Bill Murphy: Growing A Garden of Outcomes
Submitted By: Jeff Thomas | The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming
Josh receives services through The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming in Wyoming County, New York, whose mission is to empower and support people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be independent, productive, and dignified members of our community. With especially dedicated supports by Direct Support Professional Bill Murphy, Josh is working to achieve his individually-defined outcomes. Josh does not primarily use words to communicate, which adds a layer to the process of understanding and improving outcomes through the Personal Outcome Measures®.
“If you ask him what he wants, it'll take a few minutes for him to get it out, but he'll be able to tell you,” Bill explains. With few words at his disposal, actions are the strongest indicators of Josh’s quality of life. “If you can't completely understand him, he'll grab you by the hand and show you. You might go through a list of ten things before he gets a smile on his face to tell you, "That's right!"
English poet Alfred Austin wrote, "To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." A garden is just the latest addition to Josh’s life since Bill began providing supports approximately two years ago. When Bill advocated for the addition of a sensory garden at Josh’s home it was to help develop desired outcomes for Josh, with benefits beyond the fresh peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, herbs, and beautiful flowers. Josh and his housemates have already built and added benches for a more complete gardening experience.
“We're putting in sections so that Josh can go out and work outside,” Bill says. “One of the things that he enjoys is sanding with a palm sander, so the Amish community that is located near my home made a polishing board for him.”
Bill also helps Josh to meet and expand his goals in areas such as work and cooking. Take lunch as an example, where Josh as an unabashed ‘foodie’ has been able to meet his culinary goals. "Two years ago, others made him lunch,” Bill explains. “Now, he makes his own lunch. He also makes pizza for everybody in the house at noon one day each week."
In addition to Josh’s self-advocacy, Bill credits “an amazing team” that helps to bring outcomes to life, which includes Josh’s stepdad, counselors, social workers, and other staff. Teamwork, persistence, and careful listening ultimately unveiled the elements necessary to ensure that Josh's supports and services are truly person-centered.
While Bill grew up living with cousins who had autism, it was far from a direct route to working as a Direct Support Professional. Bill farms, owns a slaughterhouse, and has degrees in animal science, law, horticulture, and health care. Before joining The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, Bill had worked in law enforcement, as a welder, bar owner, and restaurant owner, to name a few.
"They were all great paying jobs, but I just wasn't as happy,” he says. "Honestly, this is probably the least paying career I have ever had. It's also the most rewarding."