Transition _ Employment Projects Logo

One of the goals of the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects is to expand the vision of what is possible for youth and young adults with developmental disabilities and/or special health care needs to learn, live, work and play in their communities. We have been capturing stories of Montanans who have a developmental disability or special health care needs and who have creatively organized their supports to:
  • Live in the community (on their own or with family or friends) and/or
  • Work in the community (including owning their own business) and/or
  • Access inclusive education (high school, college, community classes) and/or
  • Participate in recreation and leisure activities that are inclusive (that is, alongside people without disabilities)
As we receive them, we share these stories with Transition E-Mail List members. You may also read about Montana's Emerging Leaders in our Featured EL Archives, 2009 EL Showcase [PDF] and 2010 EL Showcase [PDF]. To nominate yourself or someone else as an Emerging Leader, visit the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects web site.

Meet Our Featured Emerging Leader
BARCLAY - "Be yourself, and Enjoy Life"
By Lauren Beyer, Rural Institute Project Assistant
Photo of Barclay smiling
I met with Barclay on a sunny Friday in February. He lives in a historic triplex near the University of Montana. It is spacious, tidy, and comfortably furnished. Barclay has lived here for nearly 18 months. Living independently has been a goal of his for years. He tried it once before, but it did not work out. His current arrangement, though, seems secure and long-lasting.

One of the first things one will notice about Barclay is his considerate nature. He held open his apartment door, greeting his mother and me before we knocked. He warned me of the skis in the hallway and offered me tea when I sat. His mother told me a story of the time Barclay was volunteering at the Missoula Food Bank on Thanksgiving. Barclay grew worried they would run out of turkeys and someone might go hungry on Thanksgiving. He called his mom and asked her to run to Albertsons to grab 40 or 50 extra birds.

One of the first things you will not notice about Barclay is his autism, attention deficit disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder. He will tell you about these if you ask, and the labels on each cupboard and drawer suggest he has a proper place for everything. But Barclay spends his time pursuing the things he loves, not being held back by medical jargon and conditions.

I asked Barclay to outline his week for me, and he rattled off a list of activities so long, I wondered if the man had time to sleep. Fitness plays an important

Photo of Barclay downhill skiing
role in his life; he works out several times a week, meeting with a personal trainer who coaches him in power lifting. He competes in the Special Olympics as a downhill skier. With a little prompting, he admitted that yes, he does often win gold medals. I asked him if he had them on display somewhere, and he said there was no point because he'd just get more of them. Every Sunday, Barclay travels to Lookout Pass to train for competition. He also participates in the summer games, competing in events like the 1500-meter run, but it is clear that skiing is special to him.

He has made several close friends through Special Olympics, and they often visit him to play video games, eat pizza, and hang out. His social circle is much wider than Special Olympics, however. He is a member of a male quartette called the Rocky Shoals. A voice coach instructs the group a few times a week and they travel to perform. Recently, the quartette visited a school in Shelby and the Deerlodge prison. Barclay also sings each week in the Missoula Community Chorus. All this is not enough music for Barclay. He composes choral arrangements to classical music using a program on his computer. He showed me his arrangement of "Ode to Joy", and it actually gave me chills.

Barclay has been involved with Missoula theatre since 1998, first MCT and later Missoula Community Theatre. He worked hard to learn the ropes and now, according to Barclay's mom, they count on him to "strike the set" after the last show. He wears his tool belt with a drill on each hip and stays late to break down the sets and put everything away, making sure every washer and screw is returned to the correct bucket.

Barclay is also a dedicated volunteer. He spends four hours every Tuesday volunteering at the Missoula Food Bank. Additionally, he serves on the board of directors for Opportunity Resources, an agency which supports people with disabilities to lead independent lives. He is the only client on the board, and he was surprised and honored when he was elected. This year, his tasks included organizing the fundraising efforts for the Opportunity Resources Autumn Fest. Just so you know, the turnout was great!

In addition to independent living, playing, and volunteering, Barclay also holds a steady job. He is employed through Opportunity Resources as a janitor at the Missoula Fire Technology Center. He works four days a week, earns more than minimum wage, and likes what he does. He gets there independently, taking the city bus to Opportunity Resources where he and his team travel by van to the MFTC.

Barclay has a long history of employment. He enrolled in classes at the University of Montana for a few semesters so that he might be able to snag a student job. From the sounds of it, he liked his billiards class more than wiping tables at Pizza Hut!

Barclay utilizes a support system to help him live on his own. On Mondays, he meets with someone who is teaching him to grocery shop and cook. He says he has learned to make pulled pork and fajitas, but confides that he is the breakfast king. On Wednesdays, a man from Home Instead visits to assist with any household tasks. He helped Barclay winterize his windows and takes him on errands if necessary. Barclay's number one support is his mother, Kathy. She helps him with his bills and coordinating his schedule, but mostly what she does is be a great mother. She maintains a difficult balance, letting him have his space, but being observant. In short, she is the person who knows him best, knows which questions to ask to get the full answers, and knows when to tell him no. They are lucky to have each other.

Barclay leads a life which is full of meaning. He is active, talented, and kind. I asked about his dreams, and he told me he wanted to keep enjoying his life and his freedom. When I asked what advice he would like to pass along to readers and others with disabilities, he said, emphatically: "Be yourself, and enjoy life."
Photo of Barclay sitting with a dog in his lap
This project is funded in whole or in part under a contract with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The statements herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Department.