The blog this week was written by Allison Hammond, Program Director at The Arcadia Institute. When I was asked to write a blog about people who are leaders in their own lives taking charge and responsibility for their own lives, John came to my mind first.
As John says when he gives presentations in the community about Autism, he was diagnosed at age three. His parents were told that he would not be able to do much. He would probably not finish school, have a job or live on his own.
Flash forward to today. John has not lived up to those low expectations. He has exceeded and succeeded. John and his parents will tell you that it was not always easy for him. He struggled with sensory issues and anxiety. School was sometimes very hard. However, John and his parents were not willing to settle or be comfortable with letting Autism be a barrier for his future.
Today, John, who graduated from high school, is employed at a local movie theater, he is a wonderful photographer, he has a drivers license and lives in his own place. John is regularly asked to talk about living and succeeding with Autism. He has spoken to Public Safety Officers, court officials and other community leaders. He has shared his story and his photography at conferences and forums. In every setting, John takes charge and responsibility for making a difference for himself and others with not only Autism, but also other developmental disabilities.
Most recently, John has become part of the Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services peer mentor program. He attended a training in Lansing to become certified. Now, John is employed to support others with developmental disabilities to take charge and advocate for their own paths to a full life in the community. He can help them learn to navigate for themselves to get the supports and resources they need to finish school, become employed and live as they choose.
John is also very humble and does not think that his accomplishments are exceptional. He just took charge and is responsible for living the life of his choice. He is contributing to his community as he believes he should.