By UConn Health, Center on Aging
Jenny Aguirre, mother of Christopher Aguirre-Castillo, speaks on behalf of her son who is non-verbal. Christopher, now age fifteen, was born with chromosomal disorders which include developmental, physical, and intellectual disabilities, along with seizures and other difficulties. Jenny immigrated to Bridgeport, CT from Ecuador before Christopher was born. Like many challenges immigrants face when becoming familiar with a new country, Jenny was initially unaware of the community services available to people with disabilities. For many years, Jenny, who also has a disability, cared for her son with her brother’s help. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that Christopher’s teacher encouraged Jenny to contact the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), where he received assistance from a social worker.
Christopher had surgery in January of 2019 at the Hospital for Special Care to improve his impaired developmental motor skills. The outcome of the surgery was not what they expected. Jenny stayed with her son for four weeks at the hospital before she had to return to work. He was put in a cast for six weeks after surgery and he received physical therapy following his cast removal. Since Christopher was unable to climb the stairs in his family’s second floor home, and he remained in a weakened state, his health care providers did not discharge him. Weeks turned into months and Jenny noticed that her son was depressed, based on his loss of appetite and consequent weight loss. In March, during their lowest moment, the DDS social worker told Jenny about the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program, and thought it would be beneficial for Christopher.
Jenny considers MFP a blessing for her son. The care manager and transition coordinator met with Jenny several times to discuss Christopher’s case. It took months to receive approval on housing but as soon as Jenny received it, she and her brother found a first floor apartment appropriate for Christopher. The necessary accommodations followed and the ramp was the last home modification made before Christopher could transition to their new home.
On August 19th, Christopher transitioned to his family’s new apartment. With support from his loving family, Christopher adapted to new physical challenges post-surgery along with a new environment. Christopher received personal care assistance along with occupational and physical therapy at home, which provided him with a boost to succeed in the community. Wonderful events followed: Jenny fiercely advocated for her son to transfer to a specialized school which he now attends. He also began receiving aqua-therapy, currently on hold due to the pandemic, and is awaiting the arrival of his new customized wheelchair and car lift.
Since Christopher’s transition, his family is very proud of the achievements he has made. He loves listening to music; he plays guitar and piano. Jenny excitedly shared that he plays the piano at their church. He is learning American Sign Language and uses it to express his needs along with raising his hand when he needs assistance. He is even using a walker at school! It is undeniable, MFP made it possible for this wonderful young man to find success and hope. It also provided Jenny the tools to further advocate for her son. In Jenny’s words, “I do not know where I or my son would be if it hadn’t been for the MFP program. I couldn’t fathom it!” Now Christopher is on the road to success!