My name is Annette Arroyo. I have been happily married for 25 years. We have two beautiful children that keeps us busy on the soccer field or any other activity that they happen to be involved with. My background is in mental health and Social Work and have a degree in Psychology and Sociology. I have worked in the mental health field for 20 years working with individuals with developmental disabilities and with the Autistic population. I also worked in substance abuse treatment with adults and teenagers where the population was at times dually diagnosed with mental health or an IDD diagnosis. Day treatment programs for teenagers in alternative schools setting with severe mental and behavioral issues. I have also been a case manager, community support services supervisor, and day treatment program provider at an alternative school with children and adolescents that have severe mental health or developmental disabilities. In these roles there were times that I had to assist in finding residential placements or work with transitional living. Currently, I work as a social worker with reunified families that want to work on goals to improve resiliency and independent living skills. In the 9 years I have worked for Social Services, I continue to see families of children with special needs struggle to access services in the community especially when transitioning out of the school system and into adulthood. In all the work that I have done, I have found that if there is a barrier or a problem, there usually is a solution that will help a person feel more fulfilled, balanced, and stable.
Why I Got Involved.
The reason I got involved on the Special Needs Community Initiative board is because my nephew, Nathan, has Down syndrome. I see his need to be independent. He wants to have his own home. He wants to be treated as a man, rather than a child. He notices that his high school friends are now driving, getting married, and having children. He talks about how they have their own homes. He verbalizes a desire to also enjoy some of those things. He is able to function at a high level of independence despite his disability. But we recognize that he still needs some guidance and supervision so that he isn’t exploited and he is able to stay safe in his community. As Nathan entered adulthood, I saw my sister struggle to find resources for my nephew. Traditional options are to stay at home with your parents but have limited access to social opportunities unless the parents are able to piece-meal programs or the other option is a more restrictive home environment such as a group home or institution that doesn’t feel natural or inviting. This community would give him the opportunity to live independently in a safe environment, find purpose and activities that fulfill his life, and give him the opportunity to build lifetime friendships and relationships. This community would be more of a neighborhood with special amenities that people with special needs could live in with some safety features so that their families can sleep well at night knowing that their loved one is experiencing those things we sometimes take for granted but with continued guidance and supervision when they are not around. This community can meet that need for so many people in our area so I am excited to be a part of it. My hope is that others will also join us so that we can make this dream a reality for so many members of our community.