Henry said he is traveling across the state to visit public and private facilities serving the needs of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I don’t know that there is anything like this across the state,” Henry said of Trousdale.
The visit included a tour of the school, conversations with students and discussion of how Trousdale would like to expand in the future.
The commissioner also participated in the official ribbon cutting for Trousdale’s newly completed renovation of the former St. Asbury Methodist Church.
Students performed two songs from this year’s musical as part of the ribbon-cutting celebration.
“You put them on stage and they come to life,” Trousdale director of music and arts Marilyn Mosingo Sherelin said. “Where you and I may be able to be in a choir and get to be on stage, we felt very strongly that they needed a stage.”
The theater and music area is located in what was the church sanctuary.
After the students’ performance, Jim Henry’s wife, Pat, read a poem by their son, John, who had autism and cerebral palsy. John died a few months ago. In the poem, John talks of how “the country needs to realize that we are people, too.”
The school has also been able to add a Life Skills lab.
“We have a big focus on life skills and ways that we can help gain independence, however far we can take that. So, we have a classroom set up on one side of the hall where we can talk about it. Then we have our apartment set up on the other side of the hall, where we can do it,” Trousdale executive director Shannon Clark said.
This Life Skills lab is used to practice those skills needed to live independently, such as cleaning, doing laundry and making a bed.
“We want to work on functional academics,” Clark said.
She said the school also helps and encourages students to work in the community.
As the first commissioner of the newly formed department, Henry said his goal for the department is to focus on providing ways for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity “to have a home, a friend and a job.”
He said these three elements are essential to happiness.
The guests also toured the new computer lab, an art class and watched a game of bocce.
The school is showcasing the new facility to the public today with an open house at 4 p.m.