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Friendship rooted in professional relationship blossoms for autistic teen and support worker

Being a teen and trying to find your place in the world is stressful enough.

Kevin Nott, 14, has some special challenges to navigate. 

He’s diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and has trouble with socializing. 

Nott’s mother, Alysha Blackburn, recognized his struggles when he was a toddler and first sought help from Community Living Algoma when Nott was six years old. 

Community Living Algoma is an organization that assists people of all ages with developmental disabilities. The organization paired Nott with specialized support to help him improve his social skills.

While Blackburn has nothing but praise for the staff, she said the support people changed approximately every eight weeks and that frequent change could overwhelm her son.

“It’s difficult for somebody who struggles with transitions and meeting new people,” she said.

But then Nott was paired with Noah Rego last July and the two developed a special connection that continued even after Nott left CLA.

They bonded immediately due to a shared love of video games. 

Rego related to Nott’s struggle with growing up in a smaller town and having difficulty finding friends with similar interests. 

“It wasn’t until high school when I started to meet people who liked the same activities as me,” Rego said about his experiences as a youth.

Rego and Nott spent eight weeks together at CLA. They went for walks, played video games, and Rego taught him how to play golf. 

At the end of their eight weeks together, Rego, Nott, and Blackburn were heartbroken.

They didn’t want the relationship to end.

“When we found out we all stood there and cried,” said Blackburn. “Noah has allowed Kevin to live life to the fullest, he has blossomed into an amazing young man.”

But Rego didn’t want to say goodbye. 

He told Blackburn he wanted to continue seeing Nott outside of CLA.

Rego and Nott continue to pursue the activities that brought them together and have grown as individuals.

Rego found their time spent together mutually beneficial. “He’s a different kid now, I realized I helped with that, and it was a great feeling,” he said

Rego moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 2019 for school, enrolling in Sault College’s aviation program. He realized the program wasn’t for him and ended up getting a job at CLA.

Working at CLA made him reconsider what he wanted to do with his life and meeting Nott solidified this.

“It was confirmation that I want to become a teacher. I want to help people become the person they want to be,” he said.

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