Amanda Owen, Creator of Puzzle Pieces, is Changing Lives for People With Disabilities

To truly know what a special needs life is, you have to have a deep understanding of it.

You have to see it in every way and every aspect. It has to be your life.

As the younger sister of Nick Boarman, 36 year-old Amanda Owen has known special needs life her entire life.

At Nick’s six month check-up the doctor told their mother, Sharon Boarman, that Nick had a rare chromosomal disability. The Syndrome was so rare that there were only ten other cases at that time and those ten individuals were institutionalized.

Sharon and her husband, Leon, decided they would do everything they could to avoid an institution.

Amanda was born a few years later with the same determination as her parents.

Amanda grew up teaching her brother everything she could and making sure he was always included. She saw her brother as the person she knew, a whole person who needed love and connection just like everyone else. 

Being raised as her brother’s sister, Amanda wanted to help others like Nick. She saw how he was treated and knew there was more to offer him and others with disabilities.

In the video, “The Story Behind Puzzle Pieces in Owensboro, Kentucky”, she says “everybody always saw him for what he couldn’t do, or what his struggles were, and I hated that because no one saw him for the things he could do”, but she did, and because of that, she became a special needs educator.

Through teaching, Amanda realized how big the spectrum of needs was. That, combined with wanting to create a safe and welcoming place for her brother and others with special needs, Amanda started Puzzle Pieces

Puzzle Pieces in Owensboro, Kentucky, is a non-profit built out of not just a sister’s love for her brother, but a belief that people with disabilities deserve a place of love, connection and opportunity. 

Puzzle Pieces has been running for eight years, serves over 170 individuals with disabilities, and currently operates with 64 employees. 

It is a center where they focus on life skills, socialization, community outreach and self-worth for people with intellectual disabilities ages eight to adults.

This is a place not only for those with the disabilities, but a “respite and lifeline for families”. 

At the center, they do arts and crafts, activities, social interaction time and have leisure time.

This is a safe place where someone who’d never fit in before can just be themselves.

Puzzle Pieces also provide adult vocational training, employment opportunities and residential housing. Their vocational training goal is “to provide a person-centered environment that supports the desire of clients to become more independent, socially accepted, and learn skills to maximize efforts in securing employment and/or volunteer opportunities”. 

Two years ago they started a supportive employment program that has found employment for 23 people with disabilities in their local community.

They have three residential homes where their clients have a true home not just a place to live. These homes are safe places that have a 24 hour staff always there for support, and is a place where true love and support can be given and received.  

Recently, Amanda has also opened the Owen Autism Center where they organize camps and after school care for those on the spectrum.

Puzzle Pieces will soon open an inclusive daycare where special needs children and their typical siblings can both attend. This kind of day care is a rare find in the world of child care and daycare. 

The role of a sibling to a special needs individual often gets overshadowed.

They see it all, have little say and can only do so much to help. 

Amanda Owen has taken her role as the sibling and made it her life. Not only did she build this amazing nonprofit but you can find her advocating on her blog ,podcast, and FB page, Pieces of Me.

Her, her husband and two children, have also taken in an adult individual on the spectrum who needed a safe and loving place.

Amanda has taken her love for her brother and parents and turned it into an opportunity for many. 

Puzzle Pieces is a dream for not only those with intellectual disabilities, but also for those who love them. A place where they can belong, be treated with respect and love, and given many opportunities.

A far cry from the Boarman’s options of an institution or figuring it out on their own.

Written by, Jaime Ramos

Jaime Ramos, of Johnny’s Spirit, is a wife and mom from Colorado. She’s married to her best friend, Isaac and they have two kids, Amelie and Jesse. Jesse, her Johnny, is six and on the Autism Spectrum. 

She went to school to be a filmmaker, but now spends her days mainly as a stay at home mom. Jaime enjoys capturing pictures and writing pieces about the beauty of her son’s free spirit, and the way the world perceives him. Sometimes that is the good and amazing wins, and other times the hard. You can also follow her on Instagram at Johnny’s Spirit and www.Johnnysspirit.com

Interested in writing for Finding Cooper’s Voice? LEARN MORE

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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