These are just a few of the words that describe Patrick Staley. An avid Buffalo Bills fan, he loves to play sports, especially football. He likes to read and watch movies with friends. He enjoys bike rides along the canal with his roommate. He is also on the autism spectrum. Because of access to Al Sigl Member Agency programs and strong family support, Patrick has been able to envision, and create, a successful future fully included in community life.
“Don’t ever give up on what you are trying to achieve. Everyone’s path is different.”
At 18 months, his mother, Dee, began to notice that Patrick had difficulty engaging with others. Their pediatrician said to give him time. By the age of 4, Patrick was speaking only a few words at a time. A close friend, with an older child who had gone through similar challenges, suggested that Dee connect with the Advocacy Center. Known today as Starbridge, the nonprofit is one of Al Sigl’s seven Member Agencies. The team there taught Dee different ways to help Patrick learn and grow, including music therapy. They found a Speech Therapist who offered home-based sessions, which Rochester Hearing & Speech Center, another Al Sigl Member Agency, also provides. Not long after that, Patrick began attending school.
From a very early age, Patrick loved staying active. His dad, Lee, is a coach, and his older sister, Leah, is also a natural athlete. Leah encouraged Patrick to check out different sports. In High School, he discovered how much he enjoyed being part of a team, trying out wrestling before joining both varsity football and track. He also competed in a wide range of sports through Special Olympics.
“Pursuing my goals made me more confident.”
Like his sister, Patrick wanted to attend college after graduation. He enrolled in Roberts Wesleyan College’s BELL (Bridge to Earning, Learning, and Living) Program. BELL is a partnership with Monroe 2 BOCES Orleans and CP Rochester, another Al Sigl Member Agency. All BELL courses, activities, and work experiences are focused on each student‘s interests and career goals. Everyone in the campus community benefits from inclusive experiences.
As part of Patrick’s coursework, he helped run practices for the modified football program at Gates-Chili High School. He also had an internship where he was responsible for keeping the High School gym and weight room organized. Patrick graduated from the program on his 21st birthday, a proud memory that still brings a smile. He continued to attend classes in coaching and explored becoming a personal trainer. While at Roberts, Patrick wondered why most students in the BELL Program lived off-campus. He successfully advocated for the opportunity for BELL students to stay in the dorms, just like students studying in other areas.
“I had a very good experience in the BELL Program. It has helped me to become more independent, make lots of new friends with everybody on campus, and prepare myself for the future.”
Even before his time at college, Patrick was always looking ahead. During his Senior Year, he took part in Creating A Life After High School, a program offered at Starbridge. He explored how he could turn his love of the warm summer weather and years of taking care of his family’s own yard, into a business. With funds available to each program graduate, he was able to purchase eco-friendly lawn equipment. The business he started, Pat’s Green Machines, is still going strong.
During High School, Patrick was also active in Gates-Chili’s Peer Leadership program. As an Eagle Scout, he mentored other scouts on their service projects. He continues to be an enthusiastic volunteer. He is a member of UNITE, a nonprofit that helps college or university students with special needs take part in team sports and inter-collegiate special events. He also participates in the Special Olympics Ambassador training program.
“I like to work, I like being social and helping people.”
In addition to beginning his lawn care business and working toward his career goals in the BELL Program, Patrick has had several internships and jobs as he has explored different career paths. He often starts with a job coach to learn about the details of each role, then transitions to working on his own with natural supports from his coworkers. By enrolling in Self-Direction services, which means that he chooses the supports and services that best fit his goals, Patrick is able to set up and pay for these job supports, as well as take part in respite and community recreation opportunities.
Today, Patrick is a member of the Al Sigl Facilities team, where he has worked for the last five years. He especially likes keeping the shop equipment clean and ready for use. He also works at the Friendly Home, helping the Food Service team and interacting with residents.
“I may have autism, but autism doesn’t keep me from realizing my goals.”
In 2020, Patrick achieved another important goal when he moved into an apartment that he shares with a roommate. He continues to utilize Self-Direction services, goes to work, and makes time to exercise and play sports with friends.
It is because of your support of our work together that people of all ages and abilities, like Patrick, are able to choose their own path. Your continued support of our Member Agencies helps provide access to the resources that make success possible.
Each year, more individuals and families turn to our Member Agencies for access to critical services. Through your generosity, you have helped thousands of children and adults with special needs become more independent, achieve their goals, and be more fully included in community life.