Since its inception in 1954, the Northeast Arc has been developing cutting edge programs and services to help people with developmental disabilities have successful lives. Knowing that autism was becoming more prevalent, the Arc opened the first of its kind Autism Support Center twenty-six years ago, quickly becoming recognized as the leading provider of specialized autism services in our region. The agency offers an ever-growing array of supports to individuals of all ages with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.
The Northeast Arc is leading the way again by redefining the way people with disabilities live. Moving from group homes to shared and independent living has proven very beneficial. The innovative non-profit recently created Linden Suites in Salem for young adults on the autism spectrum. The completely renovated home offers three two-bedroom units.
“We’re proud to offer this as part of our full range of options for people to meet their goals of where and how they want to live in the community,” says Jo Ann Simons, president & CEO, Northeast Arc.
Support services increasing resident’s independent living skills range from 10-35 hours a week based on individual need. Two resident aides who live on the top floor guide residents in the event of an emergency and help create community within the building. Having resident aides in the building also provides peace of mind for the parents whose adult children are living on their own for the first time.
“When people with disabilities turn 22-years-old the way they are supported by the state and federal government changes dramatically,” says JoAnne Wahl, director of residential services at Northeast Arc. “We work with the families we serve to plan for this change and the next phase of life.”
The way the Northeast Arc provides residential support continues to evolve to meet changing needs and create sustainable living options. Linden Suites is part of a new wave of options to support the growing need. The community has been very welcoming. From Mayor Kim Driscoll to the Salem State University Alumni Association members, who have ‘adopted’ Linden Suites, come over to do yard work, bring pizza to the residents, and ensure they feel connected to the greater community.
The Horrigan family of Marblehead has worked with the Northeast Arc for many years and is grateful for this opportunity for their 22-year-old son, Ryan, who has autism, to give him a greater sense of independence and help him continue to develop the skills he needs to lead a happy and productive life.
Ryan’s mom, Nancy Norman, an attorney who practices immigration law and her husband Mark Horrigan, also an attorney who focuses on personal injury law, say that it has been an exhaustive journey to make sure they are doing everything they can to ensure Ryan is successful.
“We are constantly wondering, ‘Where is his life going?’ and ‘who will be there for Ryan when we are not?,’ says Nancy Norman. “We are thrilled that Ryan is adjusting so well in his new home. He has lots of freedom and with that comes responsibility such as making his own breakfast and lunch. Knowing there is someone in the house to check in on him and keep him organized is very comforting.”
Ryan, who was the first resident to move into the apartment, is also adjusting to having a roommate for this first time. George Heffernan, 25, of Salem has joined Ryan in the house and the two seem to be adjusting well.
George has been receiving support from the Northeast Arc since he was eight years old and his father has nothing but praise for the organization that has helped his son overcome many obstacles.
“Every program that my son has been involved with at the Northeast Arc has been very positive and has helped him to succeed,” says his father, George Carey Jr., the owner of FINZ and Sea Level Restaurants in Salem and the new Sea Level Restaurant in Newburyport. “I’m confident he will be successful in his new home with the continued support of the Arc.”
A young woman with autism has also recently moved into the building. She looks forward to being joined by an apartment mate, who the Northeast Arc will ensure is a good match.
With their families nearby these young adults are able to see them frequently. “Ryan has been coming home on Saturday nights so we can have a family day on Sunday,” says Norman. “I really think he comes so he can see the dog,” she jokes.
“Things are going surprisingly well,” adds Ryan’s Dad, Mark Horrigan. “This is a major transition for all of us, but is also a great opportunity. We miss him, but it is great that he is so close by so we can see and support him.”