Learn – January 2022

Learning confidence heading into a new year

When asked “How have you learned to have confidence going into 2022?” Wranglers Kevin, Robert, Mariann, and Lisa shared ideas that were more grand than simple tips…they were wise insights.

While confidence is thought of as an individual trait, Wranglers also emphasized the role of family, friends, and social contacts as key to their sense of confidence.

Kevin summarized the group’s thoughts when he said, “Don’t be afraid to learn new things.” Words to live by.

Kevin believes his confidence will increase when the pandemic is over. “I will be able to take care of my family then,” he said, elaborating with examples of being able to get together with them, socialize with them, and such, all of which produces a better outlook and optimism. He learned that video calls, writing notes, and making calls are not substitutes for family time, but they help fill the gaps in contact created by the current conditions.

Lisa agreed. Being with, around, and in contact with her extended family is crucial and she believes her confidence improves with that contact.

Mariann said that she is learning to feel more positive about herself, and feeling that way improves her confidence. “I have things to learn and work to do,” she said. After some thoughtful consideration, she said, “I come to New Danville ready to take on the day and forget the past.” Kevin noted, “Mariann seems to get stronger every day.”

“Expect greatness every day,” Robert said. “Understand that the road of life is not just for the mountaintops; it is the whole road. Learn while in the dips so you can understand the top,” he remarked, reminding the group that learning that perspective will definitely affect confidence.

Learning something as complicated as confidence is certain to come with challenges and hurdles. These Wranglers easily identified the biggest impediment to their learning.

Kevin: “Do it without giving up.”

Lisa: “Have faith in yourself.”

Robert: “See it in yourself before others will be able to see it in you.”

Mariann:  “Have faith in who you are.”

Learn: Dec 2021

Scholarships Keep the Learning Going

Great things happen with just a few extra days spent at New Danville. Several months ago, the Assistance League of Montgomery County (ALMC) provided assistance to two Wranglers, enabling them to attend day habilitation programs more often. What difference does a day (or several) make?  A lot.

According to Barb Michels, of ALMC’s Special Needs Scholarship Committee, “Assistance League of Montgomery County is proud to have awarded Justin and Ashley scholarships, enabling them to continue to pursue their goals. We are pleased to enjoy a partnership with New Danville as we work together to improve the lives of the people of Montgomery County.” Lives can be improved in many different ways.

Justin was featured in a previous issue of The Wrangler Gazette when he and his mother were able to share some of their story as an inspiration to others. For all the progress cited in the story, it has continued, thanks to ALMC support.

Nicole Martinez, program coordinator, recently cited several areas of noticeable improvement for Justin. “He continues to come out of his shell and socialize more. I am most pleased to see that he is advocating for himself now.  That is a huge step for adults with IDD.”

According to an article by Katherine Owen and Jackie Downer, and published by the University of Hertfordshire in 2002, “Self-advocacy is one of the most important ways in which people with intellectual disabilities have a voice of their own…This is important because it is directly linked to building confidence and self-esteem.”

Justin’s mother has noticed a difference, too.  She said, “It is apparent to me that Justin feels a deeper connection to others this time around. He has developed a sense of community and can remember the names of people that he refers to as his friends. He is also learning some skills – like sewing – that are completely new to him. 

Overall, we are both deeply grateful to both the Assistance League and New Danville for the opportunity he has been given this year. The sense of community and connection that he now has is priceless.”

Nicole shared that Ashley is also coming out of her shell, citing her involvement in meditation class, as well as others. “We realized how far Ashley has come when she agreed to be part of the group photo at the recent building dedication.” The new building is home to the pallet-production team that is part of the “Pallets to Partners” program with New Danville and Charbonneau Industries. Ashley is a member of the team but has typically shied away from having her photograph taken or participating in group events.  “That was a big sign of growth,” Nicole said.

Learn – November 2021

“It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.” – Carl Friedrich Gauss

Fall brings the change in leaves, switch from daylight savings time, and change of classes available at New Danville. Some are new and some are golden oldies.

At the core of all the classes is the desire to bring activities and experiences that encourage growth, learning, socialization, independence, and, of course, FUN.

Some of the popular “old classics” that are returning to the schedule after a bit of a hiatus include culinary arts and creative drama. New additions that provide good times, as well as learning, include, Around the World in 30 Days, Let’s Meditate and Dance. Nicole Martinez, the program coordinator, said, “The class Hoop There It Is! caught the attention of the Wranglers.  They are very excited about the class.  It seems like everyone wants to be part of it.”

According to Bryan Gill, program manager, “It is good, and important, to mix things up a bit, but not too often and not too much. Our Wranglers enjoy variety and are comfortable with the routine.  We just don’t want to become too routine. We strive for that perfect balance. By working with the offerings, Wranglers get to choose what interests them the most while being involved in the ongoing act of learning.”

Learn – October 2021

Wranglers are stepping into staff offices, engaging visitors, and stopping people in the halls to share the artwork they made in newly re-energized art classes. A variety of new art projects have already captured the interest of Wranglers and there is much more to come.

“Our team has always stepped up to help in any class in any way they can, but we are fortunate to have a new direct support professional whose career includes personal involvement in various art forms, as well as teaching art,” said new program manager, Bryan Gill.

Jamie Glass recently joined our team of direct support professionals, bringing years of experience immersed in the arts as a creator and teacher in both the performing and visual arts. She believes the objective is not to create ‘pretty’ art, but to create. She wants Wranglers to grow with the range of experiences while they use all their senses. “We might go for a walk on campus and do nature rubbings, or blow paint across a piece of paper. Creating art should be experiences the Wranglers enjoy,” she said.

Future plans include a ballet class, a campus art project of painted garbage cans and other exciting options that help art become a more active form of communication, expression and voice for Wranglers, as well as a lot of fun!

Learn – September 2021

According to the manufacturers of Cricut cutting machines, “Our dream has been to help people lead creative lives by providing tools to make their do-it-yourself projects beautiful, fun, and easy. When we built our first cutting machine, we saw the potential for a simple yet powerful tool to completely transform the way people think about crafting, designing, and making.” Offer that dream to Wranglers, and you end up with a class that is fast-becoming one of the favorites offered in the day program.

That dream comes true at New Danville thanks to the addition of a Cricut machine to complement art and computer classes. Wranglers develop designs they like, which are then cut out by the machine from many material options. The final products can be applied to items such as notebooks or drink coolers, or serve as standalone art.

“We provide the materials for class projects, like the drink coolers or bags, but if they want to do something other than that, they need to bring in their own product. We encourage the Wranglers to explore options,” said Direct Support Professional Melissa. She added that many students take computer skills class so they can use the Cricut machine to create art.

With such a variety of items that can be cut from various materials, it would seem like picking a favorite would be a challenge. Not so for some Wranglers. Drink coolers!  No, bags. No, art for a shirt.  There are many favorites because there are so many things they can make.

The manufacturer declares that do-it-yourself projects offer “a creative outlet, a therapeutic tool for self-expression, and a way to give and connect to others.” As important as those outcomes are in a general sense, they are more important to the Wranglers. With the holiday season coming up, there may be a lot of Cricut-made art shared by Wranglers with families and friends.

Learn – August 2021

It is unanimous. Each Wrangler who participated in a recent trip to NASA Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston that was sponsored by Texas Special Children’s Project agrees, “I want to go again!” While the trip was fun, it was also informative.

Several Wranglers shared some of what they learned on the special day.

Among the things discovered during the tours was how the race to the moon began with the famous speech by President John F. Kennedy. Caitlin said, “President Kennedy had a big part in launching the space race. He had an important speech.”

The Saturn V rocket impressed many Wranglers. Pam described it as “biiiiiiiiiiiggggg,” as she smiled while describing it. Amy was impressed with the rockets, too. She said she could be an astronaut, “except for the fact that I am afraid of heights.” Jayden, however, said he could be an astronaut, based on a quiz the Wranglers took to see if they were compatible with the characteristics of astronauts.

The realities of life in space surprised many Wranglers. Caitlin said that learning how astronauts eat in space was interesting and space ice cream tastes very good. “That surprised me,” she said. As for the many adventures of astronauts, the Apollo 13 experience moved Ivan the most. “It touched my heart for the astronauts,” he said, “because of how scared they must have been.”

A number of “life in space” realities interested Wranglers, like how astronauts use the bathroom in space, and how they wash their hair. For Amy, learning about how astronauts live in space was the most intriguing information. Caitlin was intrigued about future travel to Mars – “They found water on Mars now.” – while Jayden was excited to hear that NASA plans to return to the moon. Whatever comes next in NASA’s long history of exploration, the Wranglers of New Danville will be cheering them on.

A HUGE Thank You to the Texas Special Children’s Project for making this trip possible!

Madalyn Cooke Foundation donation provides iPads and Laptops

It is good to learn some basic computer skills, but altogether different if the technology gives you the power to tell someone how you feel or where you hurt when you had no words for it before.  “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe the outcomes made possible by a recent contribution by the Madalyn Cooke Foundation to allow New Danville to purchase laptops and iPads.

iPad being used by New Danville client with app for adults with disabilities
Laptops used by adults with disabilities to learn keyboarding, art and more.

Last year, the foundation awarded a grant to New Danville for the purchase of a few laptops. The success of keyboarding and basic computer skills classes sparked ideas for expansion, and, thanks to the recent contribution that enabled the purchase of four laptops and seven iPads, the original building on the New Danville campus now includes a computer lab. The classroom for the Wrangler IIs is home for the iPads.

iPad being used by New Danville client with app for adults with disabilities

A variety of specialized apps are getting “test drives” on the iPads before the team settles on the best combination to meet the needs of the Wrangler IIs, but on a recent visit by Walter Cooke (former board member who set up the Madalyn Cooke Foundation in honor of his late wife) a few examples of their potential were on full display. Apps provide users with spoken words to communicate messages created by the user choosing icons and images. Another app allows a user to use images moved onto a body to indicate their moods (smiling, angry or sad face, for example) where they hurt, and more. Still, others allow for coloring pictures or putting together puzzles. All apps include positive reinforcements like bubbles, stars, or other graphical celebrations for successfully accomplishing the apps’ purposes.

Computer classes are very popular at New Danville


Computer classes are very popular at New Danville, providing our Wranglers with basic computer skills, new ways to communicate and share guidance on social interactions, and much more. We love it when we hear, “Now my family will let me use the computer at home,” or, from someone who disliked math class, “Can we have more worksheets today?”

We’re going to have some more great news regarding the use of computers and iPads thanks to a recent contribution in an upcoming newsletter.

One of our Wranglers, Colt, said he likes best about the class is that he is learning how to type faster and now he has his own computer at home.
According to Direct Service Professional (DSP), Melissa Varney, she uses computers to pull up visual aids and lessons for almost all the classes she teaches, not just the basic computer skills class. “I have Wranglers who were unable to write their numbers but have now learned addition and subtraction…because I had a computer to help guide them. Before math class I was told ‘it is too hard I can’t do that… I don’t want to be in this class.’ Now when they come in they ask me ‘how many worksheets am I going to let them do.’ It is amazing.”

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