Employee Spotlight: Teresa Lonkard and Breanna Burton Case Managers

by pathforward May 22, 2019
09:00 AM

In this edition of our employee spotlight, we would like to introduce our two case managers: Teresa Lonkard and Breanna Burton. Teresa and Breanna focus on advocacy for each individual they work with and ensure teamwork and continuity of quality of care for everyone on their caseloads. Their passion for helping others shines through in their work every day, as they assist others to achieve their goals and dreams. Here is what their journey has meant to them in their own words:

Teresa Lonkard

My best friend, Sean, has a rare form of Cerebral Palsy wherein he is primarily wheelchair bound, but has no cognitive symptoms. We met in college and he now does computer security for a large insurance company. Throughout college and afterwards people would often assume I was his girlfriend or care provider and direct questions towards me. They were usually surprised when Sean responded or when they found out I was just a friend. Though being friends with him, and his twin brother, who has a mild intellectual disability, I learned a lot about a population I rarely interacted with and started seeing individuals as more than just their appearance. After about two years of being friends with Sean, I didn’t see or think about his disability. I once turned around to tell him to hurry up when I was going up some steps because I forgot he wasn’t able to follow me and had to wait for the elevator. He told me it was both hilarious and one of the biggest compliments he could ever receive.

I’ve been working in the human services field for almost 4 years (since June 2015). I started by working as a Mental Health technician at Our Lady of Peace. It could be a tough job, but without working there, I don’t think I would love or be as successful as a case manager. I love advocating for my clients, solving problems and finding ways to maximize services. It means a lot to me that I’m just one person, but can start a chain reaction of improvements in someone’s life.

Seeing a client, who developed anorexia, for the first time after he started receiving behavior supports, has been the most memorable moment I’ve had since being in their field. This client has recently been hospitalized due to how much weight he had lost. After working with his behaviorist for a few weeks, he was already began to change his habits. He looked much healthier, happier and said he felt better than he had in the past few months.

Through this line of work, I’ve learned to see what people are capable of, not just what they are currently doing. Since many clients struggle with effective communication I’ve become more observant of body language and am a better communicator. I always try to ensure I understand specifically what a client wants/thinks along with the rest of the team through re-phrasing statements and questions. This has also helped me in my everyday life, as I can often find a way to explain something in a way everyone can understand regardless of his or her level of functioning. I’ve also gained knowledge of the Medicaid and Social Security systems and benefits, which I’ve been able to utilize when I speak with my friends or family members who have disabilities or are unsure for what benefits they qualify. I’ve been able to assist individuals outside of work with locating information and providing resources/guidance concerning benefits.


Breanna Burton:

To me, being a service provider is a big deal. It’s about meeting people’s needs and promoting overall quality of life for the people you work with. No matter what population you’re working with, being a service provider means devoting your days to helping people who need support. To be a service provider means you need to have passion and it should not be taken lightly. I’ve been working in the human service field for the past four years and it has been the most rewarding four years of my life.

I have so many favorite moments since being in the human service field but the most memorable would have to be when one of the consumers I was providing community living support services for texted me months after I stopped working with him to show me that he passed his drivers’ permit test. I had been working with him for a year and we spent a lot of time together studying for his drivers’ permit test. He took it a few times and kept failing by one or two points. When I saw that he finally passed, I was so happy for him and it warmed my heart knowing that he made it a point to share his good news with me although we hadn’t talked or seen one another in a few months.

Everyone’s life is different. Everyone has a story. Each person’s life events, from the day they were born to the age they are now, has shaped them into the person they are today. Show compassion and be intentional about your everyday interactions with others. You never know how much impact you can make on someone’s life.

Saul the Service Dog

by pathforward May 1, 2019
10:59 AM

Thatcher is eleven years old and has Autism, which comes with a host of issues from sensory processing disorder to non-verbalism. For Thatcher’s family, this can lead to very dangerous situations where Thatcher doesn’t know how to cope with the world around him, and therefore, runs in whatever direction, without understanding the danger. This is why in 2013, I, Thatcher’s mother, began the journey to obtaining a service dog. The first step in that process was research, which led me 4 Paws for Ability, Inc. located in Xenia, Ohio. I began by filling out an application and qualifying. Then I began fundraising. I did several fundraisers with organizations like Yankee Candles, Thirty One, and Bravelets. I also sold candy bars and our family made an appearance on our local news station. Once we got to our goal and had completed all the necessary paperwork and requirements (some videos of Thatcher’s life and a prescription from Thatcher’s doctor), we were placed in a class that took place in November 2017. This two-week training course was where we met Saul, the best dog for Thatcher’s needs, who has now become a huge part of our family. During our two weeks of training, we were required to stay within a 30-minute drive of the training facility. There we learned how to drive Saul. He knew all of his commands, but now, we, his new family would also need to learn them. We learned the basics, like heal, sit, leave it, and implied stay, but what we also learned was over and down, a command to help when Thatcher is having a meltdown. In this command, Saul lays on Thatcher to provide deep pressure and calm him quicker. Saul is also trained to be tethered to Thatcher, which keeps Thatcher from wandering off when we are out in public, but most importantly, Saul is trained to “find his boy.” This task is meant for when Thatcher goes missing. Saul can be commanded to find him using Thatcher’s scent alone. This is the most important thing for us because over half of children who have Autism wander from the safety of their caretakers and many of the children who go missing are drawn to water and drown. Now, Saul helps keep Thatcher safe every day. The two are never separated and now often act like brothers, which is worth all of the hard work it took to get Saul. If you would like more information on how to get your child a service dog, please go to http://www.4pawsforability.org.