"So many people helped us along the way – I wanted to pay it forward, and be there for other families needing additional support."

Melissa Hochberg
Community Center
Fairfax, VA

 

After raising three boys with learning disabilities, she now helps other families

I have three boys and they all had a variety of learning disabilities and challenges, so once they were all in a good place I decided to go back to school and get a degree in special education. So many people helped us along the way – I wanted to pay it forward, and be there for other families needing additional support.

Now I work part time as a Preschool Resource Teacher at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia – supporting the children, staff and parents, and working together to identify early interventions and make sure every child has what they need to thrive. I love that we make a difference in a child’s life, and help parents understand how to support their kids so that things are easier now and down the road. That’s half of my job.

The other half is that I work in the special needs department, coordinating the Going Places! social clubs for teens, young adults and adults with High Functioning Autism. Each group meets monthly, providing a safe place for the members to meet people, enjoy a variety of activities and make friends. For many of our members, this is their only social outlet because once they finish school they lose their ability to connect socially on a daily basis. I’ve known many of the members and their families for almost 10 years. We have romances and friendships in the groups. It’s very gratifying to see the members grow and thrive in the group and in their lives.

Everyone that knows me knows what I do, because I’m very passionate about it. The preschoolers are wonderful little people free of bias and preconceptions. The members of our social clubs are fun and talented and there’s never a dull moment. People need to find what appeals to them, and how they want to give back — something that speaks to their passions and experiences.

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