How does your organization tailor services to someone with autism spectrum disorder, apart from someone with an intellectual disability?

We serve many individuals on the spectrum … possibly as many as half of the individuals we serve. We fully understand the concerns of family members of a loved one on the spectrum regarding the simple fact that their loved one may not have an intellectual disability, but rather more of a challenge in communication, etc. We appreciate the challenge of a service delivery system that tends to lump everyone together. However, we are not opposed to people living and working together; we believe it is more important to understand each individual’s hopes, dreams, wants, and needs…and develop individualized programs for caregiving, behavior support, and social interaction opportunities that address that person’s individualized needs, regardless of the housemates. Ultimately, the key to success is in A) knowing an individual and B) providing thorough training and supervision to caregiver staff to ensure that everyone knows what works for each individual, regardless of diagnosis. Knowing what people like to do, and not do. Knowing what types of environmental variables might contribute to a problem (e.g., triggers). Knowing the nuances of an individual’s communication (receptive and expressive) in order to promote satisfaction and minimize frustration. Volumes of information can be written about the details of how we make it all work; in an effort to summarize our approach to a successful outcome, we know we must capture as much information as possible (from people who know your loved one best), develop plans that work, train staff thoroughly, supervise staff constantly, and ultimately accept and respect what makes people different, not the same.

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