Treasure Maps showcased the stories of 10 people from across the state with developmental disabilities. The stories are expressions of the storytellers themselves. They chose the stories they wanted to tell, what was most important to them as individuals, as a result of an iterative process called “life maps.” Here are excerpts of their stories.
Ronald Bovell, 23, Stockbridge
(reading his own story “The First and Tragic Haircut”) Let me take you back to when I was just a little kid. I lived in the Bronx with my family and Auntie Lucy. Auntie Lucy took care of us, but she didn’t really understand my autism and thought I was just being plain naughty. Food had a strange feeling about it. I always wanted to wipe it off my hands as quickly as possible. So I rubbed my hands on my dreadlocks. Auntie Lucy was not amused. All I wanted to do was scrape it off my palms and my hair seemed like an easy, safe place to put it.
Faith Hill, 21, Lawrenceville
I have a passion for life and bring joy into every space I enter, but this was not always the conversation. When I was a baby, I wasn’t developing as I should. Doctors were not optimistic that I would ever walk independently. In 2003, my dad was deployed to the Middle East. Before he left, he said the best gift he could receive if he returned home was for me to walk to him. Over the course of that year, I worked hard to become ambulatory. When my daddy returned, I walked to him on my walker without help. There were tears everywhere.
Kathleen Artis, 22, Dawsonville
With my Etsy business, I make my own website for people to order clay earrings. After I’ve put them in the oven, and they come out, I like to just look at them up close and see, wow, I just did this. And how amazing it is to be able to do this. I learned to make jewelry from Taylor, my caregiver. Took me a little bit of time. I got upset at first because I didn’t understand why it was messing up. But Taylor told me it’s just the learning curve. You’ll learn it and be able to do it by yourself. Just keep practicing, practice makes perfect.
Jessica Winnowich, 37, Columbus
The first play I was in was in church. I was so ready to do it. But we left and never went back. I joined the drama club in high school and I wanted to go to New York to study theater. Mom very much did not want me to go. So we got in a fight and I said, I don’t think you’ve ever wanted me to be on stage. You wouldn’t even let me stay at that church when they had the play. And she said, oh baby, we didn’t go back because they didn’t want us to go back. I just think it’s kind of funny really, because I bet I’m the only kid that became a theater major. And I loved it.
Ryan Lee, 29, Dunwoody
It all started when I was trying out this improv class because I wanted to try something new and go someplace that wasn’t home. It was run by a woman whose grandson was also on the spectrum. She really knew how to get energy going. I met Steve and we shared things in common like animals and games. So he invited me to play Dungeons and Dragons at his house. I went over to Steve’s house and Steve’s friend Dave was also there. And we had a great time playing D&D.
Adnan Curry, 30, Athens
I’ve liked Elvis since I was five years old. I like his moves and I like his singing. I like his jumpsuit. Elvis was born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi. He made “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957. I sang Elvis in camp, at the talent show every year. I was on “Athens Got Talent.” I won the trophy. And I had an open heart surgery when I was 23. I listen to Elvis every time I wake up.
Blair Usher, 14, Sugar Hill
I have Alstrom syndrome. It affects my hunger and many organ systems. What makes me happy would be my dogs and my friends. Alstrom causes constant hunger, weight gain and health issues. I’ve gotten bullied before, just because you look different doesn’t mean it’s okay. And I just really want people to know it’s okay to be different. One way I’ve overcome the bullying is my friend Hunter. We met in middle school. We talked and I felt like we had a lot in common. We’ve been buddies ever since.
Michael Holton, 27, Guyton
My favorite memory of elementary school was making new friends and the opportunities they gave me. My teacher in elementary school told the class that there was a student who was differently abled. The teacher just talked about how to communicate with me effectively, and then I had a lot of friends in elementary school. I now work at Ebenezer Elementary School as a Special Education teacher.
Gabby Dollar, 31, Lawrenceville
When COVID hit, Gabby moved in with her family. Gabby has people that help her live her best life, 24 hours a day. On the video, Gabby is playing dreidel with the top attached to a mixer so she can spin it by turning on the power. Her caregiver says, “Can you show them how you spin the dreidel? There you go, okay, wanna stop it? So Gabby got a shin.” On the family Zoom chat, Gabby says, “Hey everybody! I love you.”
Angad Sahgal, 21, Atlanta
I live in Sandy Springs with my family, but I’m from New Delhi, India. I lived there for five years, and one of my favorite memories is eating good food in India. I learned to cook from my friend, Bhadur, and his favorite things to cook were butter chicken, shish kabob, dal and roti. I am happy and excited to be going to college at Georgia State’s IDEAL program. I hope to one day open my own restaurant.
This show is proudly presented by the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities and L’Arche Atlanta, in partnership with Resurgens Impact Consulting and StoryMuse. The film was made by Xerophile.