Finding Her Voice By Sharing Her Heart Laurie Maitland is Finally Free To Soar To The Stars

LaurieHer roots are humble but her dreams have always been huge. Born and raised in a loving home on Long Island, New York, Laurie Maitland delights in connecting with others through music. A gifted musician who taught herself to play piano and began writing her own music at age 6, Laurie also produces and stars in her own videos. According to Laurie, “Music and performing is the way I express who I am.”

Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of 3, Laurie has worked hard to overcome many hurdles to going mainstream and making her mark in this world. Monica, Laurie's mother, explains that everything with Laurie is a learned experience. She stresses that hands-on guidance and early intervention have helped bring Laurie this far. Monica believes that Laurie's best is ahead of her emphasizing that “with God all things are possible.”

For many years, Laurie's narrow focus on particular artists and music combined with an extreme sensitivity to certain sounds and tones affected her ability to be open and flexible. This greatly limited her opportunities to share her passion with others. Despite these challenges, Laurie graduated from Summit High School showcasing her musical gifts with a performance of “Surround Me With Love” that brought many of her teachers, parents and peers to tears.

As a young adult Laurie desired employment in the community and, with her family behind her, enlisted the help of the Supported Employment program at The Center for Developmental Disabilities. In September 2006, Laurie was hired as a page by the Shelter Rock Public Library to file books according to the Dewey Decimal System. Laurie was conscientious and well liked by coworkers and patrons alike. Yet it was clear that music was the passion of her heart and she wasn't completely settled. Instead of curtailing her creativity which was challenging her at work, efforts were made to harness and to channel it.

In June 2007, The Center working with Atria Assisted Living created a position to move Laurie closer to finding her niche and realizing her dreams. Laurie was hired to entertain the residents two days a week singing and playing old favorites on the baby grand piano in the facility's beautiful parlor. “I thought we should give Laurie a try and she has really become part of the family here,” recalls Babs Mohel, Engage Life Director. Relating to staff and residents and doing what she loves has enhanced Laurie's social skills and expanded her musical tastes. She has grown in her relationships with residents and staff learning to adapt her show to their liking. She makes it a point to interact with individual audience members remembering names and personal preferences which contributes to an overall atmosphere of caring and good will. Because of the safe and supportive environment at Atria, the loving instruction she receives at home and the facilitation supported employment provides her, Laurie has been making strides meeting and exceeding many of the goals she sets for herself.

As a result of growing as a person and an artist, Laurie felt ready to audition for Got Talent? A Competition to Benefit Autism held at the Times Square Arts Center in Manhattan. Of 100 acts initially auditioning by video, Laurie was one of 42 chosen to perform live. Interestingly, she was also one of only 2 performers with a disability. In April 2010, Laurie performed at the quarterfinals which was a great accomplishment as traveling to New York City at night was not on her radar. “I'm more open and ready to try new things,” Laurie declared after successfully navigating through the night and having a great time. Through on-line and judge's votes, Laurie advanced to the Grand Finale. She performed “The Greatest Love of All” before an audience of over 370 people winning first place and an entertainment package which includes recording time in a professional studio as well as opportunities to perform in Manhattan and New Jersey. Through her participation in this event, Laurie raised over $4000 to benefit autism. As a result, Laurie is well on her way to achieving her dream of recording her own album one day and donating part of the proceeds to charities she supports. Towards this end, Laurie has recently partnered with a recording mentor and is learning new computer technology for recording her own music.

With greater satisfaction in this important area of her life, Laurie's other interests have broadened and taken on a new level of passion as well. Laurie loves practicing yoga and swimming, researching at the library, cooking and coupon shopping. She writes to friends and attends an in-home Bible study every week with several ladies where her input and prayers are welcomed and she is greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

Sensitive hearts listening carefully to hers are helping to swing the doors open wide giving Laurie a chance to tap into her potential and shine. As a result, Laurie's future is looking brighter each new day and many are touched with the joy and new found freedom she shares wherever she goes.

Laurie believes what she is living; that people with disabilities, like anyone else, can achieve what they set their hearts on and can be all they were created to be. In November 2010, Laurie was awarded The Center's Star Award for her outstanding spirit and notable accomplishments as she strives to be the best she can be. Laurie explained to a receptive audience that night, “This year has been a great year of personal growth for me. My goal is to continue to touch people's lives through my music and hopefully make this world a better place for all of us.”

Many would agree Laurie is already well on her way to changing the world around her one moment at a time.

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