Jan has been engaged with a number of disability service programs since her daughter Jody was a baby. When she heard Deborah Swingley speak at a meeting, she asked about how she would be able to become an advocate on the Council. She has now been serving on the Council as a parent advocate since January, 2004.
Jan’s adult daughter, Jody, works at Choteau Activities on Activities for Daily Living or ADL’. She is blind, epileptic, mentally retarded and has cerebral palsy.
Being on the council has dramatically changed Jan’s life. “It’s a dynamic, wonderful council that truly does things to change opportunities for people developmental disabilities throughout the state.”
Currently Jan is working with the Council on ways to create opportunities for people with disabilities to access better, local dental care.
Shawn, is a member of the Chippewa Cree nation and from Rocky Boy, Montana. Shawn joined the Council in 2005.
He works for the vocational rehabilitation in Rocky Boy and helps people who have disabilities to find jobs. One of his favorite things about being on the Council is the traveling, particularly to the cities of Billings, Missoula, Helena and Polson, “It’s been enjoyable and a lot of fun.”
Shawn facilitated bringing the disability theater group “Same Difference” to Rocky Boy for a performance which included members of the local community.
In 2006 the Elders of his tribe honored him in a ceremony at a Council meeting, presenting him with a Pendleton blanket and spirit pouch.
Isaiah likes to talk to his peers and people in his community about the challenges facing people with disabilities in rural northeastern Montana. Isaiah then brings that information to the Council and we work on addressing those issues through collaboration and development of new policy.
“The Council has given me the ability to speak for myself and to advocate and empower others.” Isaiah says the confidence he has gained through serving on the Council has assisted him in leading the local self-advocacy group, and in speaking at various events and fundraisers in the community.
Isaiah enjoys working for Milk River Incorporated and volunteers every Friday at Youth Connections, a school based youth entertainment venue, where he whips up the best lattes and cappuccinos. In his spare time Isaiah loves to work on cars for the demolition derby. He just might be driving in one of those soon since he just got his drivers license.
Connie, his mother, runs an employment, activity and residential facility in Glasgow called, Milk River Incorporated, where Isaiah is also employed. Connie is also a council member and was appointed to the council in 2005.
Don Berryman, a parent advocate on the Council, is a retired school administrator and special education director at Butte High. His oldest son, Cal, 17, who likes to be referred to as, “Coach”, is a junior at Butte High, and has been in 4-H for years and now coaches 4-H.
Don served on the Montana Transition Training Council with Deborah Swingley where they worked together on different disabilities projects and initiatives. Don is most proud of his work with the Montana Council on Developmental Disabilities collaborating with the Rural Institute. Working as a Council Member in partnership with the Rural Institute, he was able to help create a model for kids in school who are beginning the transition process into adulthood.
Tarra and her husband Willie have been married for 12 years now. Emma, their seven-year-old daughter is their first and only child. They have had to learn to advocate on her behalf. Emma started kindergarten this year, but also goes to private therapy four times a week.
Tarra attended an open forum held in Billings, and after hearing from other families speak, it became clear to Tarra what she had to do to make a better life for her daughter, “We needed to step up and be her voice.” Tarra started on the Council this October, and says it’s been very empowering to bring her young family’s experience to the Council. “Emma is able to have the quality of life she has because of the people that have come before us.”
In her short time on the council she has seen great progress. “I am proud of the progress the Council makes to address and advance the interest of people with developmental disabilities…We all have disabilities, in one variety or another.”
Nanette is the mother of three exceptional boys, Colin, Byron and Ethan, two of whom have developmental disabilities. Colin, who is a senior at Capital High School, has epilepsy, and Bryon who is a sophomore, has high functioning autism.
As a parent advocate in New Hampshire at the Institute on Disabilities, Nanette would travel to different locations around the state and talk with other parents on how to advocate for their children. “It was a lot of talking about parent empowerment,” Nanette recalled. Once her family made the move to Montana, she knew that she wanted to continue to promote parent empowerment. She quickly found a place to further her work on these projects in Montana, “I did a Google search and MCDD came up, and it gave me a place to start.”
This is her third year on the Council, overseeing the various projects that they work on. She is proud of the work the have done as a group, “I hope I have given my son all the skills he needs to be independent.”