Chris' Climb with his BAYADA Nurse
“Lewis takes such great care of Chris. He’s a gem.”
Habilitation services help client with an intellectual disability participate in activities and enjoy life
It’s Sunday morning. Chris Kuczmarski, of Denver, NC, is up early before anyone else is awake. He picks out his clothes, showers, dresses, and is ready for the day – all without being coaxed out of bed, reminded to take a shower, or needing assistance with his clothes. That may not seem like much of a feat for most 48-year-old men, but for Chris, it’s quite an accomplishment.
“This is something new for Chris,” says mom Viola Kuczmarksi, who lives with her husband, Robert, and their youngest son. “He was never this self-sufficient and motivated before Lewis started working with him.”
Lewis McLean, a habilitation technician with BAYADA, has been working with Chris for the past two years, helping to improve Chris’ skills related to personal care, social interaction, and general communication. BAYADA Habilitation provides education, support, and assistance to enable clients with intellectual or developmental disabilities to acquire, maintain, and improve skills related to activities of daily living in order to function as meaningfully and independently as possible in the community.
Chris, who has Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes developmental delays and intellectual and learning disabilities, can’t read and is only able to write the alphabet, his name, and phone number. But what Chris lacks in intellectual ability, he more than makes up for in his friendly, outgoing nature, a common trait of people with Williams Syndrome.
“Chris is a very happy person,” says Lewis, who cares for Chris on Saturdays and Sundays. “He loves being around people and socializing. He’s such an inspiration to me.”
Weekends are for fun and learning
Each weekend Lewis takes Chris out to work on his habilitation goals. Saturday is usually filled with activities that are physically active: bowling, horseback riding, or exercising at the YMCA. Although they appear to be just two friends having fun together, Lewis is working to keep Chris on task and teaching him how to do activities properly and safely. The exercise is important to help keep Chris physically fit.
Sunday is all about socializing – and church. “Chris just loves going to church with me,” says Lewis. “After services, he really enjoys helping with Sunday school classes and serving lunch to the older folks. He is a familiar face and very well respected by everyone.”
Chris’ love of going to Lewis’ church fuels his motivation for getting up early every Sunday morning so he can be ready when Lewis picks him up. Viola is so impressed with the progress Chris has made and attributes this new behavior to Lewis. She has also noticed that Chris has become more verbal and even more social than usual. Of Lewis, Viola says, “He’s a gem. Chris loves him.”
“We're a match made in heaven”
Chris first came to BAYADA in 2008, by way of a recommendation from a county case worker who helps coordinate his services. In addition to receiving habilitation services from BAYADA, during the week, Chris works at Salem Industries, which teaches job skills to intellectually and developmentally disabled adults.
During their weekends together, Lewis also spends time teaching Chris about proper grooming, personal care, eating, and speaking. “Chris communicates, but not always clearly or appropriately. Sometimes he blurts out things at inappropriate times. We work on that.”
The relationship between Lewis and Chris started off strong from Day One. Lewis remembers that when he brought Chris home after their first day, Chris told his mom that Lewis was “a keeper.” And since Chris will likely need services for the rest of his life, he and Lewis can look forward to many more years of learning, socializing, and working on new skills together.
“I love working with Chris. We’re a match made in heaven,” says Lewis. “It’s very humbling to work with him. I may be the habilitation therapist, but I feel like he gives me therapy.”