Jemison Celebrates Birthday, Independence

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Bryshawn Jemison’s kitchenette extends the length of one wall from his front wall to another at an entrance to his bedroom. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — Bryshawn Jemison celebrated his 22nd birthday Aug. 30 with his family, and again on Sept. 1 at the Cheesecake Factory with friends.

Meanwhile, Bryshawn, son of Consuela Olden who manages clinical trials with nurses and doctors at Sarah Canon Research Center, is completing his first year living at Nashville IDD Housing Group’s Friendship House in the Chestnut Hills area.

“October is his one year anniversary,” Olden says. Bryshawn completed two-years of training at Vanderbilt University. His Next Steps certificate helped him get a job paying $9.50 an hour at Walgreen’s. Now, he’s paid $11.25 at Vanderbilt’s Munchie Mart.

“He has delayed learning,” she said of Bryshawn’s “mild, not severe” learning issues. “Now, he is doing well. I’m very proud of him.”

Bryshawn says he cooks chicken, hot dogs and Chef Boyardee meals, surfs the Internet on his laptop computer and, among other things, plans social events for neighbors.

Cooking classes are planned at Friendship House.

“Once he learns a task, he has it, like fixing a small meal, putting food in the oven,” Olden says. “He’s a hands-on person. He needs to be shown what to do.”

During Next Steps training, IDD (intellectual and/or developmental disability) Housing Group Co-Founder and Executive Director Carolyn Naifeh asked Olden about Bryshawn living on his own.

“It never crossed my mind that he could,” Olden said. “I thought I’d have to keep him until I closed my eyes.”

Bryshawn has an efficiency apartment.

“He’s one in five to live independently,” Naifeh said while seated next to Bryshawn on his couch. IDD Housing established the apartments for people with intelligence quotients lower than 70, and for graduate students who become good neighbors through a Best Buddies system to supplement family relationships.

“We provide support, but parents are the backbone” for long-term residents’ care at Friendship House, Naifeh said.

Bryshawn runs a sales register at Munchie Mart, processing purchases by debit or credit card.

“Money is the worst for him,” Olden said. “I have to keep track of his debit card.”

Bryshawn bought something for a nominal price, paid with a bigger bill and accepted too little in change. Olden went to the store, “made them count the cash drawer,” revealed the fallacy and complained to the manager who fired the clerk.

“He loves computers. He does things on-line. He doesn’t buy things on-line, but he does pay rent, his NES bill and his phone bill.”

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