Naomi Reichert’s mother sang at Carnegie Hall, so there’s no wonder she has musical ability. And when her father watched her closely as a “preemie,” he noticed that her tiny hand would keep the beat to music. Today, Naomi’s natural musical abilities are just one of her many strengths.
“Naomi can sing on pitch and has a very good sense of rhythm,” says J.P. Simpson, the Arc’s music director. “She’s an important member of our band and brings a lot of enthusiasm to our performances. She has a sweet, high singing voice, almost a soprano.”
Although Naomi has a natural knack for music, her parents credit J.P. and the Arc for developing Naomi’s musical skills further. “J.P. has made marvelous advances with her,” says her mother, Joyce. “He validates her strengths. He respects them and doesn’t talk down to them. He’s tremendously skilled. We love J.P.”
“The Arc’s community arts program is second to none,” says Naomi’s father, Jonathan. “The program is not good, it’s spectacular and I choose my words wisely. J.P. is amazing.”
“J.P. is a good guy,” adds Naomi, who enjoys singing in the Arc’s Gregory Street Blues Band.
Naomi and her twin sister, Miriam, were born six weeks early. For most of her life, she has suffered from grand mal seizures, although they tend to be infrequent. As a child, she developed slowly but also had some innate abilities.
“Naomi can process the visual and also has some peculiar powers, like with music,” said her father, Jonathan. “But other things are impossible for her mind to breach. For example, she knows all the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary by heart, but if you try to teach her a short poem, she is unable to learn it.”
Naomi lives at the Arc home on Shaftsbury Road. Her parents are as impressed with the home as they are with the arts program. “It’s an astounding program,” said Jonathan. “She seems extremely happy there. It’s by far the best place for her. She’s always ready to go back.”
“Gina, her advocate, is an angel. She handles everything with such grace. Naomi had a medical procedure recently and it was not easy, but she’s always there for her. “
“Gina is a saint,” said Joyce. “Jennifer, the manager of the home, is beyond great. She’s decisive, intelligent, communicates well and makes the right decision instantly.”
“When we first looked at Shaftsbury for Naomi, I said ‘yes’ as we walked in,” recalled Joyce. “We had a great impression because of the way they treated the residents…with respect. It is a wonderful, supportive environment.”
Joyce and Jonathan chose Camp Hill in Pennsylvania for Naomi’s home in her adolescent and teen years, which also benefited Naomi. “They turned Naomi from a wild child into a gracious lady with excellent social skills,” said Joyce. Camp Hill is unique in the field of developmental disabilities, primarily because the staff lives with the residents.
As a child, Naomi was fortunate to be a patient of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a nationally-known pediatrician and child development expert. Although he had a waiting list “a mile long,” he was also conducting a study on twins, so Naomi and her sister were accepted.
“Naomi was terrified of doctor’s offices,” said Jonathan. “She had always heard kids screaming and yelling from the waiting room when other children were getting shots. He told us that he would see her every day if we brought her in and that he’d be out within five minutes with a lollipop for her. He did, and that broke the cycle of her not going to the doctors.”
The Reicherts realize they are fortunate to have had so much loving support and care from others over Naomi’s 51 years. She has grown into a happy, mature, confident woman who enjoys singing in a band, shopping, drawing, and helping with chores in the kitchen. She also spends time “praying for the staff,” she said, as she sat serenely at the dining room table of her home.
Naomi is “charming, gracious and polite,” said Joyce. “She has reached her peak and is excelling in all areas of her life. Although we understand it’s not perfect, we have total praise for the Arc.”
“When I see Naomi in her world, she’s doing well,” said Jonathan. “I’m pleased that she’s happy and beyond pleased with the Arc.”