Meet Naomi, a bright, funny and talented 11-year old who is an accomplished cheerleader, student leader and friend.
“When I found out that I was having a child with special needs I was in a new hospital, with a new OBGYN. I had never had any testing done and I didn’t know what to do” says Naomi’s mom. “The nurses at the hospital told me to call The Arc.”
“I credit The Arc with being part of our family from the beginning. They helped us get her started on the right track. They knew exactly what I would need; they answered my questions and offered so many resources and workshops. I jumped right in,” says Naomi’s mom, who has served as a member of our Board of Directors and a parent advocate. “What I loved is that The Arc wasn’t intimidating. Everyone was very welcoming; many of the people I met have had their own experiences with their own children and loved ones with special needs. There is a family environment at The Arc that gives you ease and comfort.”
With the support of her family and The Arc, Naomi has continues to excel as a cheerleader and Girl Scout, forming relationships and making friends throughout her community; but this isn’t without its challenges says her mom.
“We don’t shelter Naomi, we want her to understand that she is capable and valued just like anyone else. Sometimes that can be difficult. We see the way some people look at her when we’re out because her behaviors are different. But that’s their challenge, not hers.”
Growing up with an intellectual or developmental disability can be difficult for a child, but Naomi hasn’t let anything stand in her way. “She loves to try new things and she has so many friends!” says her mom. “When out in the community, people know Naomi and they call out to her; in church, at the supermarket, at the mall, and in school. She loves and is loved in return for who she is.”
Helping families get the best start for their children builds lifelong self-esteem and success. The Arc’s programs are designed to create these building blocks and help families and children as they grow to become adults. Supports and services for Arc members are free of charge an include workshops, advocacy opportunities and easy access to resources like speech therapy, future planning and benefits enrollment.
“I couldn’t believe this information and support was free to me.I approach families when we’re out to see if they are connected to services and I tell them about The Arc,” says Naomi’s mom. “I tell families about the membership benefits and about my experience having the opportunity to go to Annapolis and speak to legislators in person about the needs of families with special needs children.”
Now that Naomi is closing in on her teenage years, her mom says everything is new all over again. “The Arc understands what I will need to support my child moving forward. They have so many years of experience in this work that they have the answers I need before I even form the question. Not only for us, but for [Naomi] too as she continues to grow and learn about herself and the world around her.”
Understanding, anticipating and meeting the needs of people with disabilities and their families takes a dedicated group of staff, partners and donors like you.
Your contributions make it possible for us to provide free resources to families like Naomi’s. The support of our donors provides access to speech and occupational therapy for children, adaptive technology and employment support for adults and community inclusion programs for seniors.
Naomi, who has competed in the Special Olympics, wants to continue pursuing cheerleading and is looking forward to winning more medals. We are truly thankful for her family sharing their story.