Community Advocate: Jennifer Noxsel
Congratulations to our latest Community Advocate, Ross High School Speech-Language Pathologist, Jennifer Noxsel!
The Community Advocate series, features someone in the Butler County community that is going above and beyond to advocate for those with developmental disabilities (DD)!
Jennifer is currently a Speech-Language Pathologist for Ross High School and Ross Middle school. Jennifer began her career primarily in the public school system 40 years ago and says she always felt led to a career path that involved making a difference in the lives of others especially those who cannot advocate for themselves.
“It seems unbelievable my work with the DD community began nearly 30 years ago,” Jennifer said. “Over the years I have encountered some incredible people, staff members, and students! Everyday I’m blessed with the opportunity to connect with caring, capable, and innovative people who want to make a difference in the lives of those around them. Our Ross supports staff, teachers, and administrators are amazing! I get to see lots of ‘ah-ha’ moments and count milestones as students’ progress toward their communication goals.”
According to Jennifer, she has always been a huge advocate for the DD community but now she says she is more focused on communicating to the community why it is so important that they too advocate for those with disabilities.
“It’s important to advocate for those with DD simply because many individuals with disabilities are unable to advocate for themselves,” Jennifer said. “We are their voices. When we work as a team to provide opportunities for those with disabilities, the result is access to learning, social connections, and opportunities. Our communities become more aware of and comfortable with others who learn and communicate in ways that differ from our own. We are all created by God in His image. People with disabilities have the same needs that everyone has, including the right to be treated with respect and compassion. The first step for someone who wants to get involved is to look around you. We are surrounded by individuals and families in need and local organizations looking for volunteers. Start small but dream big.”
In addition to advocating for the DD population, Jennifer has been involved in First LEGO League (FLL), which is now a part of Ross Rambotics, for 17 years.
“The program was started as an opportunity for individuals on the autism spectrum and those with learning differences to participate in an engaging team activity with peers to improve their communication and social skills,” Jennifer explained. “We now have school teams with individuals of differing ability levels who work together to build and program LEGO robots for competitions. The program has expanded to the high school level. Each year, our high school Rambotics team builds a competition robot, teaches a programming camp for younger students, and finds a way to give back to the community by helping those in need.”
BCBDD SSA, Cassie Ring Murray, says Jennifer has been a part of a team that serves a Ross High School student who is enrolled with BCBDD and has been instrumental in that student’s growth is so many different ways.
“Over the past year, Jennifer has worked with a student on my case load, providing educational services to him in the home, after school hours, and accompanying him when he had communication needs at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital,” Cassie said. “She reaches far beyond her work as a communication specialist to support the needs of the student and their family. Jennifer is an experienced professional and is a tremendous advocate for students with disabilities in our community. She is kind, empathetic, respectful, and resourceful. Recently, Jennifer introduced a communication device to a non-verbal teen who had never previously used communication technology before. He is now thriving with the device and learning more every week!”
Jennifer says she hopes to continue to find ways to connect technology, both low and high tech, with the DD community to improve their access to learning, working, and connecting with their communities.
“My most recent project is working with our Ross High School engineering teacher and students to make a switch toy for a student so he can take turns playing a fun, teen-appropriate game with a peer,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer says she hopes to continue her advocacy in a number of ways in the future but importantly wants to continue making special memories with those she supports.
“One special memory I remember vividly involved a 4th grade student who initially was unable to speak intelligibly.” Jennifer said. “She got a speech generating device and with intensive therapy developed functional speech. She comprehended symbols but not text, which made reading seem impossible. I worked with the school librarian to convert the text in books into picture symbols so this student could read aloud and participate in her school’s reading contest. That was in a Kentucky school nearly 30 years ago before iPads and cool tools we now use were available, but it was when I realized technology and teamwork, combined with a generous amount of gumption, could make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities.”
Do you know someone that is doing an outstanding job advocating for individuals with DD? Please put your nomination in for the next featured Community Advocate by Friday, April 5. Remember this opportunity is open to ANYONE that is doing big things for the DD community!