Sam Tracy moved into LEAP’s Weld Road in April of 2016. Prior to that, he had been supported through a shared living model. Sam’s mom and guardian, Patti felt he might find more success in a residential care setting. Although reluctant to change Sam’s living situation, Patti later told LEAP, “You all believed in what my son could accomplish.”
Sam came to LEAP as a quiet individual who was non-verbal and utilized few home-made signs and gestures to communicate his wants, needs, desires. Through the focused efforts of the Weld Road staff, Sam quickly quadrupled communication through learning pieces of American Sign Language. Soon he was combining multiple words to form elementary sentences. Sam now takes great pride in telling the staff what he likes to eat, what movies to watch, or what clothing to wear using word descriptors and combining known words to make his point. Some examples of his homemade signs are, “cat-hat” for Lion King, “big-chicken” for Big Bird and Sesame Street, and “ghost/scary-dog” for Scooby-Doo.
Sam has always been known as a solo kind of guy. He can sit for hours in his bedroom watching movies and be perfectly content. He is very much a dog person, and, in the past, he enjoyed spending time with all shapes and sizes, especially the puppies. In the last couple of years Sam has come out of this shell at Weld Rd. He loves to provide visitors with big hugs and kisses. He enjoys having sleepovers with mom and family for holidays, but will communicate when he is finished with the visit and wants to return to his home.
We didn’t know much about Sam when he had first arrived, but over the years, his hobbies and interests have skyrocketed. Movies are still where his heart is, but he now likes to show off his DVD collection and will bring movies into the living room instead of isolating in his bedroom. Comedies, especially slapstick are still favorites, but he has also expanded into the horror genre, and musicals. Sam dances for staff and will grab arms to have staff dance with him. Sam is often seen toting Ninja Turtles. When the legs are cracked, and the rattle is just right, they are best. Sam has a drawer of no less than 40 varieties of the half-shelled heroes.
With his housemate, Michael, Sam has had opportunities to explore several new experiences. Michael shares that he is glad they both get along so well. “I love Sam. He always makes me laugh. He’s such a goofball.” Sam and Michael got to see Slugger and get a hug at a Sea Dog’s game. He has been to the Community Little Theatre in Lewiston/Auburn for plays and musicals. Sam was enthused when he took a trip to Portland to see Sesame Street Live! Until the Covid-19 hit, Sam was attending the Narrow-Gauge Cinemas every week to see some of the best movies around. Also, any visitor to the house will be swarmed with requests for “Matt” to come get Sam for “Burger King”.
Sam has several family members he keeps in touch with for visits, calls, and/or correspondence. Mom visits weekly, one brother lives down the road, another brother (who used to be a DSP for LEAP) has moved out to Oregon. Dad also lives close by and Grandma is in Gardner. Patti shares, “I’ve felt at peace since Sam moved to LEAP.” She feels “Sam has improved many living skills, social skills, and communication skills.”
One area Sam’s staff are particularly proud of his growth is in his healthcare. Upon coming to live with us, Sam was scared, nervous, and strongly disliked doctors and medical procedures. It was a struggle to even see the primary care doctor for a routine check-up. Things like receiving a pulse or accurate blood pressure were nearly impossible. His DSP team worked with him to learn that doctors were not trying to harm him. He practiced with staff to be more comfortable around the medical tools like the stethoscope or blood pressure cuff. Soon, Sam was helpful during exams, and began allowing his staff and doctor to complete the necessary vitals. Sam certainly doesn’t love going to the doctors, but he can tolerate the procedures for most exams. It was a great achievement when he agreed to a flu shot last year.
Today, Sam is so pleasurable to be around! He plays games daily. Playing tag with staff, using the sticker from his breakfast banana is one of his favorites. Using his voice in the middle of the day to serenade his rendition of Hakuna Matata for all to hear. Playing with puppy visitors that love the attention as much as Sam loves to pet and kiss them. Watching movie after movie until every line is memorized. Filling everyone’s heart with love and compassion. Thanks, Sam, for spreading your joy with us!
– written by Joy Pierce, DSP