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For someone who struggles with new environments, Dion has come a long way at AbilityFirst. Ever since he joined in 2004, he has been challenged to embrace new situations. And he’s even learned to express himself and speak up if he’s not very interested in a particular activity.

Dion began attending programs at AbilityFirst straight out of high school. In 2018, he transitioned into the ExploreAbility program at the Lawrence L. Frank Center where he became acquainted with community life. Group-oriented outings, from recreational activities to gardening and volunteering at the library and thrift stores, and even learning about transportation, helped him acquire new daily living skills.

“At ExploreAbility, Dion blossomed and became much more confident within himself and comfortable out in the community,” shared his mom, Debbie.

Considering that Dion has always been cautious in novel environments, he really made headway with ExploreAbilility. With some nurturing nudging, he began opening up to new experiences, and in the process, gained awareness about his community and a sense of security interacting with staff members. He slowly let go of his fear and is now proud of himself when he is able to actively participate. Dion has even become adventuresome, looking forward to whatever activity ExploreAbility has planned for the day.

Another major challenge for Dion is expressing himself. Despite his limited communication skills, through interactions with staff and being introduced to the larger community, he began learning how to combine the words he knows into small phrases. Dion overcame a large hurdle when he began speaking up about which activities interested him and which ones didn’t.

In July 2019, Dion was able to move into a residential group home, where he has been experiencing a new level of independence. Each stage of his journey has seen him adjust and prosper more and more. In the supportive environment of his new home, Dion’s ability to assert his interests has improved. When it’s time for AbilityFirst’s Friday night social at Club 626, his favorite monthly activity, Dion confidently walks in on his own and enjoys the music, dance and festivities with his peers.

“Our family is so proud of Dion’s accomplishments, of where he is today, as a young man who seeks a full productive and happy life,” says Debbie. “AbilityFirst has been so supportive of his needs all these years. They helped him succeed in areas where he needed additional support, and knew when he was ready to move on to the next learning phase in his development. They have been a family to our family working closely with love, dedication and commitment to create this success story!”


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