Life is not a straight road that you walk down. It’s a roller coaster and there can be lots of ups and downs

Taking the Long Road to Change

Chris | February 9, 2018 | Family Care Client

If you ask Chris where it all started he’ll tell you it was with the day program. At the time, only a few years out of high school, he wasn’t sure if spending time at a day center with people who were sometimes decades older than him was the right thing. But he knows now that it did help him learn some skills he needed to interact better with others.

The day center was only the beginning of the road to many changes for Chris. After two years of attending the day center it was apparent that Chris was ready for some new challenges. But when his Family Care team connected him with a resource for employment, Chris spent most of the meeting talking about what he didn’t want to do. So they decided to change the conversation. When they started talking about school his attitude changed. He was interested in making movies and wanted to learn more about the possibility of studying that.

He had previously taken some college classes but not on his own. His parents Barb and Dan would take him and wait outside during the class. This time Chris would pursue college on his own and to live on campus. To get him ready, the summer before his first semester, Chris explored campus and hung out alone at the library or union. Then in the fall, Chris moved into the dorms with additional support from counselors and tutors to help him adjust.

He did well with school and says he enjoyed the freedom. He got along with professors, but he didn’t socialize with other students and stayed in his dorm most of the time, only leaving for class. His parents would visit every weekend and bring him food and do his laundry.

Over time, Chris did begin to interact with others, first on team projects and later in more social interactions. Now a few years later he says he is better at working in a team than he was when he was younger. He also has a group of friends that he hangs out with at the university center. He enjoys playing video games and just chatting with them and has learned that not everyone is exactly like him.

Growth and More Confidence

His mom Barb says she has seen his confidence grow and has been happy to see him interact socially with others.

“It was scary for me at first to let him live alone,” she says. “But we’ve seen a lot of growth. For the first time the social part has clicked in.”

Last summer he also had an opportunity to work as an intern at a local television station, producing some television commercials and recording the voice over for them. He enjoyed the work, going places with a coworker, and was able to see places in the community he never thought he would see.

“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” he says.

As he approaches graduation, he is becoming more reflective.

“You can’t always cry to mom and dad,” he says. He knows he needs to learn how to do the shopping and laundry for himself and is working with his Family Care team to learn skills he will need when he no longer lives in the dorm such as riding the cab into town to shop, to manage money, and to cook for himself. He also continues to dream of being a filmmaker and seeing more of the world.

Those around him see that he is continuing to say yes more than no. His counselor Jeremy says it’s been fun to see the positive changes in Chris.

“He used to have very rigid thinking, but he’s expanded that a long way. He’s learning to get outside his comfort zone into situations that produce some anxiety and challenge him in new situations,” he says. “It’s fun to see where he is and where he’ll be in 5 or even 10 years from now.”

Though Chris says he can sometime tend to focus on bad things and “overcatastrophize” he is working to focus on more positive things.

“My mom always says ‘Life is not a straight road that you walk down. If you’re lucky enough you’ll have a short cut, but it’s a roller coaster and there can be lots of ups and downs.’”

He’s learning to manage the ups and downs better and find more ways to say yes to situations that challenge him in good ways.