Shawnee Mission Faces: Elyse McBride, support staff for people with disabilities and big Chiefs fan

For the past nine years, Elyse McBride has invested time and energy into a fulfilling career of supporting people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Just like everyone else, things look a little different for the clients of Lakemary Center in Olathe since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

People with disabilities, especially the clients she sees who need 24-hour care, are sometimes isolated from their community. So, even during the past year of isolation, McBride is constantly working toward promoting independence, strengthening their clients’ confidence and abilities, and encouraging them every day to overcome new challenges. They call her “Mama Elyse” in the group home of adults. 

Born and raised right down the street from where she lives in Overland Park, McBride is finishing up her psychology degree and minor in sociology at the University of Kansas. She’s planning to pursue a master’s in marriage and family therapy. She hopes to give her future clients what therapy has done for her.

In her spare time, she enjoys painting, offering swimming lessons and singing karaoke. She’s also a huge Chiefs fan getting pumped for Super Bowl Sunday.

People ask me how my work has been going. I don’t want to get too emotional, but first of all, I am so proud of them because they’re stronger than me, honestly. And they surprise me every single day. Their perspective on life is just so — and I’m not speaking for everyone because they obviously have their hard days like everyone else — but they’re definitely resilient.

I had a situation where I had a client of mine that had a family member pass away during this COVID time. And they’ve had life events happen, just like all sorts of changes. Every single day is something different.

Very much of their lives, especially within living in a group routine, is very routine. So getting out of that routine is easier said than done. When I say that, it’s like when we have something that pops up on us that maybe we can overcome it quickly.

Before COVID, we would have maybe some times where that would be more difficult when something would pop up in our routine. Now, with COVID, and things ever-changing, they’ve just become so much more versatile in their flexibility and ways to navigate things.

I think we get used to thinking that people with disabilities can’t handle certain things. And that is not true. I think a lot of people, when they see people with disabilities, they think I know what’s best for them and I need to protect them from certain things to make sure that because whatever is going to happen, they’re just not going to be able to take. And that just hinders people further, just like it would you or me.

I think a lot of people think oh I need to not say certain things or just act a certain way around someone with disabilities because they’re not going to be able to know how to react. And that’s not always true.

So letting them experience all of life that it has, even the down parts, because if they don’t really feel those things, then we don’t learn or know how to overcome them.

I think it’s just looking at going back to the little things that bring joy in their lives. For example, every night, when we sit down and eat, we go around and say what we’re grateful for. When it was Thanksgiving time, we had a table cloth and wrote down what we’re thankful for.

I worked all of the holidays because I wanted to make sure that I was with them during those times. I wanted them to have consistency and know that they’re loved. I couldn’t stand being around my own family with them not being able to be with theirs.

We’ve just created this little family. And our organization has wonderful families that do reach out a lot.

Let people know that you care in any way that may be, because it matters. A card. A phone call. Anything that you can to impact or bring attention to someone that maybe has been isolated during this time, because it makes a huge difference. Like, huge. It makes their entire day, weeks. You would not even believe how much those things impact.

You never know what the next day is going to hold with where your life can go. You never know if maybe you’ll need services one day, whether that be through these services or knowing someone that might need services. Learn more about what goes into these programs, and maybe volunteer time or anything that you want to give, because these individuals are so unique and give back in a way that I can never express.

Editor’s note: Lakemary is looking for volunteers and donations. If you’re interested in volunteering at Lakemary Center, click here. If you’re interested in donating to the center, click here.