Chapel Haven has changed his life in many ways, he says. “I have learned how to stick to a budget, how to plan a menu with your teacher for the week and how to be happy,” he says.
Dylan came to Chapel Haven in 2012 after graduating high school in his hometown in the Washington, D.C. metro area. He already knew how to take a train but learning to take the bus, manage a fixed budget and learn life skills in an apartment away from home and get a job were all new skills for him.
But Dylan was up for the task and he spent two happy years in the REACH program learning all about independent living.
Now, he and his friend Nick (also a Chapel Haven grad) share an apartment within a stone’s throw of the Chapel Haven campus. Both young adults have jobs and both are putting their REACH life skills training to use every day, from taking public transportation to grocery shopping, working and having fun on the weekends.
“Where do you see your life after Chapel Haven?” Dylan was asked.
“Getting married and having a stable job,” he says. “I’d also like to live in New Haven because right now we’re doing construction on the campus, so I’d like to stay and see that.”
“We’re really proud of Dylan and what he’s been able to accomplish,” says his dad, Jim Kuhnhenn. “He’s thrilled to be part of the Chapel Haven community, which is able to strike the delicate balance between giving him support and granting him a great degree of independence.”
Jim added, “As an aside, we were especially impressed when Dylan texted us to ask for information so he could research the recent primary election. He read articles from the New Haven Register, watched debate video clips and made up his mind based on who he thought would do best for New Haven. As a political journalist, his dad was especially proud of him.”
Dylan has many passions, including horseback riding and swimming. He is active in Chapel Haven’s Special Olympics chapter and enjoys the Wednesday night get-togethers of Best Buddies at Chapel Haven. Chapel Haven has the largest Best Buddies chapter in the state, through Southern CT State University.
Dylan also helps out at open houses as a Student Ambassador and appeared in a video segment for Chapel Haven celebrating World Down Syndrome Awareness Day. Click here to see his video:
Dylan is also a bit of a celebrity around campus, after having been cast as an extra in the movie, “Game Change,” starring Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin. Dylan appears in a scene at 41 minutes where Sarah Palin is walking down a rope line of excited supporters, including mothers with Down Syndrome kids. She plants a kiss on Dylan’s cheek, a scene that had to be rehearsed several times.
Dylan’s Mom, Louise Reynolds, recalled, “There was only supposed to be one speaking part, but Julianne Moore was so wonderful at improvising and interacting with every single kid that they put a bit more of that into the final cut. And, what was really amusing is that because each of these young extras ended up speaking as the cameras rolled, SAG rules called for them to be paid as ‘featured extras.’ So I made $65, but Dylan and his peers were paid $865. And I had to wipe Julianne Moore’s lipstick off his cheek numerous times. Nice work if you can get it! “
Asked what he’s up to lately, Dylan says that along with his online certification class and his job, he is saving money to go on Chapel Haven’s recreation trip to Disney World in November.
Asked for any advice for families interested in Chapel Haven, Dylan says: “You should come to this school because there’s many things you’ve never tried before.”