A Discussion with Bridgewell Parent Maureen O’Connell

Published: April 26, 2017

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As part of autism month in April 2017, we sat down with Maureen O’Connell to discuss her 26-year-old daughter Annie and the impact that Bridgewell has made on their lives. Annie lives in a Bridgewell residential home, attends Rosewood II Day Habilitation Program, a specialized day program for young adults with autism, and receives her medication through The Sovner Center, one of Bridgewell’s behavioral health clinic.

How did you learn about Bridgewell?

When Annie was 18 and close to turning 22, we found out from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) she was ineligible for adults services because of some of her subtest IQ scores. At that time, DDS made the decision based on a number. I was frantic about what would happen to Annie without support programs. I learned about Bridgewell from the transition person at DDS. At that time, Rosewood I was just opening.

What was your initial impressions of Rosewood?

I am a teacher and Annie can’t be left alone. I wanted her to have a safe, enriching place to spend her days. We visited Bridgewell before Annie was found eligible for adult services. We made plans hoping she could attend when she was 22. I couldn’t believe how beautiful Rosewood was when we toured it. We visited many places, but Rosewood was different. There was a clear group of young adults there for Annie. The facility was new, beautiful, clean and technology enriched. I knew it was a perfect match for her. I asked myself would I want to hang out there? My answer was yes. Bridgewell felt like it was going to be a positive setting for Annie. Ultimately DDS changed the rules and she became eligible to attend.

How has Annie changed since being at Bridgewell?

So many avenues have opened for Annie. She’s tried different jobs. She also does functional academics to grow her life skills. Her language and communication skills have improved by 50 percent.

Annie received an iPhone because of her internship at Whole Foods that was set up through Bridgewell. She now calls and texts me every day. She contacts her relatives too. We all feel more connected to her. The irony was when she was living with me people were in touch with her, but only through me. She now has more of a voice. She is much more engaged.

How has residential housing affected you and Annie?

Annie knows the Bridgewell staff is there to support her. She is comfortable. It is the most independence she has ever had. I have a sense of peace that she is happy and engaged. Her dad died when she was in sixth grade. The future was always on my mind. I don’t have to worry about her if something happens to me.

What does Bridgewell mean to you?

Bridgewell means that Annie has a safe, happy and enriched life. And she can have all this without me. I even took a vacation. I didn’t do that for many, many years. I went where Annie could go and she had to go where I did. People expected us to be together like salt and pepper. Since she has been at Bridgewell the most beautiful thing has happened is that she has a choice. If she doesn’t want to go to her cousin’s house, she doesn’t have to. That is what adults gets to do. They have choices. She has choices. Before she was living my life with me and now she has the independence to lead her own autonomous life. We still see each other all the time, but it is a choice. Bridgewell has become our life line.

Learn more about Bridgewell’s Autism Services.