Special needs program helps special people

in Community by

Photo above: Kathleen Gray-Gardner, center, watches as James N. Cerico Jr., left, and Meghan Eddy sort through bottles, cans and other recyclable material at the Beaufort County Department of Special Needs. Photos by Bob Sofaly.

Staff reports

Employees at Beaufort County Disabilities & Special Needs (DSN) are proud of the work they do and want to bring more public awareness to the facility and services they provide.  

DSN assists individuals with intellectual and related disabilities such as autism, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Services are provided for consumers throughout their lives, depending upon the need. 

For many years, the program was housed in a small former church building in Port Royal. In 2012, DSN moved to its current, much larger, location at 100 Clear Water Way in Beaufort. 

The additional space allows for program growth, including increased classroom size, a large lunchroom, indoor and outdoor recreation areas, a vegetable garden and a special place called “the ABLE Garden” where consumers and staff can enjoy its serenity. The rest of the facility contains a conference area and administrative offices.

Early interventionists (EI) assist children with developmental delays from birth through age 5, providing assessment and linking them with needed services. If warranted, the school district will provide services from the ages of 6 to 21. This program currently works with 85 families throughout Beaufort County.  

Post-high school, DSN offers a wealth of programs and services such as supervised independent living and seven residential training homes; a Day Treatment Program to assist adults in developing and maintaining daily life and employment skills; respite care and support for families and caregivers; and a summer camp experience called Camp Treasure Chest.

Fred Furman, a case manager with 18 years of experience at DSN, finds satisfaction in helping individuals with intellectual disabilities to achieve their greater potential by helping them identify their abilities and their needs and to work toward realistic and meaningful goals. 

“We encourage consumer input in the decisions that will affect their services and their future,” said Furman. “I’m extremely proud that we are consumer-centered.” 

DSN has a cadre of six case managers similarly working with other consumers.

“Finding appropriate and satisfying employment for consumers is a hallmark of our training efforts in the Day Program,” said Terry Geitner, Day Program director. 

There are individual and group work assignments in various settings in the community. They provide janitorial services for Parks and Leisure Services (PALS), laundry services at Fripp Island, Goodwill Industries, in local supermarkets and in the scullery at Beaufort Marine Air Station. 

Darien Haley, training coordinator, said that she could see the difference that meaningful employment makes in the lives of consumers. 

“They come alive and their personalities blossom,” she said. 

One of the consumers, who works at Publix, believes he is the best bagger there and takes pride in the work he does.

To round out life experiences, Vickie Prescott, planning specialist, schedules monthly outings in the community such as visiting parks, playing tennis, trips to the beach, swimming, exploring museums, among other activities. She is also instrumental in bringing interesting programs to the facility. 

With all of the services and support DSN offers, the mission is ”to facilitate opportunities for consumers to live productively and inclusively in the community.”

“The glue for the DSN program is the entire staff involvement in the coordination and integration of all components of the program, which provides the continuity of our services,” said Bill Love, DSN executive director. He also acknowledged the tremendous support provided by the Beaufort County commissioners and the administration. 

Bruce Marroquín stands over Bruce Shaw and makes sure he feeds documents into the shredder properly at the Beaufort County Department of Special Needs.
Bruce Marroquín stands over Bruce Shaw and makes sure he feeds documents into the shredder properly at the Beaufort County Department of Special Needs.