In Avenues SLS’s continued celebration of Women’s History Month 2021, we are pleased to honor Bettie Steckel, mom of Julie.  There has never been any doubt who Julie’s most ardent and constant supporter is and has always been.  Through the tough times and the easier times, Bettie has been there to provide the support (and hugs) Julie needs, and to allow her space and a bit of time when that is what she needs.  Bettie instinctually knows when and what type of support Julie needs.  She has always done what is best for Julie, even when it breaks Bettie’s heart to let Julie live a life of her own choosing.
Here is what Bettie shared about Julie, and her advocacy to keep Julie where she belongs:  in her community and connected to her family!

Julie was born in 1970, she has a brother, Richard who is 2 years older, whom she adores.

Around the age of 6 months, Julie showed signs of delay in her development.  When Julie was 5 years old and Richard was 7 years old, our marriage ended and I suddenly found myself a single mother.  I began my long search to identify her needs and navigate resources for her future.  Along with other parents, I was told by doctors that she should be institutionalized because she would not be able to have a “normal” life OR that I was just an overanxious mother.  There seemed to be limited information or support for children that were “different” in those days.  Hearing an advertisement on the radio about the Exceptional Children’s Foundation helped me to start my quest for assistance.  I was introduced to Regional Center and a new pilot program:   the “Infant Stimulation Program”.  That is where I learned to do physical therapy with Julie and she also received speech and language therapy.   This group started a parent support group which I participated in until Julie was in junior high school.

Julie and Richard had very limited contact with their dad.  The pain of Julie not feeling accepted by him and his lack of involvement added to her feelings of rejection.  Julie developed strong defenses to cover up her feelings – this often presented as negative behavior.  I worked very hard to help her to identify and put a name to her feelings and to this day she continues to get better at expressing how she feels.

Through the years we made many adjustments and accommodations to our lives.  We had some difficult times, navigating through problems with the kids’ school, my working to support my family, and tag-team babysitting so I could go back to school to get my BA degree. I realized that Julie needed more structure, routine, and life skills training than I was able to give to her.  Regional Center suggested that a group home would be an appropriate placement for Julie so when she was 17 years old, I made the difficult, heart-wrenching (and I must say courageous) decision to place her.  After being placed in several different group homes, it was clear they were not meeting her needs so I continued researching more appropriate alternatives.

When I learned about AVENUES and their Supported Living Services, it was a lifesaver.  The group home experience was so unsatisfactory and did not add to Julie’s growth.  I finally felt I had some support behind me and I was not on my own.  With Avenues’ support, Julie has become more independent and capable.  Avenues SLS has assisted Julie with starting her own business, she has been given opportunities to make her own life decisions and feel more in control of her life. She is very strong, brave, and a true survivor.  Family is very important to Julie and she has always been included in family gatherings and has “collected” many extended family members!  Her Avenues staff have become extended family and Lori & Scott really know and understand Julie, her fears, and strengths.

Life with Julie many times has felt like trial and error but I have learned so much, my life is so much richer.  I have learned acceptance, patience, boundaries, and how to “roll with the punches”, I have also learned about my strength and un-bounding love.  Richard has become a partner with me in Julie’s journey and I am so grateful for him.  The three of us, with Avenues support, have all come a long way . . . and to think we were told Julie would never have a normal life!