It is noon in the small kitchen where Liana and Steve Neidlinger help four developmentally disabled clients prepare their lunches.
Neidlinger, known to some of her charges at SOLO (Self-Organized Living Opportunities) as "Mama Bear," cautions Amanda Moore, a 16-year-old high school student, not to stand too close to the electric skillet where she is boiling water.
"When that really starts boiling you will be in trouble Baby Bear," Neidlinger affectionately cautions as the girl prepares macaroni and cheese.
Moore, a 10th-grader at Kingman High School, is much like any typical teen as she jokes with Neidlinger and talks about playing her favorite sport – basketball – and an upcoming movie.
"I'm hoping to see Scooby-Doo with my friend Daniel," she said.
David Campbell is also preparing lunch in the crowded kitchen: ravioli heated up in the microwave, and bread and butter.
"We teach them on items that, if forgotten, won't cause too much damage," Liana Neidlinger said.
"With toaster ovens you can see what's going one inside, and microwaves aren't too bad.
We also use crock pots for soups and stews and electric skillets."
Neidlinger said Campbell – the only one in the group who has held a full-time job - was once a chef in a nice restaurant in Las Vegas but can't find a job in Kingman.
The life-skills classes are designed to help prepare the students to become more able to do things for themselves, and eventually enter the work force or vocational rehabilitation.
A non-profit organization, SOLO is a day-training center for developmentally disabled individuals.
It has been open since April and four more clients are expected next week.
The Neidlingers have worked with developmentally disabled people "on and off" for 20 years in the Palm Springs area of California.
They seem to have a natural rapport with each member of the group.
"We believe in dignity through understanding," Linda Neidlinger said.
"We strive to foster their independence.
Preparing lunch is one of several activities designed to help them become more independent.
They will never be able to make their own lunch if someone always does it for them."
Other projects include "community access, financial and befriending" trips.
A trip to the grocery store starts with evaluating how much money they have to spend before they leave the house.
"Then they look in the local newspaper to see what is on sale before choosing the store they want to go to," Neidlinger said.
"When they get to the store they shop, and then pay for the items."
A trip to the movies might include checking showtimes, the bus schedule and whether there is enough money for the movie.
"The befriending is when they invite someone to attend, or they speak with a cashier or someone they know at the movie," she said.
The goal at SOLO is to teach something other people take for granted.
"It is rewarding to see someone walk or talk for the first time, or when someone realizes what two quarters will buy," Neidlinger said.
"I remember when a friend discovered that two quarters could buy a drink.
I will never forget the day she went out to buy her own."
Group activities are held from 8 a.m.
to 3 p.m.
but rarely in a classroom.
The classroom is the community, where clients can interact with the public.
"We try to widen their variety of experiences and teach them who they can trust," Steve Neidlinger said.
"You have to be out in the community to do this."
Neidlinger said SOLO is just one of several organizations in Kingman that help developmentally disabled persons with new experiences.
"Other groups are New Horizons Center, ARC and Arise," she said.
"You just have to find the program that fits with the person's needs and likes.
We sometimes do things together, like go bowling."
She added that clients who qualify for Title 19 services through the Developmental Disabilities Department of the Arizona Department of Economic Security also qualify for the SOLO program.
For more information call 718-1313.
Developmentally disabled receive information, referral and advocacy at ACORD
By Linda Stelp
Miner Staff Writer
Anyone who is disabled, or anyone needing information to better assist the disabled, is invited to contact.
In Kingman since 1981, ACORD – the Arizona Council on Rural Disabilities - provides information, referral and advocacy services for disabled residents in Mohave County, said executive director Shan Gale Robinson.
Funds come from the Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.
A special seminar about self-advocacy will be the topic of a People First of Arizona presentation "My Life, My Choice" from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m.
Saturday at ACORD, located at 400 West Highway 66.
The workshop is free, but $3 is required for the pizza lunch at 1 p.m.
Space is limited so registration must be made as soon as possible by calling 718-1313.
"We are grateful that Teresa Moore will be returning and bringing with her three other self-advocates who will encourage our disabled citizens to speak for themselves," she added.
Among the topics will be how disabled people can choose the services they want, how they can have more power in their lives, how service systems are changing and what self-advocacy skills are needed for people with disabilities to make sure their voices are heard.
"At ACORD we offer families, service providers and persons with disabilities the opportunity to communicate more freely and make better decisions," she said.
In addition, the Route 66 OASIS (Organized Advocates for Special Individuals in Society), a new group of self-advocates, meets the third Wednesday of every month.
Call 718-1313 for time and place.
"Today, people with developmental disabilities are speaking for themselves and making their own decisions.
They are becoming valued citizens with something to contribute," Robinson said.
"OASIS members learn to make changes which improve their quality of life."
Another program available is Partners in Policymaking, a leadership program designed for individuals who have a disability, and for parents raising young or school-aged children with a disability.
Call 877-365-7220 for more information about the program.
Anyone interested in volunteering, becoming an advocate, serving on a board or a committee or receiving more information can contact the Kingman ACORD office at 718-1313.