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Contact: Phillippa Ewing, Ashworth Creative
Phone: 845-877-0410 ext. 107
Client Web: www.andersoncenterforautism.org
<p”>Photo Caption: Jonah and Nathan Briggs at Anderson Center for Autism’s “Autism
For Jonah, Quality of life includes steps toward greater independence
In New York’s Hudson River Valley, Anderson Center for Autism has taken on a new mission and vision: to optimize the quality of life of the individuals they serve.
One such individual, a person full of personality and charm, is Jonah. Jonah began his career as a student in the Anderson School some 15 years ago. He is now 31, a participant in Anderson Center’s Adult Program and he has some very clear ideas of what he wants from his life.
In a conversation with Nathan Briggs, Coordinator of Residential Adult Services at Anderson Center for Autism, he explained what he wanted to accomplish. “I want to better myself.” He defines betterment as “I want to increase my independence.”
Nathan Briggs counseled Jonah to take it slowly. Said Briggs, “Jonah wanted to transfer to a different residence, one where he knew some of the residents and with whom he felt comfortable. I asked Jonah to keep thinking about the idea but not to tell anyone. This was, in a way, a test to see if he still felt the same way after a week of thought.”
Jonah took the challenge very seriously and kept his idea to himself for one week. He told Briggs that he not only wanted to move to the new home, but that when he was there he wanted some “home alone time.” Time alone in one’s house is something he had not experienced. Yet it is a path to a greater feeling of independence, for Jonah and likely many others.
For staff at Anderson Center for Autism, their commitment to enhancing the quality of life includes both listening to the goals of the individual and measuring the degree to which those goals are being fulfilled. Nathan Briggs sees it as making it possible for them to “engage in real life by their own direction and their choice.”
After two weeks, Jonah made his move to the new home where he fit in very well. He engaged with his housemates, he went to his volunteer job at a soup kitchen, participated in Expressive Outcomes, the arts based program that is part of Anderson’s LifeLongLearningSM initiative, went to the movies, had fun. He demonstrated to Briggs and other staff members that he was serious in wanting more responsibility and to be entrusted with “home alone time.” While the rest of the household went to the movies, he stayed at home for a half hour.
Jonah described with great pleasure how he decided to spend his time when home alone: “I got the mop and bucket and washed the kitchen floor.” Nathan Briggs commented, “In his ‘home alone time,’ Jonah’s choice was to do something for the benefit of his housemates. We found it moving that Jonah’s goal was fulfilled by improving the quality of someone else’s life. Even more impressive, Jonah was filled with pride that he had been ‘home alone’ and had actually been generous and done something worthwhile with his time.”
By these small but measurable steps, Anderson Center for Autism is able to optimize the quality of life of children and adults in their programs. Briggs explained that quality of life is measured according to eight domains:
- Emotional well-being – contentment, self-concept, lack of stress
- Interpersonal relations – interactions, relationships, supports
- Material well-being – financial status, employment, housing
- Personal development – education, personal competence, performance
- Physical well-being – health and health care, activities of daily living, leisure
- Self-determination – autonomy / personal control, personal goals, choices
- Social inclusion – community integration and participation, roles, supports
- Rights – legal, human (respect, dignity, equality)
Nathan Briggs summarized Jonah’s performance: “By his actions, Jonah demonstrated his ability in interpersonal relations, in personal development, in self determination, social inclusion and his right to respect, dignity and equality. We observed that he not only met his goals but he achieved steps forward in five of the eight domains. There is a saying that the purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. Jonah is doing both and we are very proud of him.”
About Anderson Center for Autism
Anderson Center for Autism is New York’s premier autism treatment and care center. It is a not-for-profit organization located in picturesque Staatsburg, N.Y., dedicated to providing the highest quality programs possible for both children and adults with autism. It employs 800 specialists who are expertly trained to diagnose, treat, and care for adults and children on the autism spectrum. For more information, visit andersoncenterforautism.org