April's Story "I'm Not a Nobody"

My name is April.  I used to think I wasn’t ever going to be who I wanted to be, I thought I’d be a nobody.  I didn’t fit in because I have an anxiety disorder and a learning disability.  My school years were hard.  In middle school, I was either ignored by the kids or called the "R" word.  I wanted friends, but nobody wanted to be my friend.  I had so much anxiety that sometimes at home I would hit and spit at my mom.  I didn’t know how to handle myself.

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When I started high school, I was afraid it wouldn’t be any better for me.  But then I took a life skills class for students with learning disabilities.  The class taught how to work at a business. We started a coffee shop at school called The Roar.  I learned to take orders, answer the phones, make change and restock the store.  I liked being with kids who were like me.  I made such good friends.  This class helped me in so many ways. I didn’t know it then, but it would help even more later on.

After I graduated from high school, I had a plan to go to college, get a job and someday live on my own.  Because of my low-grade point average, I didn’t get accepted.  It was upsetting because I wanted to get a job helping kids with developmental disabilities like me.  That is what I’ve always wanted to do.  Instead of college, I went to work at SWI Solutions (the workshop). I filled the plastic Easter eggs with candy.  I felt accepted there and made a lot of friends.  But, I knew I could do more with my life.  I knew God had a plan for me. So, I worked harder and soon became a receptionist there.  Then one day my boss asked me if I thought I was ready to work out in the community.  With the experience I got at The Roar and SWI, I felt I was ready.  I’m proud to say I got a job working for Abilities First, an organization that helps people with developmental disabilities have inclusive opportunities.

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I am so busy now- I work in the office, help in our boutique and recently I started helping with the children who have autism.  I help them learn how to follow step directions and I also help them get to know each other.  I talk to the kids about things they enjoy and give them support and a smile.  I love helping children.  The best thing about working for Abilities First is that I am treated like everyone else and I have made lots of friends.

My mom has supported me every step of the way.  When someone would say “April can’t do something”, my mom would always say, “Yes she can”.  She’s the reason I now live on my own, in my own house.  Another important thing is that I have a friendship with God.  He is there for me.  He’s always been my friend when I didn’t have one.  I feel like He is using my disability to help others.  I’ve talked to people who have been made fun of and felt lonely.  I tell them God sees you and knows who you are.  There is no shame and it doesn’t matter that you have a disability.  You aren’t a nobody and neither am I.

April is employed by Abilities First through First Steps and Inspired Boutique, and volunteers at Art Inspired Academy. Abilities First believes that by ensuring that people have opportunities to use their abilities, we can make our community better for everyone. Abilities First uses public and private funds to support the choices of individuals with developmental disabilities in Greene County to live, work, play, be active, and productive in meaningful ways for our community. For more information about Abilities First and its programs, go to www.abilitiesfirst.net or call 417-886-0404.

Abilities First operates programs which support and create community opportunities including support coordination for people with developmental disabilities of all ages through First Steps (birth – 3 years) and The Next Step (3 years – over). Art Inspired Academy provides an inclusive experience for people with and without disabilities to participate in creative arts like theater, music, dance, and art. Abilities First has two retail businesses: Inspired Boutique is an upscale resale shop featuring women’s clothing, accessories, furniture, and antiques, and Art Inspired, a retail store and gallery highlighting furniture and home décor items created from recycled paper and artwork from visiting artists and Academy students. Both stores offer competitive job opportunities in inclusive work environments