Nov 4     19 min read

An Adult with Disabilities Shares Her Devotion for Teaching

Updated: Dec 1

In this podcast Mary shares her experiences working with a disability.  She has worked at the Lanterman Regional Center for over 18 years and teaches adult clients health and wellness, abuse, and disaster preparedness.  She works hard at her job and enjoys acting and teaching in the community.

Jamie:  0:12 

Welcome to I am Able. We are kicking off our new podcast series because March is National Developmental Disabilities Awareness month. This month is intended to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with disabilities and the trials and successes they face on a daily basis. According to the CDC, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability 26% or about one in four of all adults in the United States have some type of disability. For those fortunate enough to have a job, their annual salary only is about $15,000. Transition adult services, a program of the Institute for the redesign of learning supports 34 clients working throughout the community. We kick off our series with interviews from three adult clients supported by transition adult services.

Jamie:  1:24 

Hi, there. I’m Jamie. Lord Tovar. And today we are with Mary Flynn. And Mary, tell me a little bit about yourself.

Mary:  1:34 

Um, my name is Mary Flynn. I’m Where do you work? I work at the Lanterman Regional Center. And I’ve been working there since for 18 years. I will wow. Yeah, yeah. I’ve been working. I’m educating the adult clients there on either than health and wellness or being safe from sexual abuse or being disaster prepared.

Jamie:  2:09 

Oh, wow. That’s really cool. So how did you get the How did you get that job? How did that come to happen?

Mary:  2:17 

Well, um, Lanterman. And UCLA started a pilot prod, a project to introduce a class specific to the women’s needs of women clients need on how to be better prepared, and how to deal with your reproductive health. I, I was part of that program. And then it evolved into another class, which is our abilities class, which is basically how to reduce one’s risk of being sexually abused and getting the tools on not being sexually abused. And then it went into another class as well as disaster preparedness. So my job there is just to teach the clients.

Jamie:  3:18 

Oh, cool. So So you were a client yourself first, and then yeah, and then.

Mary:  3:24 

Yeah, I am still a client.

Jamie:  3:28 

Oh, okay. So you’re still a client, and they said, Hey, you. You’re doing such a good job that we’ll have you? Yeah,

Mary:  3:35 

I didn’t because I can speak in front of a class. Oh, really? Yeah. It took a while. Yeah, yeah. I, I tried taking speech in college, but somebody said, Try theater. I did. I took community theater had been in 14 plays since and I can speak in front of people. Oh, wow.

Jamie:  4:09 

That’s really neat. So you went to college? Yes. Yeah. Where did you go to? Where did you go to college at

Mary:  4:19 


Jamie:  4:20 

PCC? Yeah, I went there too.

Mary:  4:25 

And that’s where I met my husband.

Jamie:  4:28 

Oh, nice. So you’re married. Do you have any kids?

Mary:  4:31 

I do not have kids. But we are no longer married. But were the best of friends.

Jamie:  4:38 

Oh, that’s awesome. As long as you can stay friends. That’s, that’s amazing. Nice. So you said you’ve been working? You’ve been in your job 18 years, then is that correct? Yeah. And what’s your favorite part of your job?

Mary:  4:57 

I want to say making difference. Yeah, I want to make a difference in, in not only my life, but it’s the clients as well. That’s, that’s what I want.

Jamie:  5:14 

Oh, that’s awesome. What advice you have for others that are working or maybe they’re struggling at work?

Mary:  5:24 

Um, definitely communication. Communication is the key. And it’s very tough. I know, to speak up for oneself, and actually say, you know, this is not working for me. Can I try this? It’s very hard for clients to speak up. Um, you know it. When you have doubt in yourself, should I speak up? Or, you know, maybe, you know, I might not be heard. Definitely speak up. Advocate for yourself. It’s important.

Jamie:  6:14 

It’s right it is. That’s really good advice. Really good advice. So you said, so, you said that you’ve been in 14 plays? Yeah. Right. Can you name some of those for me? Do you remember that the name?

Mary:  6:37 

Okay. Yes. I’m putting you on the spot. Me? Um, let’s see. I’m the miracle worker. Let’s see what others oh my gosh, they go back so far, but just to name a few, just to name a few. Yeah.

Jamie:   7:05 

So what else do you like to do for fun in your free time?

Mary:  7:09 

In my free time, I like to craft I’ve taken over my mom and dad’s. What do you call it? There? I’m definitely a part of them. There. Yeah, I’m paying paints and she sews and yeah, they’re very artistic. And so as my dad he did drawings and but I have a couple of my mom’s paintings here at home. And, yeah, and it’s there. They’re just a lover of the arts.

Jamie:  7:47 

Okay, so what kind of crafts do you do? Do you do you do paintings also or

Mary:  7:54 

I’m not paintings but I do create my own crafts. I may so like my mom did. So I like making stuff I have a whole bunch of stuff in my room that I’m sewing

Jamie:  8:15 

Okay, so you do a lot of sewing Do you do any other any other crafts besides sewing or the mainly

Mary:   8:21 

I believe it or not, I like to organize

Jamie:  8:26 

Oh really? Oh you want to come to my house

Mary:  8:31 

everything around here has labels label and label labels. Yeah, I’ve had people come over here and say oh my gosh just everything is in its place.

Jamie:  8:48 

How do you handle it? How do you handle it’s not in its place?

Mary:  8:53 

Um it gets in its place I have

Jamie:  8:58 

back in yeah

Mary:  9:01 

everything has to have order.

Jamie:  9:04 

I see. I think we need we all need to have a little bit more Mary in our in ourselves to be a little more organized. It sounds like to me so it Are there any other things that you do so well that sounds you do theater and you do sewing? Do you have other do other have other hobbies that you participate in or that you wanted? Something else that you want to learn?

Mary:  9:32 

Well, other than going to school learning sign language. And that’s how I talked to my husband.

Jamie:  9:41 

He’s Oh, really?

Mary:  9:42 

He’s deaf. So I know sign language. Oh, cool. Yeah.

Jamie:  9:49 

Do you ever have you thought about teaching sign language or is it

Mary:  9:53 

Not teaching, but during my classes I’ve had students, and I can interpret. Wow, I met teaching the class. So it’s, it’s a thrill. So I can talk to them, and they are able to listen.

Jamie:  10:18 

Oh, wow, that’s amazing. So do you speak any other languages besides American Sign Language in English?

Mary:  10:24 

Um, no, I, I would love to learn a full spectrum of maybe Spanish so I can teach this class in Spanish. That would be nice. Yeah, yeah. And there’s a big need. There’s a big need for it.

Jamie:  10:49 

So So have you thought about going back to like PCC and taking some Spanish classes? Or?

Mary:  10:57 

I haven’t, but I have, I have the books. I have how

Jamie:  11:02 

To self teach. Why Not? sounds like you can do anything you put your mind to Miss Mary.

Mary:  11:10 

There you Go and I know there’s this one thing that you can go online and look for Spanish? And you can I forget what it’s called. But you learn that way.

Jamie:  11:29 

Alright, yeah, there’s a lot of different like Babel and some of those other apps, those apps like that. Yeah. So you were saying that you have everything at your house is really organized? Yes. And, and you love your job. So what about your work or home life? What makes you the proudest?

Mary:  11:52 

Um, Mike my work life well. I’m, I am proud. Because I get to work with the my clientele that I love. And I’m proud of this because I, I hope them I’m making a difference in their lives. I know I am.

Jamie:  12:21 

I just heard this from talking with you today. I think you are too. Yes.

Mary:  12:26 

And and because of that, they they’re bringing it back to me. You know, my home life. It’s it’s the same that I’ve got a great family. I’ve got great friends. And again, you know, I I may be divorce but man to have a true friend. You know, it’s nothing better.

Jamie:  13:02 

That’s awesome. So do you do you? Do you live alone? Or do you live with somebody else?

Mary:  13:09 

I live alone. I living um, I’ve been living on my own since 19. April 1. Fool’s day. But yeah, I’ve been that’s how long I’ve been living in this apartment. It’s the safest place. It’s really nice. The neighbors are wonderful. They check in on you make sure everything’s okay. And we keep an eye out for each other. So yeah, I really like where I’m at.

Jamie:  13:53 

That’s great. That’s great. So where do you live?

Mary:  13:56 

I live in. It’s in Pasadena. And okay. Some may say, you live in Altadena. And that may be true too. Because I’m an inch away from Altadena. So, Deena so I’m right on the line.

Jamie:  14:16 

So, great area. Great area. So who do you go to for support?

Mary:  14:23 

I go up to Robert, my ex or I get support from my older siblings. Um, or my I have an ILS worker, and independent living service instructor. Okay. And she’s fabulous. And wonderful. She’s full of, you know, all the needs that I need

Jamie:  14:58 

So what does she help you with

Mary:  15:00 

Um budgeting and getting, you know if I have issues with social services, okay, yeah, trust me, that never ends. Now.

Jamie:  15:16 

Everyone needs an advocate. Everyone needs an advocate.

Mary:  15:19 

So, yes, when you go to well, this is before COVID When you went to the office, they were speaking Greek. I know that. I’m like, I don’t comprehend. So Kathy was there, and she was an angel.

Jamie:  15:44 

So, so who are your biggest role models? It sounds sounds like you might maybe for your parents, since you take after them with the artistic flair.

Mary:   16:00 

Definitely the my parents, my family, um, but believe it or not, the role models I have, are the communities in which I work. Really, the client, I have learned so much from them, and their spirit, and their willingness to continue. It’s, it’s so inspirational. I think it’s so wonderful. They are role models. We should always learn from them.

Jamie:  16:44 

So how do you mean by just the their? You said their spirit? So can you give some examples of what

Mary:  16:53 

they’re there’s? Well, is it like, tenacity, I think I want to say that the okay.

Mary:   17:02 

Yeah, um, they have a big heart. This community has the biggest heart I know. They’re giving of themselves. We we only asked so much of them, but they’ll give even more. Right? Um, they give it their all right. Yes. Yeah. Yes. Yes, they’re honest. You know, and they put it right out there.

Jamie:  17:43 

Right. Very upfront. Yeah. I like that, too.

Mary:  17:46 


Jamie:  17:48 

That’s awesome. I love that, that I love that. The clients are your role models. That’s cool. That’s really cool. So so what would advice would you give to others, like, as far as following their dreams? Do you have any advice for others?

Mary:  18:12 

Um, follow one. Definitely follow your dreams. Somebody said to me once. Follow, follow, jump to the stars, but you’ll always land on the moon. So I like that you take that concept and you’re going, Yeah, I guess I can do that. I’ll jump towards the stars. But I will land on the moon. Oh, it’s, you know, always, always scream always. Go for your dreams that they they are what makes you if you do not dream you and you don’t that means you don’t take chances. You have to take chances in order to learn and become a better Jew.

Jamie:  19:19 

Right? Oh, that’s great advice. Great advice.

Mary:  19:25 

Now I believe it or not, I have jumped out of an airplane.

Jamie:  19:33 

Really? Oh, can you tell me about that? Wow, that sounds really exciting.

Mary:  19:38 

Yes, it was. And I did it before. I did it at four o’clock in the morning. 13,000 feet. It’s extremely cold up there. But the way it was was presented to me is I didn’t. There was no way for me to be scared. I just said, let go and let God and I jumped out. And I had the biggest grin on my face. And I felt so peaceful. And so freeing. It was really wonderful. Yes, yes. But my family has said, Oh my gosh, the ones that have been inserted the service, they’ve said, I wish I could have jumped out of the plane. And I’m like, wow, it was. So yeah, yeah.

Jamie:  20:49 

How did you get that kind of opportunity? How did you How did that even come about that you were able to jump out of the plane?

Mary:  20:55 

Believe it or not? The direct door. I’m the miracle worker that I was in. I would miss Sullivan, the teacher, which helped with the sideline. Um, Ben, I was, I was he said, I’m gonna go skydiving before I we go on onset. So we went on set on Saturday. And believe it or not, I got a standing ovation. Oh, wow. I guess was my best. Best Ever. Production.

Jamie:  21:46 

I get chills when you said that.

Mary:  21:49 

was wonderful. Yes, it was a perfect ending. Okay, so.

Jamie:  21:59 

Wow, that sounds incredible. That sounds incredible. So it sounds like you have a lot of interest and a lot of talents. So is there anything else that you want to tell me about that? You’re really good at?

Mary:  22:17 

I’m I’m good at being me. Definitely. I am so good at being me. Um, that’s great. Yeah. Yeah. I, um,

Jamie:  22:33 

so you really like who you are you like your? Yo,

Mary:  22:37 

I have. The way I’m organized is, you know, Thursdays is I do theme night. Only on Thursday. Theme. theme night is we if we have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, we’ll have spaghetti nut spaghetti, but we will have Italian music going and you know, Italian apron and things are, you know, looking very Italian ish. You know, we’ll have you know, the coffee at the end of dinner and you know, stuff like this. So I don’t know. Oh, wow. We we’ve got I’ve got this only on Thursday. So it makes makes it worthwhile to plan. Plan for Thursday’s? Yeah.

Jamie:  23:40 

Oh, that’s nice. So you do that every Thursday and you have dinner guests. I take it. Yeah. And is it the same people all the time or? Yeah, invite different? Yeah. Nice. Yeah. So who comes to your who comes to your Thursday dinner parties?

Mary:  23:59 

Well, it’s just one, ma’am right now. And it’s Tony. He’s, he recently has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. So in long, that’s the challenge right now, because I would like to find a support group or somebody to talk to about this. You know, that’s right. kind of my goal right now.

Jamie:  24:28 

So have you found have you? Where have you looked for support for?

Mary:  24:34 

I’ve looked for support groups. And this was when he was first diagnosed. And that was before COVID. And the support groups were you had to meet at seven I can’t wait Make it from work. And in to Pasadena. By seven, I barely get into Pasadena. at seven. So it just didn’t work. So my think I can I haven’t looked but I think I can look online and see if there’s one support group online. Probably

Jamie:  25:29 

we’ll have to keep in touch. We’ll have to we’ll have to talk later. Maybe I, maybe I can help a little bit. I don’t know. But, but we’ll talk some time after this about that. Okay. All right. So how so you get Do you drive? Anything? Or you take how do you how do you get around?

Mary:  25:49 

Um, I take public transportation. Access Services or Uber.

Jamie:  26:00 


Mary:  26:02 

I don’t drive because I have seizures. Okay. And me jumping out of a plane with the

Jamie:  26:11 

Seizures. Yeah. Oh, yeah, that was a little bit of a risk.

Mary:  26:18 

I’m a risk taker. So

Jamie:  26:21 

that’s great. That’s great. You have to be successful. You have to take risks. So But wow, that’s a huge one. A huge one.

Mary:  26:29 

Yeah, yeah. I’m able to get around. So

Jamie:  26:37 

yeah, so do you. So do you plant you have do you do a lot of planning to get around? Or do can you do just get your uber app?

Mary:  26:47 

I have to plan it’s I’m very popular first. Somebody needs me here. Somebody needs me here or I need to go to that place in this place. And but I have to make it in this it’s so long, right? So it has to be you know, it definitely has to be time to correctly got Yeah.

Jamie:  27:17 

And so you’re able to do that all that on your own planning the transportation everything.

Mary  27:24 

I learned that I can in High School. Oh, I went to lug Kenyatta high. And back then there was only one bus. Oh, wow. That took us to you’d have to catch it to Foothill. But we lived a three or four blocks from Foothill. So we are walking to do but yeah, and take one bus. And if you miss it. Oh, well. You are out?

Jamie:  28:05 

Oh, no.

Mary:  28:08 

It only came with a pretty hour.

Jamie:  28:11 

Oh, no. So you’re gonna be really late than if you missed it. Yeah.

Mary:  28:17 


Jamie:  28:20 

Okay. So, we had talked earlier about you were going to tell me about how you what your experience with having a job coach?

Mary:   28:33 

Yeah, yeah.

Jamie:  28:34 

Can you tell me some some about that? I think we’ve covered all of our other questions at this point.

Mary:  28:41 

Then the John Coach, how long have you had the job coach that at the beginning of the, you know, work, I had, like I was telling you had for the pilot stage we had, um, it was UCLA and Lanterman developing this reproductive health program. Um, I had a job coach then, but it was through Lent UCLA. And then after that, I had a couple of different job coaches. They didn’t last very long. So I actually was trying to work on my own for a while. And, um, I could say that I’m kind of overwhelmed. So you know why and to ask for help. And and so, my, my sc then called and said, Do you mind having the ones from the redesign learning? Oh, try I’m sure. Okay. Yeah. Um, and I in the last two service coordinators I’ve had they have been amazingly supportive. They deserve angel’s wings.

Jamie:  30:28 

Oh, that’s very sweet.

Mary:  30:30 

So, there they are there. I have learned so much during COVID how to work with a computer

Jamie:  30:44 

we’ve all learned about zoom at this point, yes.

Mary:  30:50 

Yeah, I’ve actually established or put together a presentation, a PowerPoint presentation for all of my classes. Oh, wow. Now, the end, my boss was all thumbs up. She liked all of them. And so I thought, Oh, this feels good. Yeah. And so believe it or not, during COVID I’ve been actually teaching

Jamie:   31:22 

Oh, nice. You’ve been doing video conferencing?

Mary:  31:26 

Yeah, yeah. So I just had ended one of my classes this Tuesday. So

Jamie:  31:38 

Oh, wow. So how many how many students are do you do it? Is it a group? Or is it like, is it one? It’s a group

Mary:  31:46 

group? It’s a group, usually up to five students.

Jamie:  31:53 

Oh, wow. And so what are the age ranges for the students that you

Mary:  32:00 

They’re all they have to be adults. And they’re all over? Um, and usually they’re like, 25. I’ve had 50 or 60. And, you know, it’s so different. Yeah. Wow. Yeah.

Jamie:  32:22 

So when what was this last class was on what was what were you teaching?

Mary:  32:26 

I was teaching the abilities class on sexual abuse and risk reduction. Okay. So how did you know giving them the tools to be aware?

Jamie:  32:43 

That’s important. Yeah.

Mary:  32:46 

Yes. Very aware.

Jamie:  32:50 

All right. Well, Mary, is there is that we’ve gone through all the questions I had, is there anything else that you want us to let everybody know about?

Mary:  33:01 

Um, did we really go through all the questions?

Jamie:  33:08 

You want to go back through Oh, we can we can look to see.

Mary:  33:10 

And then we asked, Where do you work? Yes. And how are you happy at your job? I love my job. I enjoy it. And we talked about any advice, communication. But why you like to do for fun? Yeah. See? Yeah, these are all the questions I’m believing you now.

Jamie:  33:43 

I was I was hoping there was more because you’re fascinating. I, I mean, I’m just, I’m just really interested in in in you and, you know, you’re helping others. And I just think it’s, it’s really great that you’re able to give back so much. You know,

Mary:  34:05 

okay, you know what my first job was? What? providing respite to children, to parents, to parents of children with special needs, really. So it was a sitter? I was a sitter, and I’m working with that community. was my calling. From day one. Really knew it. Yes, I knew it. It. I stuck with it because I worked with as a singer. For those who have special needs. I worked with the deaf, the blind The speech impaired, um, and now, the clients for multi special needs, right? And this is this is what I do and this is what I am good at.

Jamie:  35:24 

We’re very lucky that to have you in a position that you’re in. Yes, you’re definitely a light. Thank you all right. Well, if there’s nothing if there’s, if that’s all the that we can think of for now, I guess we can go ahead and I’ll say thank you so much for spending this time with me. I really, really appreciate it was very nice to meet you and talk with you. And I’m sure that everyone’s going to be fascinated to hear what you’ve had to say. Again, thank you so very much.

Mary:  36:06 

You’re welcome. And thank you. Thank you for letting me be part of this.


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