Noah has a goal of attending college when he graduates. Alannah is a high school sophomore looking for a part time job. Kate just turned 20 and would like to be able to live on her own. These goals might sound like those any young person in Maine would strive for, but there is one key difference that makes their goals unique: Noah, Alannah, and Kate all have autism. For them, achieving their ambitions takes extra commitment and effort.
Noah’s focus for the last year-and-a-half has been graphic design and that’s what he’s planning to study. Pine Tree Society’s Autism Transition Program is a step toward meeting that goal.
“I’ve watched him grow socially to the extent that he even offered up information himself during the program, which shocked me because he doesn’t usually do that,” said his mother, Stacey.
She finds that the workshops he’s taken part in have helped him immensely, not just with the topic at hand but with unexpected things. “The arts and crafts program really helped with his dexterity. I didn’t expect that,” she said.
The recent Autism Transition Career Exploration workshop was designed to help participants explore what types of jobs would be right for them based on their interests and skills.
He’s learning the importance of making eye contact, listening, and following directions. All skills he’ll need to succeed in college.
Alannah’s parents have been surprised at how she’s expanded socially in the program and how her patience has increased. Her mother Margaret recalled how, before her participation in this program, she didn’t have any patience at all.
“Over time in the class she’s been gaining patience with the other kids,” she said. They’ve found it helpful to have her attend the Autism Transition Program on the younger side.
“Early on, people told us to expose her to as many different things as we can, as early as we can because it will take her longer to learn,” she said. “Her next step is to get a part time job and the next workshop is perfect timing for that because she’ll be learning how to fill out job applications.”
Kate graduated from high school a year-and-a-half ago and lives with her parents. “She gains confidence and independence being out in the community in this program,” said her mother Alicia. “I think of the classes as an opportunity for her to get a taste of the real world in a safe setting. She’s with other kids who have the same issues. We can tell she likes it because she always wants to go back and she gets prepared before class. The people who lead the program are so invested and willing to help. Everybody we have dealt with has been amazing.
“They are all very capable and caring. This program is a very good step for Kate.”
Kate’s parents want her to be as independent as can be, and she wants that too.
“Which is why we’re constantly trying to find programs like this that are the right fit for her to gain independence and social skills.”