Erin Clemens is a self-advocate who has Asperger’s Syndrome. In this post, she writes about how Direct Support Services help her attain the skills she needs to live a happy, successful, and independent life. This was originally posted on The Mighty.
I’m on the autism spectrum. Sometimes this means I can use my amazing memory to help others. Sometimes it means I need extra help to function in the neurotypical world. When I was younger, it meant I struggled in school. I earned good grades, but I was so confused and stressed in the process. I didn’t always understand what people were asking of me. And in a large school, I was constantly overwhelmed and overstimulated. When I was about to drop out in 10th grade, I was finally diagnosed. After transferring to a smaller school, I was finally able to graduate. I tried to go to college for a semester, but it reminded me of my old high school. At that point, I was unable to continue school, but I didn’t have a job. I was stuck.
That’s when my parents found Devereux CAAPP (or Community Adult Autism Partnership Program). I was paired with an adult, who I have referred to as my service person, to help me with everyday life. I have had several of these people paired with me over the years. They have taught me how to take public transit and assisted me in volunteering at my local library so I wouldn’t be stuck at home all day. When I got my driver’s license, they helped me to work on expanding my routes by showing me the back roads to places (I get overwhelmed on most major highways). Then, after many years of working on coping skills, the people from CAAPP slowly helped me to start going back to school.
I’m now studying Early Childhood Education. My original goal with CAAPP was to attend a single class one time. My service person sat with me through the class, helping to take notes or remind me of my coping skills when I would get stressed. That one time turned into an entire semester (still just a single class). Before I knew it, I had completed four different classes over four semesters. Currently, I’m in my fifth class, and I’ve already registered for another one.
With a lot of hard work and some help from my services, I’ve come a long way. I still struggle with some daily tasks, such as communicating with others or maintaining a safe and healthy living environment. However, the services I receive through Devereux CAAPP are continuing to help me with these issues. I don’t think I’d be where I am without them.
Erin Clemens is a woman on the autism spectrum. When she is not in school or working, she likes to spend her time volunteering and watching “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” She is also the author of the book “I Have Asperger’s.”