jeremy'S AMAZING STORY...
We begin our visit with 39-year-old Jeremy, who smiles easily and welcomes us on the outside deck of the home he shares with his Home Share Provider, Dave. Jeremy asks if he can get us anything, as we settle on chairs spaced around the outdoor picnic table. We agree that water would be fine for this warm day in August.
As Jeremy is inside getting us tall, refreshing glasses of water, Dave tells us this is the first time Jeremy has hosted guests he hasn’t known at the house – something we never would have guessed, from the warmth and graciousness with which we were welcomed! It quickly becomes apparent during our chat that any opportunity to build confidence and life skills is welcomed and acted upon, wherever possible.
As we get settled, we exchange pleasantries with Jeremy, Dave, and Leona, who is their longtime Home Share Manager with NACL.
And so our conversation easily begins, when we learn how Jeremy first came to meet Dave seven years ago.
Jeremy was diagnosed approximately 17 years ago with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1, and came to live with Dave in 2013. He had a prior, less-than-happy experience trying to live independently in a condo – and so, was willing to give living with a care provider in NACL’s Home Share program a try!
There were admittedly a few ‘trying’ times in the first few months and years for both Jeremy and Dave, learning to live together.
“For the first six months of Jeremy coming to live with me, he hardly ever came out of his bedroom at all,” says Dave. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to build that bridge for Jeremy to trust that communication was going to have to be a part of helping to make this transition work for him.”
Dave also had the added challenge of helping to forge a relationship between Jeremy and a second young man from Home Share, who was already living at their home. For the longest time, it didn’t look like the two new roommates were doing very well learning to communicate with one another. However, after many, many weeks of no connection or conversation – it finally happened, with just the two young men sharing a meal together! What were Initially only one-word exchanges began to evolve into brief conversations, which proved to Jeremy (and Dave) that communication occurs with patient beginnings.
“Well, Jeremy is cooking meals, doing clean-up and chores around the house, and doing a really great job,” says Dave. “Jeremy is definitely more self-confident, less anxious, and has an expanding sense of humor that is great fun for me to participate in with him!”
Dave’s go-to theory for life seems to apply to the successes Jeremy is experiencing.
“I have always tried to follow two principles in life: To trust the process – which usually requires patience and effort. And second: There’s always a solution – and that too usually requires patience.
The results that Jeremy has experienced over these past few years shows how well he is doing, and that he’s willing to keep trying – and not go back into his room.”
Jeremy has a calm and articulate way of describing his life today. “I like my life. I didn’t use to like my life much – and when things were bad, I only felt safe in my room. Now I have a life that I have more confidence in. I go on my own to the bank or to get my hair cut. I have more confidence in making those decisions, which is big for me.”
During this part of the conversation, we learned that once Jeremy decided he wanted a haircut and was advised on the steps required to make it happen, he took the initiative and did just that – he figured out where to go (and how to get there and back), how much money to take (including enough for a tip), and told the stylist what kind of cut he wanted. He’s now done it a few times since!
“If it wasn’t for the COVID thing, I would be working four days a week at the downtown library. I love my job there, putting books back on the shelves…and I get paid. I miss it right now, and hope to be going back when COVID is over.”
“Jeremy has made great strides in his confidence and independence. He is more self-reliant and less anxious, AND – for the first time this year, he did a Father’s Day steak dinner at his parents' house – all on his own. And, he did a great job,” Dave says proudly.
Discussion shifts to what Jeremy thinks the future holds for him.
“Well, I really want to get back to work at the library.”
But what about in the future – you’re still a young man?
“Well, maybe semi-independent living? If I can afford it. But living here with Dave is the best option for me right now.
I want to work until I retire. My dad has set up a financial plan for my retirement that will meet my needs in the future, but it’s actually really hard for me to 'futurize.'" He smiles.
We are impressed to learn that Jeremy is the author of two books about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The even better news is Jeremy and Dave have co-authored a third book, ‘Debunking the Myths’ – which is planned to be an audiobook and on iTunes!
There is a strong and supportive team in place for Jeremy through the Home Share program at NACL – including Jeremy’s mother, father, his NACL Home Share Manager, medical professionals…and of course, Dave!
It’s clear from our visit just how bonded Jeremy and Dave are, and just how committed each of them are to continue building Jeremy’s confidence and life skills. Jeremy’s future is both bright and boundless!
Jeremy has his own YouTube Channel with fascinating videos about his life, and his books are available in various formats on Amazon. If you’re interested in either of these, let us know and we’ll connect you with Jeremy and Dave for those links!
As we walk back to our vehicles, having said our goodbyes to Jeremy and Dave, we skim through the second book Jeremy wrote – 'Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder' – and notice on the dedication page:
"This book is dedicated to Dave Ray, for without him I would not be where I am today."