Today, Dianne April is living a more fulfilling, happy, and independent life than she or her family could ever have dreamed for her. Ten years ago, when she graduated from Perkins School for the Blind, Dianne required intensive supports. Her struggle to communicate often left her frustrated, and was reflected in her relations with others.
With hard work and the support of her dedicated staff, Dianne has become a role model to others in her residence and day program.
“She’s much more independent than she was before,” said Program Director Donia Derisme. “She voices her concerns and needs and wants more freely than ever. She’s able to tell you anything. And Dianne is a great example of that, of advocating for herself.”
For Dianne, self-advocacy means many things. Most recently, it has meant saving money for a new keyboard. “I learned piano when I was a child,” Dianne said. “I like to play the keyboard. And I like to sing.”
Self-advocacy has also meant planning for her own future. “I do want to take a mini vacation,” Dianne said. “I’ve got to make goals to go to Disney World next year.” With the support of Vinfen staff, Dianne completes exercises daily- everything from walking outside to arm circles to climbing stairs- in preparation for the trip.
Dianne has also had the opportunity to explore her interests and engage in the surrounding community in a way she never had before. In the last month, she attended the Fair on the Square celebration in Watertown, danced the night away at Belmont High School, and found a new favorite dish at Chateau, an Italian restaurant in Waltham. Dianne has also made lifelong friends through Vinfen with whom she journeys out to try new restaurants and classes, or just grab an ice cream cone.
“Seeing Dianne advocate for herself is so rewarding because that’s what we’re all about, helping the individuals to be as independent as possible,” said Donia.
At her home, Dianne makes sure to communicate to staff and make time for all the things she loves most. In the spring and summer, she goes for long walks in the neighborhood. In the winter, Dianne goes tubing and watches Christmas movies with her fellow residents.
“I like it here,” Dianne said.
But even as Dianne has grown and thrived, she’s also faced new challenges. Dianne was always very close with her mother. She spoke to her on the phone every Wednesday, and they spent all of their holidays together. When her mother passed away, her Vinfen family stepped up to support her, help her grieve, and ensure that her needs and wishes were met and respected.
Dianne looks forward to calls and time with her brother, but Vinfen is her home. Despite the hardships she has overcome, her happiness today is contagious.
“Every day when I see Dianne head out to her day program, I smile to myself,” said Donia. “I see her dressing herself up, looking like she’s part of the community. She’s come so far. It’s very refreshing to see her living a life that she deserves to live.
Your gift of $25, $50, $100, or more will place a gift directly in the hands of the individuals like Dianne here at Vinfen who inspire us daily by achieving extraordinary goals. Visit www.vinfen.org/donate and select “Holiday Gift Program” to make Dianne’s holidays bright.