“Learning with Autism”: Jimmy’s Story

April is World Autism Month.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. It affects all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, one in every 59 children has autism. World Autism Month marks an opportunity to learn about the ASD and how it impacts more than 70 million individuals around the world such as Jimmy.  Jimmy is 22-years-old and lives with his family in Everett. To help with everyday challenges, he attends the Walnut Street Center’s Day Program that combines Community-Based Day and Day Habilitation services. This program provides comprehensive clinical services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and nursing support as well as opportunities to access the community. The Walnut Street Center is a non-profit organization based in Medford serving adults with intellectual disabilities in the Greater Boston area.

“Autism means to me that I learn differently from others,” says Jimmy. 

Everyone has a style of learning that works best for them. For Jimmy, he is most successful in a one-on-one setting using visual supports rather than auditory input. Seeing visual supports such as pictures, objects, sign language or text, helps him retain and process information. It may be a reason why he has an interest in painting. Through the center, Jimmy participates in life skills, pre-vocational and educational groups in Greater Boston. He enjoys detailed work at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown and being with the animals at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham. 

“I always want to learn more,” says Jimmy.  “I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others.” 

One of Jimmy’s great interests is history. He is curious by nature and can often be found researching historical topics online. His favorite subjects are World War II and the Samurais. The Samurais were the ruling military class in Japan and grew to become the highest-ranking social caste during the Edo Period (1603-1867). 

Daily routines help Jimmy learn and provide a regular rhythm. He never hesitates to hold a door open or assist someone with their bag. It is these small predictable actions that provide calm to his life. Many adults and children with ASD have difficulty making sense of everyday movements, sounds, and activities. What may sound normal or a symphony to others, may come across as white noise to those with ASD. Routines and repetition create an expected, safe, and secure environment. 

“I want people to know that I am a good person,” says Jimmy. “I want to meet and talk with people. And I don’t want to be treated differently.”

If you know of a family or individual that may benefit from the Walnut Street Center or are merely looking for a recognized corporate sponsorship program, visit https://www.wscinc.org/ for more information.