March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month!

Posted by The Arc of North Carolina

It’s Developmental Disability Awareness Month and we want to highlight some success stories.

Our first story is about Noah and his parents, who have had quite the journey.

Noah is an amazing young man with dedicated parents, Chris and Cheri. When Noah came into the world Cheri said, “he had a special spirit.” As he got older, his parents knew that there was something different about Noah. When he was eight years old, Noah was diagnosed with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Shortly after receiving the dual diagnosis, Cheri set up therapy appointments and enrolled him in social groups for kids with autism. She also worked with Noah’s school and discovered therapeutic sports through the local Parks and Recreation Department. This was a breakthrough, not only for Noah, but it helped Cheri and Chris meet other parents who had children with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

When Noah was in high school, he set a goal to play on the school’s football team. “This was a game changer for Noah. He saw himself as a player and loved being a part of the team,” said Cheri. Football helped to boost his confidence. Cheri says Noah’s “superpower” is to turn a negative into a positive. When Noah was a fifth-year senior, he was not eligible to play on the school’s football team. Noah was disappointed but was able to continue on with the football team as a manager. He loved being on the sidelines, cheering on the team, and dancing along with the school band.

All of the work and goals accomplished by Noah and his parents built a strong foundation for his life.
Noah is living at home and recently finished high school. His parents were concerned about that transition, but Noah was interested in going to Western Carolina University (WCU).
He applied to WCU UP program, a two-year program for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities. After applying twice to the program and not being accepted, Noah and Chris started looking for different options. Guidance counselors at Asheville High School told Chris about Project SEARCH and Noah applied to the program. Noah was accepted to Project SEARCH and was really excited when he learned that he would be considered a student of Asheville-Buncombe Technical College with a college ID. He was also happy to meet new people and develop relationships with his peers.

Noah flourished in Project SEARCH. “I liked meeting new friends and learning new things,” said Noah. “It was challenging, but it paid off.” He matured during the nine-month program and was able to help others during the classes which helped develop his leadership skills. During the classes, Noah was gaining valuable life skills – how to make a budget, how to be professional at work, and job skills.
“The skills Noah learned have really helped him understand what his role is at a company. Project SEARCH has been a Godsend,” said Chris. “He’s really come a long way and the program has improved his self-esteem.” He could not have made these advances if Chris were trying to teach him. Noah needed peers and third-party learning. Project SEARCH also helped Noah become a leader in the classes.

“Some people may not want to do Project SEARCH because they might be scared. I was a little scared, but I was really glad that I did it. I got to meet new people and try new things,” said Noah.

Once he finished classes, Noah worked as an intern at a local hospital. He even had a job created especially for him - cleaning the hospital elevators and the lobby. Noah was very proud of his work and loved getting compliments from hospital visitors and staff.

Currently, Noah works at Home Depot and loves his job. Chris says, “Noah learned how to be an employee from The Arc. The most important thing for Noah is that he wants to help out and help others”.

Setting goals is important to Noah. When he started working for Home Depot, Noah said that he wanted to be chosen as the Employee of the Month. Within three months on the job, he achieved that goal.

Noah’s next goal is to be living on his own by the time he turns 25 years old. Chris is working with him on setting a budget, household tasks, and making a grocery list to help him achieve this goal.

Cheri is very appreciative of what Project SEARCH has done for Noah. “Having Project SEARCH was absolutely priceless.”