Our stories…
Person Centered Practice at Work:
Darlene's Balloon Saloon

Julie tells a story about Darlene, who used to struggle getting out of bed, but now is eager to begin each day due to her new business – Darlene’s Balloon Saloon. She loves to celebrate. Now she does it everyday.

Robbie the Tool Guy

Robbie is a man with great enthusiasm for the things that he likes to do and is steadfast about not doing what he doesn’t like. In this story we see how the people who support Robbie learned that what is important to Robbie can help him do what is important for him.

Ashley’s Story

Ashley and those who supported her used to have a power struggle. Their relationship changed once they figured out what was important to Ashley. Now, she volunteers at her church and the local hospital. Though Ashley still has challenges, she is a happy and active member of her community.
Tony’s Wisdom by P.Sue Kullen February, 2009

I spoke to my friend Tony last night for an hour.  We have been friends for almost 15 years.  I was the director at an agency that provided support to him.  We remained friends after I moved on and after he moved to a new agency. Tony has always helped me to view the support system through fresh eyes.  He allows me to pass on his quotes in hopes of helping support professionals “get it”. 


“It’s hard to be honest when they hold it against you.” 

“Guess what they say about me?  That I talk too much!  Hey I ‘m just a sociable guy.” 

“They made me do my laundry twice.  Was that right?” 

“They put me on probation for two weeks after I lost my job.  Losing my job was punishment enough.” 

“My job coach yelled at me a lot.” 

“The victims get treated worse than the offenders.” 

“My staff person looked at me with those cold eyes and lied to me.” 

“Guess what they labeled me?  A liability; I can’t even be human.” 

“She yelled at me three times but I only did it once. I asked her why and she said she wanted to get it through my thick head.” 

“It’s always the middle man.” 

“It’s time for a change.” 


Tony was supported to apply for, and get, a New Directions Waiver in the State of Maryland.  He has a support broker who helped him design his own support and he hires/fires his support staff.  He now has his own place in Silver Springs, MD, works at Home Depot, and is due for a raise soon.  He lives near the metro and goes where he pleases.  He is in charge of his own money and was able to keep all the money he earned from a seasonal job at Macy’s at Christmas; a long time dream of his.  Change is possible if we truly listen to people. 

Re-framing Success: Tommy’s Story by Susan Burke Harrison December, 2008

Tommy is a hard-working, friendly man who has had more jobs than anyone that I ever met in my entire life. Name an industry or a business and I bet he’s done it- Roofing, road paving, multiple fast-food restaurants, a bagger at Giant, a “carnie” with a company that goes around the state providing rides at carnivals and the list goes on and on.


His typical scenario went like this… get a job, love the job, get 3-4 paychecks, hate the job, quit or get fired from the job, be unemployed for 2-9 months, create havoc in his personal life, get a job, love a job and so it goes. When his Team convened to “problem solve” about this issue the conclusions were always the same- “Perhaps, Tommy is not ready for a job” or “He doesn’t value work.” or my personal favorite, “Tommy doesn’t appreciate how tight the job market is getting!”


At one of these particularly painful problem solving meetings, I suggested that perhaps we were not seeing Tommy in the correct light. I asked the group of truly caring but annoyed professionals where in life do people work for a short period of time and get a good reputation as being successful. In a flash of brilliance, I got my answer- a “temp agency”! I asked what would happen if we helped Tommy connect with a local temp agency- how could that change his life? How could he be seen as a valued member of the workforce? What might we learn?


Well, Tommy got connected to a local temp agency- not a disability or human services agency but a “real” temp agency where work- real jobs is the measure of success. Now the scenario goes like this…accept a job offer for a specific period of time, love the job, get 3-6 paychecks, say “thanks and good by” at the end of the contract, get another job, love the job…


Tommy is one of the most sought-after workers that this temp agency employs. He isn’t seen as an employee with a significant intellectual disability but as an employee who gets great reviews from his supervisors. Companies often try to hire him full-time but he just grins and says, “Thanks, but I have to move on.” Talk about understanding your personal power!


So, we learned another lesson. Thanks, Tommy!