Patient gets help from McCarty Center on his path to college
(Sept. 4, 2014)
Ashli Velez and Dalton Blevens
became friends through a shared sense of humor, the same taste in music and
movies and hours spent battling each other at Guitar Hero.
The two met when Velez worked
with Blevens when he was a preteen and a patient at the J.D. McCarty Center for
children with developmental disabilities in Norman.
Now, instead of watching Blevens
hit the right notes on the Guitar Hero video game, Velez is seeing him segue
into college life.
And she gets the opportunity to
help him in the process.
Velez, a social worker, is part of
the team of center employees working with Blevens, 18, as he enters his
freshman year at the University of Oklahoma.
Blevens, who has cerebral palsy,
said he is excited about going to college and grateful to the center staff for
their help and encouragement.
“I’ve got a heck of a team,”
Velez and other team members say
that working with Blevens has been a highlight, given his motivation, positive
attitude and willingness to work hard.
“It’s so exciting to see his
independence and how much he’s able to do for himself and how much he wants to
do for himself,” Velez said. “He’s incredible.”
Blevens graduated from Little Axe
High School in May and knew he wanted to go to college, not just for the degree
but also for the experience. He applied and was accepted to OU.
Blevens knew McCarty Center
employees could help him make the transition to college. He had watched a
friend -- a former center patient -- attend OU last year after getting training
and assistance from center staff.
Blevens also knew from
personal experience that center employees were ready to rally with him to
accomplish his goals. He started using center services when he was 3 years old
and “over the years, I just kind of fell in love. It’s like my second home.”
Blevens believes his experiences as
a patient have helped him improve his mobility and become more outgoing and
“It’s given me a lot of friends and
helped me form a lot of bonds,” he said. “I think I made a lot of progress
coming to the center.”
The center provides medical care
and physical, occupational, speech and language therapy for children with
developmental disabilities on an inpatient and outpatient basis and serves kids
from birth to age 21.
Blevens came to the center this
summer as an inpatient and started working with the transition team. Team
members include social workers, an occupational therapist, a physical
therapist, psychological clinician, speech-language pathologist, direct-care
specialists and nurses.
The employees have worked with
Blevens on a variety of tasks, including making transfers from his power
wheelchair to the bed and bathroom in his dorm, using public transportation,
managing money, cooking and strengthening and exercising.
Employees also have offered
training on the dictation system he will use in class for taking notes and
given him advice on how to handle the stress he may experience as a college
Velez said employees from OU’s
Housing and Food Services and the Disability Resource Center were a big help in
the transition process, such as when it involved modifications to Blevens’ dorm
room and with his accessibility on the campus.
Team members also found other
resources for Blevens through programs and agencies in the state. He was able
to receive financial assistance for tuition and books from the Oklahoma
Department of Rehabilitation Services and is using computers that he received
on loan from Oklahoma ABLE Tech, Velez said.
Blevens will also have help
with personal care from aides with HealthCare Innovations and has received
financial assistance from Ability Connect for campus parking passes for those
aides, Velez said.
A bright future
Velez has a card on her desk from
Blevens with a photo of them together. He signed it, “Your JD son.”
Velez said she does feel like
Blevens is one of her own. “It’s so exciting that we’ve been able to watch him
grow up and help him grow up.”
She met Blevens in 2007 when she
was a direct-care specialist. The specialists work one-on-one with patients and
provide supervision and assistance.
The two had fun watching movies,
listening to music, making each other laugh and taking strolls around the
In August, Velez was helping
him unpack and rearrange furniture in his dorm room and joining him for lunch
in the Oklahoma Memorial Union.
She is excited to see Blevens in
college and said he’s a smart guy who is a self-starter.
“He’s got such an amazing attitude
about his abilities,” Velez said. “He’s unstoppable and he’s going to go so
Velez isn’t the only team member
who admires Blevens.
Alyse Lesher, a social worker, said
she is impressed with his people skills and his persistence.
“As much as he can do for
himself, he wants to do for himself,” Lesher said. “He’s just really easy to
work with and work for.”
John Every, an occupational
therapist, said Blevens is “one of the most motivated young men I’ve worked
Other team members say Blevens can
be a source of inspiration for other patients who may want to attend college or
live on their own one day.
Blevens’ family members also
are delighted to see him pursuing his goal.
Lanell Blevens, his grandmother,
said he’s been talking about going to college for the last three years. She
knows he is excited about the experience.
“I think he’s going to be fine
venturing out on his own,” she said.
Blevens’ dad, James, said he is
proud of his son and seeing what he has achieved. Currently, he is helping his
son with personal care needs in the evenings and is impressed with how Blevens
has handled settling into a new environment.
“He’s working the jitters out and I
think he’s going to do great,” James Blevens said.
Blevens said last week that he is
still getting adjusted to college life but, so far, is enjoying his classes and
getting to meet new people.
College poses new challenges,
tests and tasks for him, but Blevens is fine with that.
“I’m not afraid to meet them,”
he said about challenges. “I’m not afraid to try.”
“I’ve always been really
self-motivated,” he said.
He also doesn’t let his
disability limit him. “I’ve never let this wheelchair define me.”
Blevens said his hope is to
graduate from college and become a social worker so he can help others.
He is also quick to thank the
people who have helped him along the way, including McCarty Center employees.
“They just love me to death
and I love them,” Blevens said. “I would not have gotten as far as I have
without the J.D. McCarty Center.”
Dalton Blevens, 18, started coming to the center for services when he was 3 years old. He decided he wanted to attend the University of Oklahoma this fall and got help from center employees to make that transition.
Some of the employees who worked with Dalton to get prepared for OU were Alyse Lesher, back row, from left, John Every and Patrick Grose. Pictured on the front row are Ashli Velez, left, and Brittany Houck.