Now enrolling for summer programs. Click here to learn more.

Embracing Differences, Building Friendships: Cross’s Transformation with ACCESS Life

Story by Cathy and Eric Coleman

In the heart of Little Rock, where resources for young adults with special needs were scarce, our son Cross found his place to thrive. As parents, we always believed in Cross’s ability to overcome challenges, even his speech limitations, if he felt embraced and accepted.

From a young age, Cross displayed a cleverness that both amused and challenged those around him. He became a master of nonverbal jokes, a trickster delighting in attention. Sometimes it landed him in timeout, but we cherished the glimpses of his personality shining through without spoken words, accompanied by the infectious sound of his laughter.

Our first visit to observe ACCESS Life sparked hope. We sensed that within this community, there was room for Cross’s unique personality in a young adult learning environment. We understood that Cross wasn’t (at that time) the usual profile of a member of ACCESS Life, but we trusted that the team involved would give him a chance to prove himself. And prove himself he did.

The initial years were a rollercoaster, but no one gave up – not the ACCESS staff, not Eric and me, and most certainly not Cross. He embraced the challenges, winning hearts and working diligently. Even on days when he was reluctant to showcase his capabilities, he loved every moment at ACCESS Life. Witnessing our son eagerly jumping out of bed in the morning, excited to go to “work,” is an indescribable joy.

Cross has blossomed into a responsible and mature young man. Transitioning from a video gamer and Wiggles enthusiast, he evolved from a somewhat lonely, only child to having genuine friends through ACCESS Life. These friends, like family, love and support each other, embracing differences without judgment. They celebrate birthdays, dance, and play, but they also collaborate and care for each other.

ACCESS Life has instilled in Cross the value of volunteering and helping others. His eyes light up when he works at the Arkansas Food Bank on Mondays, and he thrives side-by-side in the garden, discovering individual strengths and supporting his friends. Initially hesitant about work, he found his niche and revels in being the strong man who carries heavy garden soil, showcasing his newfound skills.

Cross’s life is now a rich tapestry of connections and learned skills. He cooks, does laundry, cares for pets, and maintains a clean room, taking pride in contributing to our little family.

As parents, our hearts swell with pride and gratitude for the support Cross has received at ACCESS. The journey has transformed him into a young man filled with confidence, surrounded by friends who appreciate him for who he is. Cross’s story is not just about overcoming challenges; it’s about discovering independence, forming genuine connections, and celebrating the richness of a life well-lived.