Sarah is full of surprises.
Sarah loves to laugh, loves music, and has a great sense of humor.
Sarah is an example of someone who isn’t defined by the label she has been given. According to her mom, “She’s very social which isn’t always typical of people diagnosed with autism.” She adds, “She just loves people.”
Many of us might find it difficult to smile and laugh if we had to overcome some of the obstacles that Sarah has in her life. When Sarah was 6 months old, her parents realized that something wasn’t right. She wasn’t developing properly, and she had a difficult time eating and gaining weight. She didn’t start walking until she was three and half and required a feeding tube up until middle school. Sarah’s parents also noticed early on that Sarah had difficulty verbalizing. “The words didn’t really come,” her mom recalls. “Her receptive language is strong, but her expressive language is not. Today she speaks in one to two-word sentences.”
The fact that Sarah has difficulty expressing herself with words surprises people when they get to know her and realize how much she understands. Molly Halls, who provides direct support to Sarah, says that Sarah’s transformation is one of the most amazing things that she has witnessed in her 12 years of working at LBSA. “For the first couple of months we were afraid that we couldn’t figure her out. She was acting like she’s not paying attention. Then at the exact right time she will make a comment that shows her sense of humor.”
Transitions can be challenging for Sarah. Situations where she is having to move through crowds of people can be disruptive. Getting on and off a bus may take time and repeated encouragement from others. Knowing this you might think that Sarah’s transition to her new home at LBSA would have been difficult. Surprise. Sarah’s mom laughs, “It seemed like it was much easier for Sarah than it was for me.” LBSA staff supported Sarah through her transition to her new home gradually. At first, she would visit her new house for a few hours each day. Then an overnight. Then every night.
Sarah’s parents and staff have been amazed at Sarah’s ability to connect with other people given some of the verbal challenges she’s had to overcome. Today, with the support of LBSA staff, Sarah lives with her three housemates in a quiet Northfield neighborhood and is thriving. She works at EPIC Enterprise Inc., eats meals with her housemates, and enjoys outings to go shopping. Sarah’s mom says having a safe place with supportive staff help her and her husband “feel like we’re leaving her with family. The staff… we just can’t say enough good things about them.”
At this year’s LBSA Gala, Sarah performed with the LBSA choir; smiling, singing, and dancing. According to one staff member, “She looked like she was having the time of her life.” Molly says when she found out that Sarah recently joined the LBSA choir, “I couldn’t believe it. Nobody thought that was possible when she first moved in.”