A while back I wrote about Andrew, a young man on the autism spectrum, and have yet to finish his story. Sound familiar? I am so easily distracted…
So, finally, here is the conclusion to Andrew’s transitioning story! If you want a refresher on Andrew, you can find Parts 1-3 here.
At the end of my previous post, Andrew was graduating from Montgomery College with an associates degree in general studies. He had been living in supported housing near the MC campus (and was part of the CLE program).
When Andrew graduated in May of 2016, he moved back home. After having lived on his own for two years, he wasn’t happy about the move home. He longed for his independence. Luckily for Andrew, his parents, Donna and Jonathan, had already been working to find independent housing opportunities for him. Back in the fall of 2015, they had partnered with several other parents to form Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO). I won’t delve into the details of ILO now, but you can read more about it in my previous posts.
In November of 2016, several apartments in Gaithersburg became available to ILO members and Andrew signed a lease to live there. Six months after graduating from Montgomery College, he was again living independently!
When Andrew first moved to Gaithersburg, Donna was still driving him to and from his job at the FDA in Silver Spring (he doesn’t have his license). After a few months, they discovered there was a shuttle that ran from the Shady Grove metro directly to the FDA complex in Silver Spring. The idea of having Andrew navigate public transportation on his own was scary for Donna, but Andrew wanted to do it, and it seemed like the logical move. She offered to ride along with him at first, but he was confident he could do it on his own. So off he went! He took the bus from his apartment in Gaithersburg to the Shady Grove Metro, then picked up the shuttle to FDA in Silver Spring. From there, he got on ANOTHER shuttle that took him directly to his building. No problem! Now he commutes both to and from work using public transportation. Way to go, Andrew!
As one might suspect, Andrew’s experiences out in the real world haven’t always been sunshine and roses. He learned a few things the hard way. When he first started riding the bus, there were some difficult moments.
Once he got into an altercation with an old lady who insisted he should give her his seat. The bus driver ended up kicking him off the bus! But as Donna pointed out, he really should have given her his seat. Lesson learned.
Another time he got into a scuffle with the father of a young, talkative child. Since Andrew is sensitive to high pitched sounds, he has a hard time with noisy children. He told the child to be quiet in no uncertain terms, and the dad ended up punching him in the face. Yikes!! The bus driver alerted the police, but by the time they arrived, the dad and child were long-gone.
Needless to say, there were definitely bumps in the road at the beginning, but Andrew is now riding the bus peacefully with the other commuters. He’s learned not to complain about noisy kids — and to give up his seat if an old lady asks for it! It’s unfortunate that the general public isn’t always sensitive to people with special needs, but that’s just the reality of it.
I have a great deal of admiration for the way Donna and Jonathan have provided the supports Andrew needs to live independently — and the courage they have shown in allowing him to navigate the world on his own. Kudos to them! And kudos to Andrew for his bravery!