I have been thinking a lot about Pat Nobbie, Ph.D. In Georgia, she was a tremendous advocate for children with disabilities. She served as the deputy director for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities for 12 years. Pat did amazing work and I was fortunate to get to know her better when we created the Champions for Children Program, which helps medically challenged children when they are facing a crisis in Georgia.
The best part of Pat’s story is that she is not only moving to D.C. to study as a fellow with the Joseph P. Kennedy Public Policy Foundation, she leaves Atlanta with the knowledge that her family will be okay. This is really a big deal. Many parents of children with disabilities have a nagging fear in their heads that they always have to be around, even when the children are adults.
But Pat’s daughter Mia has learned to live her dreams and carve out her own life. Mia is charming and has many talents, along with living with the challenges of Down’s Syndrome. It was another mother’s story that led Pat to see a future where Mia could “live in her own place with people who care about and support her, and it wouldn’t necessarily have to be me.” (Making A Difference, Winter 2013.) Mia now lives with a family that cares for her and helps support her.
At first, Mia had wanted to work in a day care program. Mia was told she couldn’t work with children because she had to pass the tech school entrance exam or get the certificate. Yet Mia had an incredible record of successfully working with children for 12 years in Sunday School. Then another advocate shared a story with Pat of how her daughter with a disability loved working in a day care center. That gave Pat and Mia hope about finding the right job.
Then an unexpected great job developed. Mia now works 20 hours a week doing office support at a local hospital. ”She loves it and she’s doing great,” Pat said. Mia even takes paratransit to work three days a week.
In Pat’s goodbye article, “GCDD’s Pat Nobbie Taking on a ‘New Club’” in “Making a Difference” magazine, she urges parents to share their stories. It is through stories that we can think in a different way and make sure that our children are included in real ways with their peers, and in the communities. Indeed, it is this kind of storytelling that spreads the word that everyone is better when our homes, jobs, schools and communities are truly integrated and welcoming….where “Everyone’s Included.”
You can see some great pictures of Pat and Mia at GCDD.org. Just click on their website and go to the “Making a Difference” magazine, Winter 2013.