Empowering families is what drives Aimee Velazquez, program director for Northeast Arc Early Intervention (EI) Cape Ann.

Velazquez began working for Northeast Arc as a developmental therapist in 2012. She has a background in elementary education and was a classroom teacher for a decade before joining the organization.

“I’ve been to hundreds of IEP meetings, as a teacher, as a clinician supporting families, and also a parent,” said Velazquez. “I have an autistic child, so I’ve sat on all sides of the table. I like the collaboration and the opportunity to support families through our work in Early Intervention.”

Velazquez’s son, now 16, received EI services when he was a toddler. She was so impressed by the supports provided through Northeast Arc that she began working per diem in the Building Blocks program, which at the time was contracted to provide services through the Department of Developmental Services’ Autism Waiver program. She transitioned to EI after a year, finding that her passion was in working with families of children under the age of 3.

“It’s so important to normalize the experience of disability,” she said. “There’s a lot of information shared out there that can be very negative or ableist. I love being part of an organization that strives toward being completely supportive—for individuals and families. As part of Northeast Arc, we can change the narrative and create a space of equity. In EI, it’s the first conversation a lot of families are having, and the tone—especially in those early days—sets the tone for their life.”

Velazquez was named an EI program director in 2022. The Cape Ann division is one of two divisions (along with the North Shore division), and it oversees about 400 families. Services are available through home visits, center-based visits, assessments, parent-child groups, parent support groups, service coordination, and referral and transition assistance.

Outside of her work in EI, Velazquez also serves on Northeast Arc’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Committee, which is focused on developing awareness on cultural sensitivity and inclusion, and attracting and retaining a talented workforce skilled at working in an inclusive and respectful manner with one another and with the community. The committee grew out of a series led by YW Boston, an organization that helps individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes and behaviors, with the goal of creating more inclusive environments.

“We want to continue to create safe spaces and make sure all voices are represented when we’re looking at supports and recruitment,” said Velazquez.

A Danvers resident, Velazquez says her entire family is involved with Northeast Arc. Her husband attends a support group for dads through the Autism Support Center, and their son participates in some recreational activities. Her daughter, Solé, has followed her professional footpath and is working as a direct support professional in residential services.

Share This