Dear Friend of The Arc New London County,

Meet Heather . . . Heather arrives home from her job at a local restaurant and begins tackling her list of

chores. “Thank you so much for wanting to do a story about me. This is so cool!” The trim young woman

folding laundry at the kitchen table is hardly recognizable, say her parents and friends, from the lost and angry

person who first came to The Arc ECT five and a half years ago.

Heather is passionate. About cats. The UConn Huskies. Her job. Writing poetry. Movies. Running track and field.

But she’s most passionate about building relationships. Heather is grateful to all the people who’ve helped

her, especially her family. Every day is a concerted effort. “I really work on being kinder. But I have to make the

effort. I can do that now.”

Heather has come a long way in five years. “Growing up was hard. I was bullied a lot in school . . . ” She looks

down and says quietly, “I was a bully too, sometimes. I didn’t know how to control my anger.” Heather

remembers fights with her family, especially her mom. “I didn’t have very good boundaries. My family tried to

help but I pushed them away.” Like many families, Heather’s family needed support. Everyone was exhausted.

Her mom and stepdad needed to work but couldn’t leave Heather alone. “We didn’t know how to help her

by ourselves,” says Heather’s mom. “But since she’s been living at a home supported by The Arc, she’s really

blossomed. I’m so proud of her.”

“All these things that I didn’t think I was interested in—I guess because I was just too emotional to sit still long

enough. Some of the things I’m doing now are just so cool. Like bowling. I love bowling! And I won a gold

medal in the 50 meter sprint at Special Olympics this year.” Heather’s family feared that she would never

interact with her peers positively, but now she’s formed a strong bond with her two housemates— they cook

meals and often attend events and activities together.

“I like myself a lot more now,” Heather admits. “I’ve learned about healthy eating and understanding how

important it is to take my meds. I work with my counselor around feelings and things. It’s really helpful. I

mean . . . I used to put holes in the walls, you know?”

Heather participates in Community Life & Advocacy activities, including the Voices program, a support group

that gives women with IDD a safe space to discuss healthy relationships, personal safety, and healing from

past trauma. The best thing that she’s learned, though, is how to build a better relationship with her family.

“I knew I had to do that myself. I had to take the initiative and show them what kind of person I am now.”

These days, Heather and her mom talk on the phone regularly, and she visits on holidays and special

weekends. “My mom and I have a great time; I help her in the garden. Sometimes we just act silly together,

but we can talk about anything. Like our jobs. I actually like mine a lot.”

Heather works in a local restaurant, and a recent visit found her making the daily special—meat loaf.

“Heather is a great meat loaf maker,” her supervisor says. “That’s why we always have her mix the

ingredients.”

“When my mom first came and visited after I’d moved here she said “Oh my gosh you’ve changed so much!”

Heather laughs, then grows thoughtful. “I try to remove myself from situations that I know are bad for me.

And I get along better with people now.”

Heather’s social skills have gotten so strong that she is now an active member of The Arc ECT’s Volunteer

Corps. “I got to help last year when we did the lunch for the veterans at the VFW. My dad is a veteran. I liked

doing that.”

Heather is currently making handmade jewelry to sell at craft fairs and farmers markets, and learning Spanish.

“I want to sell enough jewelry to be able to pay for a Spanish course at the college. I don’t want to just speak

English all my life—that’s too boring!”

Heather’s mom is overjoyed. “There’s been a tremendous change in Heather, both physically and emotionally.

You know, sometimes when I’m dropping her off at her house after we’ve had a visit, or we’ve been shopping,

she’ll turn around at the door and wave to me with a smile and say ‘Bye, Mom!’ and to this day, even now,

I think, I can’t believe she’s this happy, and doing this well. I am so grateful that she’s safe, and has people

who care for her.”

Heather’s in charge of mixing

all the ingredients for the daily

special at Puffins Restaurant

in Groton.

Heather enjoyed her moment on the red carpet at this year’s Film Festival.

The Arc Quinebaug Valley and The Arc New London County merged in July 2019 to form The Arc Eastern Connecticut.  Both agencies were established in 1952 by parents of children with intellectual disabilities in order to ensure equal participation and choice in school, in the workplace, and in their communities. Combining program and staff strengths, The Arc Eastern Connecticut now serves the entire eastern CT region and is the largest chapter of The Arc in the state.

The Arc Eastern Connecticut

125 Sachem Street

Norwich, Connecticut 06360

T: 860.889.4435

F: 860.889.4662

E: info@thearcect.org

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Copyright © 2019 The Arc Eastern Connecticut. All Rights Reserved.