Micheal was angry, and yes, that’s how Micheal spells his name. He says his mother made a mistake when she gave his name to the doctor. He claims his mother isn’t very smart. When Micheal tells us this, he goes on to say that that is why he isn’t very smart either. Micheal has a number of diagnoses’ including a severe brain impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, a learning disability and a couple of others they haven’t quite been able to put their finger on yet.
I met Micheal at his group home. I was called in to help the staff get him under control as he was “angry.” Apparently, Micheal did a lot of damage when he was angry. There were holes in the walls, broken doors, and shattered glass when I first started to visit Micheal. I asked him why he was so angry and he said “Because no one ever listens to me!” I asked him what he had been saying that they didn’t want to hear, and he claimed that all he wanted was to be able to walk in his community alone and get a paying job. It didn’t seem like too much to ask to me.
Upon investigation, I learned that Micheal had never been granted independent community time because his social worker and staff all agreed that he was not capable of being alone unsupervised. I did some assessments and decided to test Micheal in his neighborhood. We went out together to walk my dog. I was unfamiliar with Micheal’s neighborhood and found myself disoriented on many occasions. Micheal was my saving grace. No matter which way we turned, he was able to bring us back home. In fact, we got lost three times; all in different directions, and, Micheal brought us back each and every time! I was amazed at his ability and began to question whether I should be out alone, if they said he wasn’t capable.
I wrote a letter to his social worker, met with his staff and began to beg for Micheal to have a chance at being human. Finally, it was granted and Micheal began his community independence – 10 minutes at a time with a staff shadow for safety. He excelled and within one month he was working at a local McDonald’s, responsible to get there and back by himself and successfully completing 6 hour shifts. Micheal was ecstatic and lo and behold, all the violence stopped.
He volunteered with a local organization where he bathed a llama and took him to the park to meet and greet. Micheal was amazing with the public. I have never before seen anyone so comfortable with others. He was completely in his element. I was present for this event and was suppose to be chatting up the public but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t have to because I had Micheal!
To date, Micheal still volunteers for his local organization and is currently looking for alternate employment as it has come to his attention that he is not very good at multitasking. When he received this news, Micheal shrugged and said “Oh well, onto bigger and better.” I would have been crushed personally.
Micheal has shown me a spirit, will and determination I could only wish to posses. He continues to succeed despite others treating him as less than equal and assuming he “can’t” just because he is disabled. When given the chance, he steps up to the plate every time. On more than one occasion, Micheal has shown me the softer way to deal with people or problems. He has and always will be an inspiration to me.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.