Matthew was diagnosed with autism before his third birthday. “A lot of your natural expectations for your child go out the window when you get that diagnosis,” says his mother, Jo-Ann. “Every expert we talked to, had a different opinion and that was disheartening. One told us that Matthew would never be able to live on his own. Of course I was upset that life was going to be very hard for him, and scared about what would happen to him when we’re gone.”
At the time of Matthew’s diagnosis, Jo-Ann and her husband, Eric, didn’t know much about autism, the services available for children on the spectrum, or what the future might hold for their son.
Matthew began as a student at a May Center School when he was 8. As he grew, learned, and developed confidence and independence thanks to May’s teachers and clinical teams, they determined he was ready for the school’s intensive vocational track for older students. Programs like this one combine individualized academic instruction with specialized skills-building. Matthew had a variety of jobs while at the school, including a job of putting together orientation packets for new employees. At home, he gained work experience by baking and delivering cupcakes with his mother for their home-based cupcake business.
At 18, with the help of a May Institute job coach, Matthew began working at BJ’s Wholesale Club cleaning display cases. He then began work cleaning at VERC Enterprises, a convenience store/gas station.
Always a boy who loved to be active, Matthew blossomed and became more confident as he took on more responsibility. When Matthew turned 22, he moved to one of May’s day habilitation programs. Jo-Ann credits the school staff for the seamless transition to the adult services center. Employees from the school traveled to Matthew’s new program to make sure he was comfortable as he adjusted to the change.
Jo-Ann says, “The staff is more like family. They are always there to talk to me and help with any problems that arise. They are willing to do whatever it takes for the men and women in their care to be successful.”
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