Spotlight: Meet your Navigator Caroline Garrett

This month's spotlight focuses on Caroline Garrett, who joined NeuroNav in January. She will be joining the growing team of Service Navigators (also known as Independent Facilitators) at NeuroNav.

“I truly believe that person-centeredness is at the foundation of my work ethic. I also love learning about the people's uniqueness and their hopes and dreams and what they want to make happen for themselves. As a Navigator, I am committed to learning about the individual and what they want out of the self-determination program, and partnering with them and their family to make it happen.”

Caroline is on the autism spectrum. Her autism inspired her to pursue social work, specifically in the neurodiversity space. Caroline did not know that she was autistic until the end of high school and with the help of resources from the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and obtained a formal diagnosis at age twenty. As an autistic, she feels she has a first hand understanding of neurodiversity, along with the awareness that the uniqueness of autism means that though there are commonalities, she may not have the same experiences as another autistic person.

“As a neurodivergent person and social worker, I have the perspective of self-advocacy, the experience of working with individuals with ID/DD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) and their families in a professional context, and experience collaborating with other professionals who are neurotypical or autistic. This multifaceted experience helps me bridge gaps between the self-advocate, family, and professional viewpoints.”

Caroline has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Psychology from Meredith College, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work. She has a broad background in the ID/DD space, ranging from fundraising for the Autism Society to working in early intervention with preschoolers. She has also facilitated modified mental health therapy for adults as an intern at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. She feels it's really important to make mental health therapy accessible for ID/DD individuals. As she explained, a modified psychotherapy makes it more accessible for developmental disabilities and makes it more individualized based on each client's needs.

Her most interesting internship to date was at NC START, where she worked on crisis prevention for DD/ID individuals with co-occuring mental health needs. The program was designed to help people stay in their communities to fulfill the requirements of the Olmstead Decision. This internship helped her learn a lot about the DD service system and Medicaid as she had to work with a lot of managed care organizations (the equivalent of California’s Regional Centers). She appreciated the broader, holistic and person-centered approach at NC START that went beyond the traditional behavior centric approach towards autistic individuals. These are skills that she will bring to her current role at NeuroNav.

Caroline has always worked with nonprofits in the past, and says it is fun to work with a startup. She enjoys the work culture at NeuroNav and accommodating aspects of the self pace of the work involved. She is really excited to be joining the team at Neuronav and feels her personal mission and perspective really aligns with that of NeuroNav’s. She is looking forward to meeting and working with clients.

She defines her role as a service navigator at NeuroNav as working with people, helping them bridge the gap between learning about and getting started in the Self-Determination Program. This would involve advocating with their regional centers, developing their budget and spending plans to actually being able to implement the IPP (Individual Program Plan) under the Self-Determination Program.

As Caroline points out, self determination is the ability to make your own choices about how you want to lead your life based on your hopes, dreams, interests and goals; the ability to make a future for yourself based on what you want to do not based on what a traditional service system says is available to you. In fact, the principles of self-determination and the values behind it can be incorporated into anyone’s service plan in anyone’s life, regardless of if they are in the SDP program or in the traditional system.

Caroline continues to work with the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers, which is a network across the state that sets up workshops and provides continuing education to healthcare professionals. She also runs workshops about girls and women with autism, and teaches professionals about recognizing an under-diagnosed group of people, providing tips for gender-competency in practice.

So what does Caroline do for fun? She likes to play the flute and play chess. And when she thinks disability, the words diversity and inclusion come to mind.

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