Confronting mental illness, autism and intellectual disabilities together.
Meet the Plewes Family
Lynn Plewes was at her wit’s end. Five-year-old Emily was in her own world, with psychotic episodes, and an eventual diagnosis of rare childhood schizophrenia. Two-year-old Sarah was a handful, between her autism and intellectual disabilities. “We were homebound,” Lynn recalls, “and I realized we really needed help.”
Help came in the form of waivers, wrap-around services for both girls, therapy, medication, testing, doctors, hospitals, treatment and, eventually, family-based therapy. Lynn and husband Len reconfigured their house to make it safe.
“It wasn’t easy. And it was expensive,” Len says as he recounts working through issues related to his employer-sponsored health insurance and exclusions for developmental delays.
Though they adjusted, Len and Lynn were isolated from family and friends. They learned to lean on one another. Now, 20 years after Lynn reached her breaking point, the family still lives together in their Bucks County, Pa., home, along with 16-year-old son, Anthony. The family makes sure that Sarah, now 23, is involved with family activities, including routine grocery store outings. Emily is 26, working and going to community college. In the fall, she’ll move to Florida to attend Rollins College. “School officials didn’t expect her to graduate high school with how confused she was. But here she is, going to college and on the dean’s honor list,” Lynn beams. “We are very, very proud.”
“We’ve been through it all,” Len adds. “We learned early that you have to totally leave whatever life you may have ‘dreamed of’ in the past and make a different one. And hopefully you can make it better, just different.”
Lynn attributes her family’s perseverance to faith, friends who also “walk the same walk” and effective services. “There are challenges,” Lynn says, “but as a family we’ve gone through it all together, hell and back again. And now, because of all the services that we did receive and all the knowledge that I gained through those services, I help other families out, through different organizations.”
“Well-staffed programs are absolutely phenomenal,” Lynn adds. “Without them, we couldn’t have made it through.”