Enable more adults like Rob equal opportunities to live, learn, work, and play.
The pieces of Rob’s life are fitting into place. For Rob, age 44, it hasn’t always been that way.
When Rob was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, a lifelong disorder that challenges his communication, social skills and behaviors.
His parents, Joan and Al, said doctors “didn’t know what to do with him” besides suggesting they institutionalize him before he made the family "crazy.”
For Joan and Al, that wasn’t an option, but they did recognize they needed help.
As Rob grew and matured into an adult, his often unpredictable behavior had the tendency to turn physical and combative. Over the years, he lived with a variety of provider families, held different jobs and went through his share of ups and downs.
Like many people who have ASD, Rob finds comfort with the familiar -- in regard to people and his daily routine. When that consistency doesn’t exist, day-to-day activities are difficult. Together, Easter Seals New Hampshire, Mary Reed from Region 10 Community Support Services, the Debbie Voter Center and the family have found the right combination to give Rob the comfort and stability he needs.
Rob lives with an Easterseals provider family -- Althea and Denish Lewis. He also has a job with the Easterseals Community Based Services (CBS) Office in Exeter, New Hampshire. He is their “official paper shredder” and he loves every minute of it. In fact, a special plaque recognizing his contribution to the office, a gift from his coworkers, hangs over his desk.
“When Rob came to our office, we treated him with nothing but dignity and respect, like the way anyone would want to be treated," says Alison Gagnon, CBS program coordinator. "We also worked on getting him to try new things. With Rob, our goal was to build trust. Something we may think is trivial is huge for him so it was important to be consistent. I can’t even imagine the ‘Old Rob’ anymore. All I see is the growth he’s made, the huge steps forward, the potential.”
According to Gagnon, Rob is a very important and valued member of the office team. He jokes with his coworkers and enjoys being in the middle of things. He's also taking care of himself -- doing his own laundry, going to the bank to deposit his paychecks and making decisions for himself. Perhaps the biggest change in Rob is that he has learned how to develop positive relationships.
For Rob, connecting emotionally to other people has been difficult. But that is changing. Handmade cards from their son hang on his parents' refrigerator. His art projects are displayed throughout their home. Their daily phone calls from Rob and weekly trips to the movies with him are invaluable.
“We are proud of Rob because he has a life of his own and I want him to continue with what he is doing," says Joan. "He makes friends, likes his job and he thinks of other people. It means so much to see him smile and laugh. For a long time Rob only thought of himself. Now he thinks of other people. Just last month when I was ill, Rob asked me for the first time, ‘Mom, how are you feeling?’ At that moment, I could feel the joy in my heart.”
“Easterseals found the right people to work with Rob and bring him out of his shell,” says Joan. “I can finally see my son’s true personality.”