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Beauty in Belmont by, Delleny Molisani

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month


Horseback riding dream comes true for young woman with a developmental disability. Part of the “Creative Expressions” campaign from Directions from Independent Living.

Brianna Campbell has always had a special love for horses.  Even as a young child with a developmental disability, she loved horses and wanted to ride.  But horseback riding was out of reach for her until a staff member of Directions in Independent Living, which provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, invited her to ride.

“Bri has always had a thing for horses,” Brianna’s mom, Karen Campbell, said. “She just loves them and is not afraid of them at all. We wanted to get her lessons, but it was extremely difficult to find someone to give therapeutic horseback riding lessons to a child with developmental disabilities.”

Karen first noticed Brianna’s keen interest in horses during a works study program for special needs children. When her daughter eagerly went to the barn to clean up, Karen realized it was Brianna’s love for the horses that drew her to the barn. 

Later, when Brianna entered Directions in Independent Living’s program for people with developmental disabilities, she found a friend in Deb Coble, currently Direction’s Waiver Services Coordinator but then manager of the agency’s transportation program. When Deb learned of Brianna’s love of horses last July, she invited her to visit a farm where she could be taught therapeutic horseback riding by Deb’s daughter, Autumn, 15.

 “I knew Bri enjoyed horses, and this gives my daughter a chance to socialize and show her passion for horses as well.

“Autumn plans on becoming an equine vet. Right now, she directs Bri around the pen and how to give the horse directions, making sure Bri is giving the horse the right directions,” Deb said, adding Autumn is also helping Brie strengthen her core muscles.”

While Autumn leads Brianna’s training, Deb is carefully watching nearby but far enough to give Autumn and Brianna the space they need to work independently.

“Originally, my idea was to start a transportation club with individuals who were independent enough with no one-on-one supervision but maybe with some sort of guidance if needed,” she said, adding she would keep an eye on individuals from afar to ensure their safety while allowing them space for independence. 

“I have built connections and a comfort level with individuals and their families which gives an opportunity for a person to be as independent as possible while I observe from a distance to notice each milestone being made.

“Seeing this happen is worth every penny. I think of my own kids and would want the same.  As I always say to my kids, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’  I use this in everyday life and teach my kids the same.  I believe everyone has something to bring to the table.”

The outcome of Deb’s care management style has been a blessing to young Brianna for which the Campbell’s are extremely grateful.

“No one wanted to take the time to help her ride the horses or help her with her balance,” Karen said. “But Deb was more than willing to take Bri up to the frm to ride. Just the calming effect of the horses on Bri helps her in her ability to relate, talk to people, and break the ice.

“I can’t speak enough about how much this has done for Bri. She works extremely hard for a lot of thigs. She has had a lot of hardships in her life and she has overcome a lot.  Even though she is doing life skills four times a week, on Thursdays, she is thrilled to go to the farm and ride with Autumn’s supervision.” 

“Bri is a wonderful girl with a very loving family,” Deb said. “She is knowledgeable and capable when it comes to horses and deserves every opportunity to work and show her independence. She clearly has the passion and potential to do awesome work in this field. I have seen Bri grow as an individual from when I started as her MSC/CM working through transportation, now to Community Habilitation.”

About five years ago, thanks to Directions’ help, the Campbell’s were able to apply and obtain eligibility for services from the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). 

Karen also sings praises of Suzie Viciano, manager of Direction’s Developmental Disabilities programs.

“Suzie used to have Bri in Transitions and treats Bri like one of her own,” Karen said, adding, “That’s where our roots are with Directions.  Bri needs the structure and routine of day hab. I cannot say enough about Directions.”

VICTORIA KEARNS Development Specialist
Directions in Independent Living, Inc.p:(716) 378-9438 ext.512
West State Street / 2626 West State St., Suite 202 Olean, NY 14760  e:
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