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Sharon Altman: She Is Blessed To Be A Blessing

by Tonya Dixon | November 15th, 2014
Sharon Altman (Photo by Shaw Photography Group)

Sharon Altman (Photo by Shaw Photography Group)

Sharon Altman spent 30 years working with the North Carolina Department of Social Services. Upon her retirement she was a manager within the adult services division. The work she performed throughout her career simply gave legs to her passion and calling. Her life was and has been dedicated to working with adults with disabilities in various capacities. From supporting and embracing a disabled individual in her own home to respite care, she has the superior knowledge, resources, dedication and compassion needed to successfully care for the adult disabled population of society.

“There is no dollar amount that compares to the joy you receive from seeing someone you help care for grow, develop and be successful. It’s a game changer,” Altman says. “If you are dedicated, you have the ability to alter the turn of events for an individual if you care for them daily. You are meeting their needs and in turn they are in essence meeting a need you may have, especially in the family dynamic if they are living in your home. My children grew up with someone disabled living in their home. They learned discipline and a level of respect for the disabled population and developed a passion to serve.”

In 2006, Altman established CAP Learning Center in Greensboro, N.C. Her passion for the often overlooked and underserved in the community is what compelled her to start the noble undertaking. Additionally, she knew from experience what was truly needed and what parents were seeking in a facility for their adult children.

Many adults with disabilities or nearly adult progress through and age out of public school system programs, but still requires support and assistance. Parents often struggle to find adequate care for their children. It’s a gap and need that CAP Learning Center successfully fulfills.
CAP offers a program for individuals 18 and older who have dual diagnosis, visually impaired, autism disorder, mental retardation or are determined to be mentally ill. The program seeks to ultimately provide opportunities for the mentally disabled adults to function in the community and reach their fullest potential. The students or consumers, as they are often referred, are engaged on a level and speed according to their accessed abilities. Unlike many other programs and day centers, CAP tailors a specific plan or course of action for each individual consumer. There is no magic cookie cutter track for everyone to follow and adapt to. One of the many reasons for the success of CAP is because of the great care the staff takes in making sure each consumer is given individualized and specific care. Moreover, each consumer is assigned one fully-trained staff member whose sole purpose and responsibility is to engage and assist that one student. All interactions are one-one-one. It’s something that Altman is extremely proud of.

“There are other day programs to choose from, but CAP will tailor activities to meet the needs of each and every individual that comes to us. There are no cookie cutter services. It’s very individualized,” Altman says. “If a consumer wants to learn more about computers then we offer that to them. If the desire is to teach a person to make a bed, perform minor kitchen activities or simply become more independent, then we have mock rooms that we disrupt and then ask the individual to clean up or perform simple tasks with limited direction.” Additionally, CAP provides a wide-ranging list of services including goal achievement, basic math, money management and computer application; activities of daily living, personal hygiene development, socialization, coping skills, low impact exercise, socialization and a host of other skills and activities.

CAP Learning Center is fully accredited through CARF. With well over 20 rooms strategically designed to enhance the consumers, CAP is able to develop every individual’s specific need. The center currently serves approximately 40 individuals (with a capacity of 100) on a daily basis. In addition to the care and instruction that is provided in the facility, CAP also provides in-home care options. Staff members assist with personal care, helping the consumer’s prepare for daily living activities, homework, outings, breakfast, dinner and many other activities. The needed in-home care that CAP offers provides parents or guardians with an additional level of support and care.

However, Altman says CAP success lies much more in the staff rather than in extraordinary services it offer. She understands and adamantly asserts that it’s her staff that makes the center the awesome provider it has become. “I have a wonderful staff. It’s all about teamwork here. I’m in the shadows [which is how she prefers it]. They are in the spotlight. Each one brings to the table a variety of skills. They are talented, skilled, educated, creative, full of expectations and standards,” she says. “There is a list of credentials, screenings and background checks that each worker must have. All of our staff members have surpassed even the things the state requires.”

Nevertheless, as much care and attention that consumers receive from CAP, there comes a point in which many of the consumers progress to a point of general independence and knowledge that increases their drive and desire for something beyond the restricted walls of the facility. They want to know what it’s like to put their skills into real world application. It is an exciting time for the consumer, but still one filled with anxiety for the parents. Altman realized it wasn’t enough to teach them the skills; they also needed a way to use the skill, while still maintaining a modicum of insulation and supervision.

Not to be outdone or without a solution, Altman decided to establish two additional businesses in which the consumers could work independently. Consequently, starting next year, she will branch into the daycare, beauty and barber business. The businesses provide the perfect situation for the consumers to branch from the center. Although the individuals will not be able to perform tasks in relation to the children in the daycare or the clients in the salon, many of the individuals will still play vital and fulfilling roles in the businesses such as sweeping, mopping, landscaping, exterior maintenance, meal service, towel laundry and other similar positions. Seemingly menial tasks to the everyday individual, they are anything but that for CAP’s consumers. Being able to be a productive citizen is a great accomplishment and a source of pride for the individuals.

Additionally, as they move onto more independent jobs, she will have the availability to assist others within the CAP facility. She says people don’t stand still, we don’t want to believe their growth is stagnant or standing still. Both the daycare—Garden Academy—and the beauty, barber and nail salon are slated to begin operation by mid-spring 2015. Both will operate with the same excellence as CAP Learning Center. Garden Academy will offer daycare as well as after school care with four-star amenities including in-room monitors for parental online access, vouchers and private pay, family night and many other options.

Although not currently named, the beauty, barber and nail salon will have three stylists, two barbers, two nail technicians and all the top-of-the-line equipment and services. Additionally, the salon will have the capabilities to provide beauty services for assisted living facilities and their residents at designated times.

Nonetheless, Altman insists every endeavor is strictly about enhancing the lives of the mentally impaired community that she and CAP Learning Center serves. And to that end, she attributes the growth, exceptional service and superior standards of CAP to the phenomenal team that works diligently and tirelessly for the edification of so many others. “I’m just the undergirding force that keeps everything stable. I meet the needs of my staff so they can better serve our consumers,” she says.

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