If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

That truth is evident every day at Little City. It is at the same time a celebration of individuality and uniqueness and a reminder that there is a constant need to support those at Little City responsible for unlocking each person’s potential.

Whether it is a life coach at the Center for Employment or a teacher at the ChildBridge Center for Education, Little City staff have to adjust to each individual they support to communicate efficiently, build their skills and give them the tools they need to grow and reach their potential. No individual is the same and each one deserves the personal attention to maximize their abilities.

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Hello! My name is JP

JP is one of the ChildBridge Center for Education’s longest tenured students, entering the school in 2012. When he initially arrived, he was introverted and his expressions often turned to aggressive behavior.

But as he has grown up at the school, teachers and staff found the key to his communication and he has matured into a sweet and friendly classmate and student. “There were times when he first got here and you could tell him something as simple as ‘computer time is over’ and that could result in him being very destructive to his environment, and he is a big guy, so it could be intimidating,” said Jessica Kingji, school administrator. “But JP has always wanted to please people and is so sweet. He just didn’t know how to communicate or express how he felt. And now he is very verbal and just a really sweet kid. We say we learned how to ‘speak JP.’”

Part of “speaking JP” is called scripting. Some of his early struggles stemmed from his internalization. He would watch his favorite cartoons and in many cases he felt those characters were his only friends because they provided consistency and stability as he would know what to expect no matter what.

Teachers and staff found that when JP would talk about one of the cartoons he watched, he was expressing feelings and thoughts on real life situations. Teachers also use “sentence starters” to ease his frustration. They have found when they sense JP getting frustrated, they can say

“I am…” and write down the next word. When JP says the word he is feeling and sees it written down, he feels validated and heard. Meaghan Grap, a lead paraprofessional who works closely with JP, said he has become a model student, especially on community trips. He is one of the few who can do an entire grocery shopping trip with no issues and has excelled because of how they can communicate daily schedules and structured activities.

“He went from being down on himself to so excited about life and that has been so cool to watch,” Meaghan said. “Going from not having his voice heard to a structured way of communicating and feeling validated has helped him so much. He’s just so fun to be around.”

Hello, my name is Kevin

Expression has never been an issue for Kevin. He is one of the most sociable and outgoing residents at Little City, eager to meet and talk with everyone he meets. But like JP, there are still certain communication techniques needed to help Kevin focus and reach his potential.

“Kevin really loves anything and everything Disney and it is very easy for him to get sidetracked,” said Alicia Silva, a life coach who works with Kevin. “He can talk to you all day about it if you let him, but he is so smart and capable of so much that you just have to know how to get him to focus.”

For Alicia, the key to focusing Kevin was in how she spoke more than what she said. Because Kevin is always genuinely interested in what other people are saying, she found speaking in a quiet and direct voice made him stop and listen more carefully so he could hear. By slowing him down, he is able to re-focus on the task at hand, be it his cleaning work at Little City’s Center for Employment or in one of the many recreational programs he participates in.

As she continues to work on focusing Kevin’s attention, Alicia said she could see community employment as a real possibility one day—an important goal as national data suggests up to 90% of adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed.

“When I first started working with him, he wouldn’t hear anything other than what he wanted to hear and he has just improved so much when it come to listening and following along with a topic,” she said. “He’s very advanced and independent and his memory is absolutely incredible. I can see it with how we are expanding his vocabulary, but I can only imagine how much he can still learn in other areas. He’s definitely capable of a community job.”

There are hundreds of more people like JP and Kevin at Little City who need individualized work and attention to reach their full potential.

With your help, Little City can have the technology, resources and time to give every person the attention and support they deserve. It is our mission to help everyone live a life filled with hope, happiness and opportunity, but the level of care for intense interventions for individuals with autism costs $40,000-$60,000 per person, per year.

Your gift along with the gifts of others will provide a chance for a better life and a brighter future. Please give as much as you can today. It will make such a difference.

If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. But a single gift can touch the lives of many.

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“Little City uses an affirming message – that it’s a good world, there’s a place for my kids in the world and Little City will help them find it.”

Rachel, mother of children receiving home-based support services