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From Shy to Shine: James Miklos’ Journey in Day Services

From Shy to Shine: James Miklos’ Journey in Day Services

Categories: Blog, Featured News

Upon arriving at an AHRC Seaford Day Services site, James “Jimmy” Miklos, 41, can be found greeting his peers and staff members with a wide smile and high fives before making a beeline to his locker to put away his things and start the day.

James Miklos pictured with two AHRC Nassau staff members

However, this was not always the case. Jimmy’s comfort level and sense of familiarity with his program are the results of the collaborative effort of staff, family, and Jimmy’s willingness to work through challenges and seek the solutions that best fit his needs.

Previously, Jimmy lived in upstate New York where he received residential and day services at another agency. In January 2023, he began his journey at AHRC Nassau after his mother initiated his move to Long Island.

The change was fast and abrupt for Jimmy, who struggled adjusting to a new residence and day program. These were two major life changes happening all at once—something that would challenge anyone in a similar situation. In day services he met site manager, Aracely Baires, who set out ensure Jimmy felt welcome in his new program.

Aracely observed that Jimmy, who communicates without using speech and uses a wheelchair, was more than simply shy, he was closed off.

“He was really quiet. We could tell that he was feeling us out, and we were getting to know him as well,” said Aracely.

At day services, Jimmy joined alongside two dozen people supported by six dedicated staff members. This lively environment made Jimmy somewhat apprehensive. Compounding this, Jimmy faced challenges that prevented his full engagement. His days were often marked by periods of sleep, moments of irritability, and difficulties in effectively communicating his needs. These factors underscored the need for a nuanced approach to his well-being participation in day services.

James Miklos pointing to his Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

Aracely and site staff members took the initiative and included Ashley Caruso, the site’s Behavior Intervention Specialist (BIS) to brainstorm how to help.

First, they addressed communication. Together, Ashley and Aracely created a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) for Jimmy. This was a significant milestone in helping him express himself.

“We use a person-centered approach; we get to know him, his likes, and dislikes, how he communicates best, and how he likes to be supported. These proactive strategies help prevent negative behaviors before they start,” said Ashley.

With the PECS system in place, Jimmy could say he was happy, sad, or mad. He then realized his staff valued his feelings and welcomed him sharing his wants and needs.

Next came addressing his lethargic mood. Most days Jimmy would come to the program and sleep at his desk.

Aracely takes pride in being a strong advocate for Jimmy, and regularly mentioned his fatigue during meetings with family and staff.

She knew this behavior stemmed from discomfort he was experiencing elsewhere. Soon after, it came to light that Jimmy’s roommate was up late at night and affecting his sleep schedule.

“Behavior is often a response to a need that’s not met. There is always a source,” said Aracely.

Now the staff is all about empowering Jimmy to direct his day. At the site, everyone has locker and workstation assignments. There they keep personal belongings and store project materials.

It was there that Jimmy and staff worked on his PECS binder and where he developed a sense of ownership.

Another goal soon emerged – mobility. Jimmy is fully capable of walking even though he used a wheelchair. Knowing this, staff set mobility goals and encouraged him to move more.

They started slowly, Jimmy started walking daily and exercising three times a week. Starting with short distances at first, then they used YouTube videos to help him walk a full mile.

Just over a year later, Jimmy is walking every day, taking trips to the store, and walks around the neighborhood. He loves to see the animals that pass along his way.

Jimmy’s life is now full of activity, he is more social and has several hobbies he enjoys. From dancing to coloring, baking and even scrapbooking.

“I asked his mother for pictures of him to tell the story of his life. I want Jimmy to share more of his story with us,” said Aracely.