfilled life, and that they have day programs they attend that are appropriate for their current needs,” she says, emphasizing our person-centered approach. “We start with assessing the client’s needs, abilities, and seeing what interests them – if they can get out into the community, we find a program that can foster that in a supportive environment. We always want programs that specialize in working with individuals with developmental disabilities. We have meetings to discuss the current needs of the individuals, and with help through the regional center, we find the best place for them.”
The Valley Village residential program tries to promote as much individual independence as possible for each person. Susie says, “Staff is there to support our folks in any needs they require, but we still strive for as much independence as possible. We intentionally promote that culture. Our clients have home goals and goals in the community, and that’s one of the ways we strive for their independence. Sometimes our clients tell us the goals they want to work on – for example, say they enjoy going out in the community. We make sure they have a purchasing goal, a money management goal, anything that would encourage their desire to go out into the community.”
Susie’s position as the residential director began just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing a shift in procedures and structures. She’s very inspired by how Valley Village rose to meet the challenges. “I think just seeing how everyone has come together to provide the best environment under such difficult times – we’ve placed a lot of emphasis on making sure our clients are mentally stimulated all within the mandates we receive. It’s been a challenging time, but I’ve seen our clients still persevere and be positive. We did activities at the houses, put a rigorous cleaning schedule in place, and worked with our clients towards helping them tolerate mask-wearing. They were able to make positive strides, and that made it easier for clients to eventually come back to programs and wear masks. It helped get them back out into the community.”
In Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it’s also important to look to our future, and not only Valley Village’s history. “I think that it brings a sense of relief for a lot of families that their child or family member is being taken care of and they are able to live a fulfilled life, with a better quality of life. That brings a lot of peace that their family member will receive the best care possible,” Susie says. “As our residents are aging, Valley Village provides a sense of wellness and peace of mind to families. I think the fact that we’ve been able to transition a lot of our folks from group homes to our Valley Village nursing homes is something our founders envisioned, ensuring the continuity of care that as individuals age, they’ll still have a caring, safe place to call home.”
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