Langton Green is fortunate to have dedicated, talented leadership and is grateful for the contributions of its board members. This month’s conversation is with. . .
Teresa Crowe, PhD, LICSW, LCSWC is a licensed clinical social worker in the District of Columbia and Maryland. She is a professor of social work at Gallaudet University and teaches practice, theory, and research in the MSW program. She coordinates a telemental health program for deaf children and adults through Arundel Lodge, Inc. located in Edgewater, Md. Her recent research focuses on deaf and hard-of-hearing populations, especially in the areas of behavioral health, intimate partner violence, telemental health, well-being, resilience, and help-seeking.
How did you first discover Langton Green?
My son, Alec, lives at Langton Green. He’s living his best life at Langton. He’s 28-years old and since he moved to Langton, he’s made many friends –peers and staff –and has lots of hobbies: bowling, basketball, working, and hanging out with friends. Alec enjoys his independence and making his own decisions with the support of his care team at Langton Green.
Before Alec moved to Langton, he attended South River High School. He graduated from South River and was in a class with four or five other students with developmental disabilities. But he was still very isolated; he needed an independent living situation with services and supports. He lived at home, but frankly there were problems with the community services at home. For example, if I needed to travel ARC did not have services to provide the care Alec needed.
What challenges did you face in finding the right place for Alec to live?
We needed to find a place for him with transitional support and services so he could make the change to move out of our family home. Finding the right community was a challenge. Many agencies had services he needed but did not have the same supportive community that Langton has.
Langton Green offered the “fit” that I had always envisioned for Alec. At Langton Alec has a community of friends –true peers –in a supportive home-like environment. I remember my first meeting at Langton and meeting the residents and staff. Everyone was so welcoming. Their approach is so welcoming. The staff provides structure, routine, supervision, but the residents feel they have a say in life in their community. They feel supported in a positive way.
Has Alec become more independent since he moved to Langton Green?
At Langton Green Alec flourished. He found community. He went on outings, he started having fun and made friends. He found a real community –a wonderful community –everyone has their own place, belongs in their own way. Alec can walk across the “green” and there’s a friend or knock on a neighbor’s door to say “Hello”. He can play basketball, engage in community activities, hang out under the pavilion with friends, go to a barbeque. Whatever the activity, he knows he will be included.
His living situation at Langton is on the main campus in an apartment with roommates. He can move independently yet is protected. It is a least restrictive environment. The amazing staff team at Langton fosters independence and encourages Alec in whatever he wants to do, so he has gained confidence and has fun experiences, like going to picnics and movies. You cannot find this kind of community just anywhere. Langton Green has helped him to become more confident and independent.
As a social worker you have dedicated your life to service. When did you join the board at Langton?
A few years after Alec joined the community at Langton Green I got involved with the board. I am a very involved parent. I went to all the team meetings, got to know all the staff. I am happy to serve.
As a social worker I am happy to serve, I am very connected with different types of services, different types of challenges and needs. I feel very comfortable in nonprofit settings, mental health settings, and engaging with the residents and staff at Langton as well as at other types of agencies. Whenever I visit Langton and walk into the buildings or on the campus, I feel comfortable.
What insights can you share with other parents?
Occasionally other parents reach out to me in need of a referral –they have a son or daughter with developmental disabilities and are terrified of about sending him or her into a world that is not disability friendly. They are ever protective, afraid, and they have had experiences or are aware of situations in which people like their own son or daughter were not treated well.
I had great difficulty letting Alec go –there is so much fear and even sadness –but now I can help other parents with this transition. Especially during the first year that Alec was at Langton, he met peers and made friends; everyone was so gentle. He established relationships with staff and friends; it was a gradual transition from home.
The staff at Langton showed Alec how to be a whole person in his own right. A parent can’t be a peer or best buddy, but Langton Green staff can. They can create experiences, build trust, and become good buddies. Realizing this helped me let go and lessened my fear. I saw how the staff at Langton Green treated Alec with respect and dignity, so he could grow into his own individual person.
It’s vital to me that when I’m gone one day Alec will have a life of his own. He will have a community at Langton, food, home, a job –friends.
What kinds of activities does Alec enjoy?
I remember seeing a video of Alec singing Aretha Franklin and I realized how much fun he was (and is) having at Langton Green –and that he is learning important things, like daily hygiene and self-care.
What might people be interested to know about your background and career?
I am a social worker and I know sign language. Since 1987 I have been a social worker. I have a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD, and two daughters who each have a master’s in social work. I am a professor of social work at Gallaudet University and teach practice, theory, and research in the MSW program. I also coordinate a telemental health program for deaf children and adults through Arundel Lodge, Inc. located in Edgewater, Md.
Alec grew up in a signing family; he also was familiar with deaf individuals and signing can be a wonderful way to communicate. This was a long time ago –1986 –but it was a language and culture he had to learn. When Alec was born learning sign language was part of my job at Gallaudet— and I found that it really helped me to communicate with Alec. At that time, I worked with a range of individuals –some were dealing with not only developmental disabilities, but mental illness and they were deaf. In fact. My first job out of college I worked at a hospital where many people were deaf.
What is Langton Green’s biggest strength?
I applaud everyone -the board, the leadership, the staff team –and how everything is done. At Langton the team is committed to something more than a salary. The staff are amazing at Langton Green. During COVID for example Alec’s job shut down, so like many of the residents, he was home all day and isolated. On top of managing their own personal lives, the staff at Langton had to care for individuals like Alec 24/ 7. It was an enormous challenge, and they were incredible and so professional. They kept Alec on track with his life and goals. Because of the pandemic restrictions, I couldn’t stop by and help out so the team at Langton had to be Alec’s friend, family, and caretaker – in fact they did this for each of the individuals in their care.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
I wrote grant for Arundel Lodge for telemental health services, for using video technology and reaching more individuals in need in this way. It is a way to reduce isolation, help people be connected and provide meaningful support.
Was there a silver lining for you during the pandemic?
The pandemic and related shut-down gave me a chance to reflect upon the most important things and people in my life, and with Alec of course a priority. People and relationships are so important. The quiet and calm to think, work, and to reflect meant I was so productive at home. Alec did well during the pandemic; this made me confident to move forward with my goals.
What would readers be surprised to know about you?
As a family we love to go camping and travel together. Alec is a great traveler. We’ve camped in Florida, New England, Greece, Ireland –Alec is always game. My husband is Greek American, and he speaks Greek.