Care Coordination at Work: Arion and Michelle

Michelle and Arion smiling sitting next to each other.

Michelle and Arion have a unique bond. Through her commitment as his care coordinator, Michelle has connected Arion with beneficial services that he needed to overcome some of his behavioral challenges.

Michelle LaRock, a care coordinator at Person Centered Services, has been managing care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 15 years. She’s watched many people grow and become successful in life, but no one’s success story touches her heart quite like the one of Arion Nelson.

When Michelle became the care coordinator for Arion, who is 9 years old, he was in crisis due to some challenging behaviors. At one point, he was removed from his home and receiving inpatient treatment.

“It was a struggle to get him to stay in the same room with me,” Michelle said. “There were times where he’d have outbursts in front of me. His [extreme] behavior was on the rise and he was being restrained at home and school.” 

Even though Arion’s behaviors were difficult to manage, Michelle says she was determined to create a positive, trusting relationship with him and obtain services that would be most beneficial for him and his family. She dedicated hours to spend with Arion and was creative in the ways she interacted with him. Because of her persistence and patience, her relationship with Arion grew into something special.

“I’d bring a card game with me that I knew he would be able to play,” said Michelle. “That’s how I got him to stay in the room with me. Now when I see him he gives me a big hug and talks with me on his own.”

Chelsea Webster, Michelle’s supervisor, says that Michelle connects with Arion and works with him in a way that no one else can. She says Michelle was able to make a complete turnaround with Arion by providing him services and her support.

Michelle standing next to Arion smiling with her arm around his shoulder.

Michelle’s favorite part about working with Arion are his hugs and seeing his smiles!

“I told Arion’s parents about all of the services available,” Michelle said. “I wasn’t sure if Arion would be accepted into everything, but we still applied for everything he could benefit from.”

Today, Arion is in the after-school program for children with high behavioral challenges through Family Support Services at The Arc of Wayne. The program helps him stick to a schedule after school, and Michelle says Arion looks forward to going every day. Arion also attends school at Hillside Children’s Center.

Arion posing next to a tree in the woods.

Michelle is proud of how far Arion has come since she started working with him.

Michelle knows that it can be difficult working with a child diagnosed with autism, like Arion, but she says that if you’re patient, supportive and a hard-worker you can do it.

“Arion’s hit many bumps in the road in his short life, but he’s overcome many things,” said Michelle. “Now he has a great relationship with me and is working on having better relationships with his parents and siblings.”

Because of Michelle’s persistence and Arion’s parents’ support, Arion’s life has improved in many ways. Arion now stays in his home, communicates his needs, and remains stable at school.

“I’ve advocated for him with all of my heart to get him the services he needs. I’m always looking for more services that can help his family,” Michelle said.

Michelle and Arion have a bond like no other, and through care coordination both of their lives have been impacted for the better.

“My favorite parts about working with Arion are his hugs and seeing his smile when I walk in the room,” said Michelle. “When I see him happy and doing well he makes my job worth doing.”