Autism Through My Eyes: A Successful Journey With Devereux

In my first semester of college in the fall of 2007, I felt stuck. I was earning great grades, but it was a major struggle. I was confused and stressed out through the entire process, constantly feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Autism Through My Eyes: A Successful Journey With Devereux

I didn’t always understand what people were asking of me. By the end of that semester, I was unable to continue my college education. The experience reminded me of my first few years in high school, before I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Sometimes, being on the autism spectrum means I can use my amazing memory to help others, like remembering where they placed a missing item, or the directions to keep from getting lost. I see the world in a unique way, and this can help others to solve problems from a different angle. However, sometimes, it means I need extra help to function in the neurotypical world.

After I realized I was struggling with my college education, I wasn’t sure how to move forward as an adult. That’s when my parents found the Devereux Pennsylvania Community Adult Autism Partnership Program (CAAPP). At Devereux, I was paired with another adult, who I have referred to as my service person, to help me with everyday life. I have had several of these people paired with me over the years, and each one has turned into a successful partnership. We have worked together on many different goals. As each goal is mastered, I feel more independent.

The first thing Devereux taught me was how to take public transit. Then they assisted me in volunteering at my local library so I wouldn’t be stuck at home all day. When I got my driver’s license, they helped me to work on expanding my routes by showing me the back roads to places (I get overwhelmed on most major highways).

They even helped me get a part-time job through Devereux Pennsylvania Center for Autism Research and Education Services (CARES), where I print, laminate, and cut out picture communication icons for students. My service person helped me get started, and now I’m almost completely independent at work.

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Then, after many years of working on coping skills, the people from Devereux Pennsylvania CAAPP slowly helped me start going back to school. This was a big step, as I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face the challenges that college would bring. But my services have carefully walked me through the process.

I’m currently studying Early Childhood Education. My original goal with Devereux was to attend one class at a time. My service person sat with me through the class, helping to take notes or reminding me of my coping skills when I would get stressed. He/she would go with me to meetings with my advisers, and helped me better understand how to communicate my needs. That one class turned into another. Before I knew it, I completed four classes over four semesters. I now nearly have a certificate.

While I’ve decided I may no longer work in the Early Childhood Education field, I am looking forward to transferring the skills I’ve learned into a career with animals. My dream career is to be a service dog trainer. And Devereux CAAPP is helping me start on that path, too! My current service person has even trained to become a volunteer at the Brandywine Valley SPCA so that he/she can help me volunteer there as well!

With a lot of hard work and some help from my services, I’ve come a long way. I still struggle with some daily tasks, such as communicating with others or maintaining a safe and healthy living environment. I’m also working on learning how to budget my money. However, the services I receive through Devereux Pennsylvania CAAPP are continuing to help me with these issues. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without them.

To learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, click here, or click on the following links to learn more about Devereux Pennsylvania CAAPP and CARES.

This article was featured in Issue 90 – Practical Ways to Build Skills for a Lifetime

Erin Clemens

Erin Clemens is a woman on the autism spectrum. When she is not in school or working, she likes to spend her time volunteering and watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She is also the author of the book I Have Asperger’s. For more information visit the website