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In the Picture: Thomas Rosenthal Makes Family Milestone, Attends Sister’s Wedding

For Thomas Rosenthal, attending his sister’s wedding was an important milestone — and one the Shoreham ICF team partnered with his family to make a reality.

Thomas Rosenthal and his family at his sister's weddingThomas, who is on the spectrum, has struggled for decades with intense and challenging behaviors, often in response to frustration and confusion.

“I knew we would be sad if he wasn’t in the family photos, but I was nervous to see if he could come,” Thomas’ mother, Rosemarie Rosenthal, said. “I wanted to sit him near the exit, just in case, and worried the music might be too loud or the crowd might overwhelm him.”

With the help of his two preferred DSPs, Elijah Muhammad and Erik Trusch, Thomas was able to attend the majority of the reception, take photographs with family and friends, and enjoy dinner and dessert with his parents at the family table.

To prepare Thomas for the big day, his mother laminated the wedding invite with a photo of his sister Emma and (now) brother-in-law Juan-Francisco. He brought the materials with him to the wedding, proudly showing guests and pointing to his sister.

Years of teamwork by an engaged group have led to the creation of cherished moments like these, reflecting the significant strides made in supporting Thomas’ behavioral progress.

The devoted team includes Mary Gilleran, Director at Shoreham ICF; Posney Gilles, Assistant Director at Shoreham; Krysta Fabian, Behavior Intervention Specialist (BIS); Eileen Plumacher, Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional (QIDP); Sara Buckley, LPN; Stacey Forman, LPN; psychiatrist Dr. Magery Satish; and the many DSPs who work at Gardenview.

Since moving into his Citizens Shoreham ICF in October 2020, Thomas adjusts to change more easily and is more fully present in the lives of his family and friends.

In the beginning of his time at Shoreham, Thomas largely lived alone. In the Gardenview house, everyone avoided eye contact to prevent inadvertently upsetting him. As time went on, a genuine connection formed between Thomas and the caring staff at Shoreham, fostering trust and understanding.

“It was a team effort across the board,” Mary Gilleran, Director of Shoreham ICF, said.

Thomas now thrives in the routine that the support team created with and for him. He can connect with roommates and can handle things that used to stress him, like long days or unexpected visitors.

One of the first routines to really stick with Thomas was his morning medicine regimen.Thomas Rosenthal, his family, and his DSPs at his sister's wedding

“We didn’t think we’d get through this,” his mother, Rosemarie, remembered. “But we got him into a psych practice and changed his medications, and that has helped tremendously. Thomas’ behavioralist team also provided training to the DSPs to better assist him. His transformation has been amazing.”

He also really took to his psychiatrist, Dr. Magery Satish, who he sees weekly for Zoom appointments.

Thomas and his team have consistently worked to decrease self-injurious and challenging behaviors towards others; something that happens far and few between now. The team also created healthy outlets for Thomas, like daily workouts and long walks around campus.

“In my seventeen years here, Thomas is hands down one of the biggest success stories on our campus,” Eileen Plumacher, QIDP, said. “We are so proud of him.”

The turning point for Thomas was a Halloween party in 2021. It was the first time he showed an interest in getting involved in activities with his housemates. When Krysta Fabian, BIS, saw a photo of Thomas at the party, she started to cry happy tears. He was wearing a Batman costume and had a big, genuine smile.

Staff eventually figured out a way to communicate with him in a way that resonates. Thomas thrives on abrupt and simple prompts, like “It’s time to eat dinner. Go wash your hands first” or “Go put on your shoes so we can go outside.” Explaining what they’re about to do with a simple reason why he has to do it allows him to understand that he can do and get what he wants, but only after he does what is expected of him, like washing his hands or wearing shoes.

The invitation for Thomas Rosenthal's sister's weddingThomas is a visual learner and is able to adjust to change better when you provide him with photographs and simple explanations, which is referred to as a social story. When he misses his mom, he brings staff into his room and points at her photograph hanging on his wall.

“I cannot stress enough how the entire team at Shoreham came together to support Thomas,” Sallyanne Burgess, Vice President of Operations at Citizens Options Unlimited, said. “They never gave up and truly enriched his life and the life of his family.”

Staff also taught him appropriate ways to socialize and touch his peers. In the halls, you can now find him saying hello to staff and residents. When he first sees a friend, he gives them a gentle dap of the knuckles.

Starting in April 2022, staff members slowly integrated wing-mates onto Wing C. Thomas now lives with three other young men. The men peacefully coexist and are appreciative of each other. They now eat dinner and watch television together; Thomas even gives them a hug goodnight at bedtime.

“I feel like he has a life now,” Rosemarie mused. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

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