Melanie Cooper, now 35, started Self Direction at 21 and was one of the first Marylanders in the self-directed waiver.  All seemed well at her birth, but at 6 weeks old, Melanie contracted spinal meningitis.  Thus, began her journey of delayed development, doctor appointments and early intervention.  At 2, came the discovery of a duplication of the 15th chromosome. Later on, came the ‘autism spectrum’ and the greatest challenge of all was the diagnosis of Lennox Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), a severe and uncontrollable seizure disorder.  She has experienced 4 medically induced comas due to seizures.

  She attended segregated school for 2 years, but from 7-21 years, she attended her neighborhood school (with one to one inclusion support) singing in the chorus every year.  She was proud to graduate from Bel Air High School with an attendance certificate.

Family is important to Melanie. She loves her 2 brothers and her sister and her in-laws and her 4 nephews and her niece. For 20 years, Melanie rode horses (therapeutic horseback riding).   Through the years, with the support of her parents and/or staff, Melanie has done lunch deliveries, shredded paper for organizations, and cleaned the toys at a local childcare center.  She now voluntarily picks up trash on the Ma & Pa Trail, swims at the YMCA, grocery shops, eats out, walks the mall and just enjoys her life.

 At 28, Melanie signed a lease for her own apartment made possible with a housing voucher.  She loves the privacy and the closeness of her very own place for the past 7 years.   MELANIE’S LIFE is all about being in relationship with her family, friends and staff, walking in the woods, playing in the pool, eating delicious food, helping others, keeping her apartment clean, sleeping with her favorite blanket, listening and singing along with music and just being loved.  She is living her ‘good life.’