Like many teenage girls, 18-year-old Tyieshia Cooper never met a pair of shoes she didn’t like. She loves going to shoe stores and trying on pair after pair. So Tyieshia loves the time she spends at the mall with Amity Petterson, a support staff member from The Arc who takes her on community outings.
On her fourth birthday, Tyieshia was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury that causes her to be naive and impulsive in ways that could affect her safety. Her grandmother and legal guardian, Alice Brown, calls “Ty-Ty” a miracle. A student at St. Elizabeth’s school, Tyieshia gets all A’s. She earned a certificate in animal care; now she is learning to cashier.
Ty’s downfall, says Alice, is that she is extremely exuberant, and Alice worries that it makes her granddaughter vulnerable. “She’s too friendly. She talks to strangers too much and thinks everyone is wonderful.”
That’s why, at her annual Individual Plan meeting, Tyieshia chose to learn how to be safe in the community. Now Amity is working hard to help Ty become aware of how she behaves in public.
“I like that Amity keeps an eye on Ty’s over-friendliness,” Alice says. “She is doing a great job helping Tyieshia be more self-sufficient, too. She is teaching her to use the ATM. She expects her to get her own change when they go out for pizza.”
Alice appreciates the community outings for another reason, too. “I’m 76 and I’ve had back surgery. Amity takes Tyieshia places I can’t go anymore.”
She adds, “We live in a building of mostly senior citizens, and Ty-Ty has no friends here. It means so much to me that she is able to go places with Amity.”
Amity says she and the family are a good team. “Alice and I bounce ideas off each other, and if issues arise, she lets me know about them. Tyieshia has a lot of input, too.”
Like her grandmother, Tyieshia loves The Arc. “They gave us the opportunity to get to know Amity before we went out. We got to see if she was the right match. We explained my struggles and she told us how she can help.
“I like that Amity helps me get out more. We’ve been to the Inner Harbor and Six Flags. We went to a museum, the library, and the car show.
“Amity is there for me. I tell her what bothers me so she knows how to work with me. She helps me control my loud giggles and my talking too much.
“Sometimes I have a hard time accepting things, like when I want something I can’t afford. Amity and I make a plan to help me manage my money better. I have to learn to save.”
That’s a skill that will come in handy, because Tyieshia says she wants a big family—and a $500,000 house someday.