At about 4:30 p.m. each weekday, the halls of SOAR365 come alive with the sound of music. Saxophone music, that is. And the musician is Trey, a tall, lean, dark-haired 18-year-old student who comes to SOAR365 after his school day at Godwin High School in Henrico County.
“Early on, he had a knack for music. Seems like any instrument he picks up, he can play,” says his dad, Bucky. “He can read music or play by ear, and took piano earlier, but now he loves the saxophone.”
And the staff and clients at SOAR365 enjoy hearing Trey’s saxophone just as much as he enjoys playing it! “I love hearing him play each afternoon, it’s calming and puts me in a good mood,” says Trey’s case manager at SOAR365.
Adopted from Russia when he was seven months old, Trey didn’t immediately display signs of his autism. Rather, it was his physical deficiencies that Trey’s parents first noticed. Once they started tracking the developmental milestones he was missing, they were soon led to other diagnoses, primarily autism and intellectual disabilities.
Trey joins more than 75 other children and youth with disabilities in SOAR365’s Children and Youth program, spread across two locations, operating on weekdays in the hours after school (2:00 – 7:00 p.m.), on school breaks, and during the summers. SOAR365 is here for students and families until high school graduation, which by law can be until they are 22 years old. The program’s year-round curriculum for students is guided by a core of well-trained professional staff who are as gregarious and fun-loving as their young clients.
While Trey happily admits that playing saxophone is his favorite part of the day, he says that he also likes being outside, going on trips in the community and playing basketball. These activities – and the others Trey doesn’t mention – all contribute to his Individual Service Plan, which is essentially the professional care team’s game-plan for meeting Trey’s social, behavioral, physical and cognitive objectives. Trey’s case managers create plans that are robust and intended to challenge Trey and help him achieve his personal outcomes centered around life skills and work readiness.
“SOAR365 is addressing needs we didn’t even realize he had,” Trey’s mother, Linda, explains. “And SOAR365 reinforces the life skills that are needed outside these walls,” Bucky notes.
Linda noticed that once Trey started coming to SOAR365, it wasn’t just about meeting his basic needs, it was about challenging him. That desire to see him grow really resonates with Bucky and Linda’s values as a family. “We expect the same of Trey as we do with our other son: to have good behavior and to perform to the best of his ability,” Bucky explains as Linda nods. “The target might be different, but the expectation is the same.”
“Just about every one of his disabilities – autism, ADHD, intellectual disability, low-tone motor skills, low-tone oral skills, communication delays and so forth – are worked on at SOAR365.” Bucky immediately adds: “Worked on in fun and engaging ways!”
And it’s that fun and engaging element that makes Trey love coming to SOAR365 day after day.
Coming to SOAR energized the whole family, and it allowed Bucky and Linda to see – with new eyes – how well Trey was behaving in the program and around others in the community. “He is doing so well here, that he was just able to move into his own (assisted-living) apartment,” Bucky says proudly with a big smile. “He launched!”
As for what’s ahead, the whole family agrees that his future is bright. Trey is on track to graduate from high school on schedule in 2021, and with the encouragement of his parents and the career-building skills of SOAR365, he will look for a job.
“SOAR365 has allowed Trey to grow … and soar,” says Linda. “Trey is just like the logo. Really, I think about that every time I walk into the building and see the beautiful origami crane flying high … that’s Trey.”