Aurora Behavior Clinic Grand Opening
In gratitude of your support, we invite you to our
Aurora Behavior Clinic Grand Opening Celebration
on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 from 5-7 pm.
Join us for the ribbon cutting, open house, and light refreshment as
we celebrate our new home in the Stone Barns located
at The Arc of Loudoun
Futures Planning – Every month we present the tools to consider when developing a plan for the future to families, siblings, adults with disabilities, and others interested
Next workshop: Thursday, June 20| 10:00 am – 12 pm
Topic: Summer’s here! Now what?!
At this workshop, you will learn about local family fun, vacation planning tips and tricks, local enrichment activities, and much more. Come meet local vendors. Your entire family is welcome.
Location: ALLY “A Life Like Yours” Advocacy Center | 601 Catoctin Circle, NE, Bldg #625, Leesburg, VA 20176
Workshop is FREE for Arc of Loudoun Members and Loudoun County residents. Suggested $10 donations appreciated. REGISTER HERE.
Workshop is FREE for Arc of Loudoun Members and Loudoun County residents. Suggested $10 donations appreciated. REGISTER HERE.
Questions: Contact Eileen Shaffer: email@example.com
July 25: Guardianship and Alternatives to Gaurdianship – Register here
August 22: Tools for a smooth reentry to a New School Year – Register here
September 30: Collaborating and Communicating with Schools to Build Resilience in Children Impacted by Trauma
Past Futures Planning Videos:
April 2019 Futures Planning: Virginia Medicaid Waivers
January 2019 Futures Planning: Special Needs Trusts
December 2018 Futures Planning: Social Security Benefits
November 2018 Futures Planning on Managing Real Estate in a Special Needs Trust
October 2018 Futures Planning on DD Waivers and CCC+
Waiver Information/Medicaid Waivers
Futures Planning September 2018: Creative Housing Options for People with Disabilities
Patrick attended The Aurora School (a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities) for the past eight years and graduated this June. His program director, Maureen, describes Patrick as a genuinely happy student who is extremely hard working. Maureen says,
“He loves being productive, and isn’t happy if if he’s not getting something done.”
While at Aurora, Patrick’s favorite activity is sorting beads and markers by colors– which he can do all day. Maureen notes,
“Patrick is also an excellent speller, and he likes playing different crossword and wordsearch apps on his iPad.”
Patrick is so good at spelling he’s even learned how to communicate with others through writing out a word or spelling out each letter if they can’t understand him, something he learned how to do all on his own.
Throughout the years of attending Aurora, Patrick’s learned to become more flexible with abrupt changes in his schedule. He’s also learned how to take turns, like when playing board games, and has become more social with his peers. Some of Patrick’s current goals include: learning to identify whether a clothing item is acceptable to wear (if it’s clean or dirty), taking inventory of the cleaning supplies he uses, and staying on track for all his tasks (with minimal guidance from his instructors). Five times a week Patrick goes on CBI (Community Based Instruction) trips which allows him to take the skills he learns in the classroom out into the community. Patrick either goes to the yoga studio where he cleans and takes inventory, the Giant grocery store where he picks out different items from a list, or various restaurants where he is able to practice ordering food from his iPad. Maureen says,
“The support we [The Arc of Loudoun] provide through these activities significantly increases success of students like Patrick.”
Furthermore, Maureen believes The Arc is so important to the community because the staff are able to teach important life skills to students who are in an impressionable part of their lives. Maureen states,
“This campus is so unique, and we’ve become the model for what other people want to emulate.”
For the past year, Kyle has been a member of the STEP Up (Supported Training & Employment) Program at The Arc of Loudoun; a day support program that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities. However, he’s been a part of The Arc of Loudoun community since 2010, when his mom, Christine, started working at the Open Door Learning Center preschool on campus. Since then, Kyle, now 21, has volunteered as an assistant teacher at ODLC and has had other miscellaneous tasks, such as data entry, for the various programs at The Arc of Loudoun.
Volunteering and working at The Arc of Loudoun has allowed Kyle to learn many different skills. “It’s [The Arc] helped me learn how to be responsible and I’ve gained more experience with social interaction,” he said. By gaining these skills, Kyle was able to secure a job at Noodles & Company in Leesburg, where he takes orders as a cashier, prepares the meals, and helps the customers. One of Kyle’s passions is cooking, and he teaches his fellow STEP Up colleagues how to cook different meals three times a month. Once a month Kyle also prepares for all his meals– where makes a list of all the ingredients and materials for his dish. Kyle makes a variety of dishes, but he loves cooking Italian food which is why he’s grateful that The Arc provided him the opportunity to gain work experience in order to become an employee at Noodles & Company.
Kyle aspires to become a professional chef, and he is now able to add both his experience from conducting cooking classes through STEP UP and his job at Noodles & Company to his resume when he applies to culinary school. Kyle believes he wouldn’t be where he is now without The Arc of Loudoun stating,
“This place is really special to me. It’s helped me grow, develop, and unlock my hidden potential. No one would have an excuse to feel angry here at a place like this.”
Dawn has been working at The Aurora School for more than ten years, and as a veteran staff she is the most cherished. Before becoming the receptionist at Aurora, she was an instructor at the school for seven years, where she helped students with their daily goals. Kendra, the Interim Director of Aurora says,
“Dawn is the first smiling face you see when you come here [Aurora]! We depend on her for so many things to make our day go more smoothly. The kids love her, and we love her too!”
Dawn explains why Aurora is so important to her saying,
“It’s given me the opportunity to learn how to interact with both typical and non-typical children. Plus, before coming to Aurora I had no idea what Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy was. Everything I learned about ABA, I learned at Aurora. And now, ABA helps me with my eight-year-old niece. I now know what to say, what not to say, and how to say it.”
Working with all the students is one of Dawn’s favorite things about Aurora.
“The best thing about working here is seeing the results of children’s progress,” she says. “Some students have graduated, some have gone back to mainstream public school, or joined STEP Up.”
She has no plans to leave Aurora anytime soon exclaiming,
“I like what we do and what we stand for, and I also love the students and my co-workers! The support here is amazing, too. If somebody goes into crisis, everybody comes running, no hesitation whatsoever.”
In the next 50 years, Dawn hopes more people will know about The Arc of Loudoun stating,
“The outreach and support at The Arc is great. I just wish more people knew what a wonderful place we are and how much we help people and the community. I don’t know of any other places like us and I feel like families would probably be struggling a lot if we weren’t here. It’s really amazing to have all the various programs here on one campus, united under The Arc.”
Tiara’s radiant personality will make anybody who sees her on Paxton Campus smile. She works as the receptionist for the ALLY Advocacy Center three times a week through STEP Up (Supported Training & Employment Program); a day support program that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities. Some of Tiara’s tasks include: delivering mail on campus, greeting the guests at ALLY, making copies, and shredding papers.
Since being in STEP Up, Tiara has grown to be more independent. In fact, one of her main jobs on campus is to sell items from a mobile snack cart to the employees and bus drivers at The Arc– which she does completely alone. She restocks and organizes the snacks and drinks on the cart, which has several names including “Snax on Pax” and “Bart the Cart”, and she manages the money from the sales. Sometimes Tiara works with another member of Step Up in order to serve more customers. Tammy Goddard, ALLY program director, says
“Tiara is a great sales person – she loves to bring around the snack cart and if she knows you like a certain drink or snack, she puts it aside for you.”
Once Tiara has completed her work shift in the morning, she enjoys being social with everybody on campus. People know when Tiara is on campus because they’ll hear her greeting anybody she sees! She loves to ask people about their pets and asks how their pets are doing, because she loves animals as much as people. She usually ends the conversation by telling them to make sure that they give their pets a hug and a kiss from her.
Tiara is also very adept at making handmade cards for everybody at The Arc of Loudoun.
“She is a like a one-woman Hallmark store – she’s always making sure she is on top of making every single person on campus a birthday card, a get well card, or a going away card if they are leaving,” says Tammy. “She also makes a point to ask everyone who stops in ALLY what their two favorite colors are, and she draws pictures and cards for all of the new clients when they come in.”
Besides creating cards, Tiara enjoys just being able to work at The Arc of Loudoun, saying,
“I can’t imagine working anywhere else, being here makes me so happy!”
Tammy first heard about The Arc of Loudoun in the Spring of 2011, after her son was diagnosed with a motor skills disability. She was advised to get an advocate, in which she researched online and found The Arc. After meeting with ALLY (A Life Like Yours) Advocacy’s past directors to discuss plans regarding her legal rights as a parent of a child with disabilities, she knew she needed to be a part of The Arc,
“It was infectious–how passionate they [the ALLY directors] were and it caught on to me! I decided then and there that I wanted to work there and be contributing to helping other families.”
Tammy initially worked at the front desk of The Aurora School, a school for students with disabilities located on Paxton Campus. She would later become ALLY’s Program Director. Tammy explains,
“The Arc became important to me because of my son, it stayed important to me because my son is just one out of the thousand people we help every year. My son did the social skills group, he goes to all the sensory sensitive movies, and the Spring Festival. My daughter volunteers with Shocktober and did siblings shops (workshop for siblings of people with disabilities). I’ve gotten IEP (Individualized Education Plan) help and gone to parent support groups here. The whole family has been helped.”
Throughout her time working for The Arc, Tammy has given back to the community through all the programs ALLY hosts.
“We help people with disabilities, but also help people in need. My favorite program is the Holiday Giving Program. Last year we helped give presents to 191 families, who would otherwise not have any gifts. It’s very rewarding!”
In the fall of 2011, Tammy created Maggie’s Closet, which provides free clothing to families in need. Maggie’s first started in a small office in one of the buildings on Paxton Campus, but expanded after just one week. Tammy exclaims,
“What I loved about it is that people just want to give! They want a reason to be excited, want a reason to help. There’s so much generosity in the community–which I hoped for, but didn’t realize until I started working here.”
Whether it’s gifting presents to those in need or creating Maggie’s Closet, Tammy is constantly looking for new and creative ways to help others through The Arc, saying
“There’s just so many different ways that people can help and be helped here. It’s the best thing about working here.”
Her newest goal is to revamp the volunteer program for ALLY. She plans to start a mentoring program, where volunteers have an opportunity to know more of the members of The Arc and teach them new skills.
Tammy believes there’s no other organization like The Arc, stating
“Where else can you go to get help with your IEP, watch a sensory sensitive movie, get a backpack for school supplies, and get a prom dress for your daughter? We serve so many different facets of life for people with disabilities.”
Because of this, she hopes in the next 50 years The Arc will be an example for other agencies and nonprofit to model themselves after saying,
“It’s the stuff we do, plus the amazing people we serve, plus the people that work here. It’s such a good combination.”
Saul and Abe are twin brothers who’ve been attending The Aurora School, a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for the past three years. Although they look exactly alike, their personalities greatly differ. Saul is independent, and he enjoys completing tasks without any help. His Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Instructor, John, says he’s very determined,
“Once he [Saul] starts something, he needs to finish it. He likes to get everything just right.”
Abe, on the other hand, is not as much of a perfectionist as Saul. Abe’s ABA instructor, Kay, describes him as creative,
“He [Abe] likes Pinterest, colors, and playing the piano– especially the “Rugrats” theme song,” she says.
Although their personalities are different, the staff and learning style at Aurora has been able to accommodate both of the boys’ needs. Through ABA therapy, Saul and Abe are improving their communication skills. John and Kay state,
“The teaching style here [Aurora] really helps them. They now know how to talk about how they are feeling, and explain why they’re feeling a certain way.”
While at Aurora, the boys are learning vocational skills, such as washing their hands, adaptive behavior management, and identifying safety signs in the community.
John says, “Saul also loves to cook and that’s a skill he’s learning at Aurora. His favorite foods to make are french toast and pancakes!”
John and Kay explain that they enjoy working with Saul and Abe because of their goofy and lovable personalities, exclaiming,
“They love dancing and can do the ‘cha-cha slide.’ They’re both so silly and unique in their own way, which makes them so fun to be around!”
Because of schools like Aurora and the services provided by The Arc of Loudoun, kids are given the opportunity to succeed. Kay says,
“The staff know how to handle all types of behaviors here, which allows all of the students to be themselves.”
Rena has been working for the Arc of Loudoun since 2007. She began as an instructor at The Aurora School, a school for children with developmental disabilities; primarily autism. Since 2011, she’s worked at the Open Door Learning Center, an intentionally inclusive preschool for children with and without disabilities, located on the Paxton Campus. When speaking about her career at The Arc, Rena becomes emotional.
“I love doing this because I know I’m helping somebody and making their life better,” she says. “I can really see the growth in children, and I see them open up and blossom–it’s a wonderful feeling…I love it!”
Rena constantly sees changes in the children because of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. She’s experienced children who never even said “Hi”, to now interacting with their peers on the playground and initiating conversations. Her favorite thing is to see success! She says ABA therapy changes people’s lives. And when parents tell her what a difference it makes– that’s one of the goals, knowing that it’s making a difference in people’s lives.
“It makes me so happy!” Rena exclaims. “Moreover, knowing that the children will now be able to thrive in the community because of schools like Aurora and ODLC, it’s what keeps me motivated.”
She hopes that The Arc will continue grow even bigger and reach out to more people.
“There are programs, but there are no programs like this,” Rena states. “I would hope in the next 50 years, The Arc expands into different school districts, different counties, and even different states! There is no limit on what The Arc can do to help the community!”
Matthew’s been described as a very dedicated employee at STEP Up, the Supported Training and Employment Program of The Arc of Loudoun that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities. Before joining STEP Up, Matthew graduated from The Aurora School (a school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 5-22 on Paxton Campus). After discovering Aurora, Matthew’s father Jim said he saw a tremendous difference in Matthew.
“I felt like I finally found a place with trained instructors who knew how to handle Matthew’s behavior,” he said. “Before attending Aurora, Matthew would become aggressive when he was given a demand, but now, after graduating from the school and joining STEP Up, his negative behavior has been slowly diminishing.”
Each day at The Arc, Matthew learns to be more independent. His main responsibility is cleaning the various buildings on campus, which he absolutely loves. Mary, his former STEP Up coordinator says,
“You knows he’s [Matthew] working hard because you’ll hear the squeaking of the windows as he cleans them. He’s the best cleaner and most hard working employee you’ll ever meet. He doesn’t want to take a break until the job is done!”
With the support and training of both Aurora and STEP Up staff, Matthew was able to start working part time, where he cleans office spaces for two companies twice a week. Working as a part time employee gives Matthew more independence and freedom, which he enjoys. Matthew continues to learn more skills at STEP Up, such as time management, following lists, and increasing the duration of his work.
Sometimes while Matthew’s working, he likes to ‘script’ from game shows. (Scripting is a common occurrence among those with autism which involves repetitive reciting of lines from movies, tv shows, books, etc. and believed to be a coping mechanism). He quizzes all of The Arc office employees by asking them different questions and answers from the shows he watches. It’s like a fun game for him, and for the employees as well!
One of Mary’s favorite things about Matthew is his affectionate gestures.
“Matthew is very sweet,” she states. “He doesn’t talk very much, but he’ll show he has a bond with you by coming over and squeezing your arms, giving you a thumbs up, or hugging you–always a highlight of my day.”
In the future, his supervisors and his dad, Jim, hope that Matthew will have a full time job where he can reach his maximum potential.
Kendra is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at The Arc of Loudoun. She has been working for The Arc for eight-and-a-half years, where she started as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist at The Aurora School, a year-round day school for children with developmental disabilities; mainly autism. She initially heard about Aurora while searching for programs for her son, Cannon, to attend. After touring the school in 2008, Kendra was immediately impressed by the ABA therapy the instructors were practicing with the students. She was so impressed, in fact, that she moved her family to Loudoun County in the hopes that Cannon could one day attend Aurora. Although Cannon, now 17, would later attend public school, Kendra would begin her career as an ABA therapist at Aurora.
Kendra’s desire to become an ABA therapist grew after seeing how effective ABA therapy was for Cannon, who has autism.
“I knew I wanted to become a therapist and help children with the same needs,” she said.
In her duties with The Arc, she is currently Clinical Director of the Paxton Advantage Behavior Clinic and a behavior consultant to students at The Aurora School, the preschool students at Open Door Learning Center, and the employees at STEP Up (a day support program that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities).
Seeing the progress the students and employees make is one of Kendra’s absolute favorite things about working at The Arc of Loudoun.
“Through ABA therapy, I have seen astronomical success in students who went from not communicating at all to being able to read text, sign words, and talk vocally!” she exclaimed.
She’s also witnessed students’ severe aggressive and self-injurious behavior decrease through ABA therapy.
Later this year, Kendra will be there for the grand opening of the Advantage Behavior Clinic on Paxton Campus. The clinic will allow people, like Cannon, who may not have had the opportunity to attend schools like Aurora the chance to still get the support they need– whether that’s learning communication or social skills. Kendra is thrilled about opening the clinic, and one of her desires is to create a wraparound approach where the staff at The Arc can work together with the public school teachers and their after school activities to practice social skills with a variety of students. In addition, she hopes through this approach everyone will know the effectiveness of ABA therapy and how it works.
Without The Arc, Kendra believes families would be at a great loss. She explains how The Arc is filling a need in the community by helping children and adults with disabilities live “a life like yours.” Programs and workshops at The Arc like CBI (Community Based Instruction) and the new Pathways to Justice Training, allow people with disabilities the opportunity to interact with community members such as bus drivers, cashiers, or police officers. These programs greatly benefit both the individuals with disabilities along with the community members as they learn to interact with each other. Kendra explains the importance of all the programs at The Arc stating,
“I wish more people knew that we are able to fulfill the gaps in the community with more volunteers and more funding. If they fund it, we can do it. We’re willing to put in the hard work, we just need the resources.”
Within the next 50 years, Kendra hopes The Arc will expand its programs all while “doing what they do best” which is helping the community.
Madison is an energetic student at The Aurora School, a year-round school for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the past five years since she’s been attending Aurora, Madison has learned academic skills, along with how to connect with people–whether it be with her peers or with staff. Maggie, Madison’s Applied Behavior Analysis Instructor, says,
“All the staff here know Madison. She’s very outgoing and makes friends with everybody! She’s one spit fire of a gal.”
Throughout her time at Aurora, Madison has learned general safety skills such as reading signs (like “danger”, “exit”, and “enter”) along with learning basic household chores, like doing laundry. Madison continues to learn other skills at Aurora, like how to advocate for herself.
Some of Madison’s favorite activities at Aurora include listening to her favorite band (O.A.R), playing on the tire swings, and socializing with the staff and students. Maggie says,
“I love Madison’s charisma, and her love for life! She’s very much herself all the time and we’ve really grown to have a great friendship.”
Maggie wishes more people knew how The Arc of Loudoun and Aurora provides students with different learning styles.
“The Arc gives children so many opportunities to learn,” she says. “More people should be able to see, in person, how much growth and progress our students make.”
Meet Trish Thomason, mom to 17-year-old Eric, a student at The Aurora School. Before her family moved from Colorado to Virginia, Trish researched different schools for Eric to attend, which is how she discovered The Arc of Loudoun and Aurora. Eric thrives in a smaller, inclusive, structured environment, so Aurora was the perfect fit for him. In the one and half years since Eric’s been attending Aurora, Trish has seen a huge improvement.
“His focusing and ability to do tasks has gotten much better,” she says. “He also has better self-regulation of his emotions. And he’s happy! There’s definitely been schools where he didn’t want to go at all, and that doesn’t happen now. He gets excited about different things happening at school every single day.”
Not only does Eric attend The Aurora School, he also participates in many of the events that The Arc of Loudoun holds for its members. He enjoys doing adaptive yoga, art classes, and he absolutely loves music therapy. Eric’s even volunteered at The Arc’s annual fundraising event, Shocktober. After graduating from Aurora, Trish hopes Eric will join STEP Up, a day support program that teaches vocational skills to adults with disabilities.
“He loves animals and wants a giraffe as a pet. I want to give him the opportunity to work with animals, even just once a week. And that can be a place that can meld his interests with something that can grow within The Arc or Paxton Campus family.”
Trish loves The Arc of Loudoun because of the people.
“The people and staff are my favorite thing!” she exclaims. “Eric doesn’t get to just deal with his staff, but with other people from different programs as well. This allows Eric, and all the students, more opportunities for a wider social network.” She says The Arc’s efforts to incorporate individuals into the community is huge. “And that’s what I like about it. I like that they’re taking steps to let our kids be involved in the community, as well as bringing the community in to appreciate what our kids do. I think that’s so important.”
Trish also believes it’s important to give back to an organization that has given her so much, which is why she volunteers once a week with STEP Up.
“Ever since Eric started, I’ve volunteered at every program he’s been at. I come whenever I have free time, it’s a way to give back to them. I think it’s important to be involved. I want my kid happy and safe and I’ll work with any program that’ll let that happen.”
In the future, Trish hopes that more people will know about The Arc.
“I need it. Everybody needs it. I don’t have to spend so much time researching what’s out there about my kid’s future. The Arc has taken so many of those steps [of researching] away from us, which allows us to spend more time with our kids.”
Aidan is an enthusiastic student at The Aurora School on Paxton Campus. His infectious laugh can often be heard resonating throughout the entire building! He’s extremely musical and is always asking when he can enjoy his favorite activity: playing his piano keyboard. However, before attending Aurora, this simple act of asking would’ve been impossible– since he could initially only communicate using three pictures. Today, after six years of instruction at Aurora, Aidan can use sign language, express his thoughts through the use of an iPad, read over 100 words, and is now learning to talk. As Aidan conquers his communication skills, he continues to learn countless new skills that will provide him the chance to thrive in the community with his peers and live a more independent life. Hailey, Aidan’s lead Applied Behavior Analyst Instructor explains the importance of Aurora,
“The Aurora School and The Arc of Loudoun provides young adults, like Aidan, the opportunity to learn and grow into their full potential. I wish more people knew about the amazing progress our students make using ABA (instructional methods), and how all of the Aurora staff are striving to provide our students with, ‘A Life Like Yours.’”