January 26, 2011

Around 1pm today, Dan received a phone call from Chapel Haven. They were offering him acceptance to join the REACH class of 2013. He was so excited and so am I!  So now with his future for the next few years decided, I can breathe a sigh of relief.  It’s a big deal for him and for his family.  For the first time in his life, he will be living away from home. He has gone to sleep away camp. He has lived with his dad over a winter vacation or a summer vacation. But he has never moved away from home or established a new home somewhere other than with me. As they say, kids do grow up!  Now I guess I will have to grow up and adapt to a life without my son being my number one priority. It will be an adjustment for the both of us. Now I wait for the official letter and the information to come. Congratulations to Dan! Thank you Chapel Haven for welcoming my son. He will be there for classes in July.



January 25, 2011

Tue, January 25, 2011 3:06:46 PMPersonalized Travel Helps People with Disabilities
From: The Arc <>Add to Contacts
To: Sandra G. Bishins <

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Finding a Way Together: Troy Discovers Hammer Travel
As part of our commitment to providing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in the activities they choose, The Arc would like to introduce you to companies that share our vision. Hammer Travel is one such company providing people with I/DD the freedom to travel when and where they choose.  Here’s the story of Troy, one of Hammer’s success stories.

Troy has a passion for traveling the world, public speaking and meeting new friends. He also has a developmental and physical disability causing him to need a wheelchair for mobility. While Troy has been able to travel to exciting places including Alaska, the Caribbean, and California he does face certain challenges. Many of these are the same that everyone faces including getting time off from work and choosing a destination. However Troy also faces some unique challenges that many people with I/DD often do. These include his need for around the clock support, medication/personal aid, transportation issues and accessible airfare and lodging. All of these can be a burden to tackle alone. So when Troy travels he reaches out to a travel provider.

Unfortunately for Troy many travel providers told him his independence would be limited on trips because his electric wheelchair was too large to transport. Also, that he would need to bring his own staff to transfer him. Troy knew that there had to be a provider out there that could better support his unique needs and kept searching.  While attending a self-advocacy conference, Troy met Josh Senso, the Director of Hammer Travel, and found the solution to his travel needs. “Meeting Troy and watching him get more and more excited as I told him about Hammer Travel is exactly why we wanted to start this service,” explains Senso.

Hammer Travel is a service offered by a long-time provider out of Minnesota. Hammer Residences, Inc. was founded in 1923 and has helped thousands of adults and children with developmental disabilities experience life to the fullest. A few years ago a challenge was given to employees to find a new way that Hammer could extend their mission. At that time Senso was working with fellow program manager, Tom Ryan. They organized a fishing trip each summer that was growing by leaps and bounds. Together they brought the idea of starting a travel business to Hammer’s CEO. Over the next few years Hammer Travel, LLC was born.

Hammer Travel assists individuals like Troy in experiencing a personalized vacation. With this in mind, they organize their trips so each person can participate in the social aspects of the group while also being able to choose activities to suit their preferences. A variety of different travel services are offered. These include: predetermined destination travel, family supported travel, individual or small group travel, and convention attendee assistance. To learn more about meeting the travel needs of individuals with disabilities visit Hammer Travel’s website or call 877.345.8599.  

After his recent trip with Hammer Travel Troy is now following another passion as a volunteer travel consultant. Together he and Hammer Travel are working to find solutions for the common travel challenges for people with disabilities.  “Travel challenges are lessoned through communication with individual travelers. Hearing Troy’s opinions really make a difference to us,” says Senso before continuing on, “we can’t wait to have him travel with us again.”

To learn more please call 877.345.8599 to speak with a Hammer Travel Team Member or visit
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Dan’s home!

January 25, 2011

I picked up my son Monday morning. We had the exit interview in Connie Brand’s office. The reviews were positive. There were skills to work on which was to be expected. He had an issue with one of his apartment-mates. This young man  is working on his own issues and Dan will have to learn to deal with difficult people like young men like this.  When asked how he dealt with the problems, he said he went to staff. Good job ! That was what he was supposed to do. Before we left, Connie asked Dan if he wanted to attend Chapel Haven.. He responded that he wanted to think about it. She said that was fine.

On our ride home, we talked about his visit. I asked him if he enjoyed his stay at Chapel Haven. “Yes, mom.”  I asked if he liked the classes. “Yes, mom.” I asked what he like the most. “Guys day out at Palisades Mall.”  I asked what he didn’t like. “That gong class. I didn’t know how to do it.” I said ok, he could learn it. I asked if he wanted to go to Chapel Haven. He said he wasn’t ready. When I asked why; he said he wasn’t done with school. I told him that he was not leaving ECLC until after graduation. Big smile!  Then he sighed in relief. He then told me that he liked Chapel Haven. I told him I think he would do great in Connecticut. He said, he would think about it. Fair enough.

The staff is meeting Wednesday and we should hear by Thursday.  Details to follow.

Chapel Haven

January 24, 2011

I have to driven to New Haven. I am checked in to the hotel and have eaten dinner. Football is on the TV. Blog time. Most importantly, this trial stay at the school has been an overwhelming success. He has made friends with his roommate, apartment mates and peers. He has attended classes, went grocery shopping, cooked and cleaned and went into New Haven for recreation activities. Whenever I spoke with him on the phone, he was happy and had lots to tell me. He described his classes as good, his friends as nice and New Haven as awesome. When I have spoken to the staff, they have been receptive to questions and very complimentary toward my son. He was outgoing and pleasant and followed the rules. He was accepted by his peers and made friends. He was part of the community. At 9am tomorrow morning, I pick up my son. He turns in his keys to his room and to Chapel Haven. Then we wait until Wednesday. That is decision day…will he be accepted to Chapel Haven? I don’t see why not.

Chapel Haven Visit

January 20, 2011

He’s there!  Wednesday morning, we checked in to Chapel Haven. We met with Connie Brand, Admissions Coordinator, to review rules and schedules. Then Carmelina came in. She was the assessment officer who would work with my son. We carried his belongings up to his apartment. His roommate and apartment mates weren’t there. They were in class. We took a quick tour  of the building. Then I was told to say my goodbyes and to leave. I was a nervous wreck! How would he do? Would he be happy? I really hoped I had made the right decision. I spent the entire ride back to Jersey on the phone talking to friends to calm me down.  I got home safely and paced. What was I going to do with myself. The house seemed so big, empty and quiet.  I watched tv, surfed the web and set the alarm. I eventually fell asleep. I got up in the morning with no phone call from my son. No news is good news right?  Finally, at 9am I could stand it no longer. I left a message for Connie, apologizing for being a nudge but I needed to know how my son was. Shortly after, I heard from her. He was doing beautifully. He did chores in the apartment, went to class and met lots of other residents. Most importantly, he was independent, adult and making friends. Whew! What a relief!  I knew he’d do well but now I know this is the right decision. Thank you, Chapel Haven!  See you Monday morning for pick up!

Preparing for A Visit

January 13, 2011

I got a call this morning from Connie Brand, Admissions Officer from Chapel Haven. Dan will be visiting Chapel Haven from January 19-24. We had a few details to iron out…where were the results to his PPD, questions about his level of independence, medications and his arrival time. I have to admit; I am a little nervous. This is not just a visit; it is an evaluation to see if he is appropriate for the program. I want him to get in to the program. It will be a chance for more education and preparation for independent living. So let’s keep our fingers crossed. Let Dan have a good time. Let him do what he is told. Let Dan succeed.

New Websote

January 13, 2011

I have created a website, to publicize my advocacy efforts for individuals with special needs and their families. This is a new business that I am trying to launch in order help families like mine. I believe that with my expertise and personal experience I can make a difference. So read my blog, go to my website & spread the word. Thank you!