From an early age, there were high expectations for Harper Turman. With the right tools, he’d speak. With the right supports, he’d have hobbies. And with the right planning, he’d enter the world of employment.
How quickly those expectations and dreams became a reality for Harper, who has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome. This past spring, the 18-year-old stood alongside his peers at the Class of 2011 graduation. His mother Nicole (and PEAL Board Member) notes how important Harper’s supports have been – and how crucial it was to have a plan.
“Having that vision and being able to stick with it and stay focused is what helped me to bring everyone on board that needed to share in that vision,” said Nicole. “I expect Harper to continue learning new things. I expect him to work (and he is right now) with the supports that he needs. And, I expect him to live in a place of his own and of his choosing with supports he needs to be successful.”
Now, Harper will continue to receive educational programming from the public school system until he is 21. Nicole and the support team worked hard to put together a meaningful post-high school program for Harper, which he will begin in Fall 2011.
“Harper will have work experience built into his program,” said Nicole. “He’ll be working at a local hospital, theater (when shows are running) and fire department, along with other community businesses.”
This work, in combination with a community college class, will help Harper continue to build work skills, gain independence and develop pragmatic social skills for the workplace.
This summer Harper is busy with an ESY program that is also work experience. He is working as camp counselor at a day camp, where he was once a camper. He held this same paid position last summer as part of the Work Incentive Act (WIA), a program available to youth in the Johnstown, PA, area. Unfortunately, the funding ended this year, but Harper was able to secure the position through a school partnership.
Nicole notes other critical supports throughout Harper’s life. He had early involvement with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), where he was able to have testing done and identify future resources.
“Having those services in place makes all the difference in having the support Harper will need as he finishes his educational programming,” said Nicole.
In addition, Harper also had natural supports. He was included in his school, church and community, where he formed relationships and friendships. He is now an avid biker, swimmer and takes drum lessons. He also uses a laptop, which was a great resource to him in school and his social life.
Nicole and her family had access to another family who provided support and advice along the way. She credits this relationship, along with proper planning, to Harper’s successful transition to adulthood.