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Services provide independence for son and mother.

Meet the Grasso-Wood family

Macungie, Pa.

Michele Grasso describes the path that her 26-year-old son, Alex Wood, is taking to a fulfilling life in a supportive community.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in preschool, Alex has a verbal IQ of 137. Therapy and an Individual Education Plan addressed his academic challenges and talents. Alex flourished in the classroom while at the same time figuring out how to deal with transitions, depression and social issues. He attended college for three years, but his inability to interact with others in socially acceptable ways continued to stand in the way of his success. After leaving college, the family looked into Lehigh County’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, but discovered that most of the jobs that were available required fine motor skills that Alex couldn’t perform, and Alex wasn’t able to handle working a full shift.

All of this led to increased stress at home for Michele and her two other children. Alex’s complex needs made relationships difficult for everyone in the family. Michele scaled back her working hours due to Alex’s repeated crises. “His medication wasn’t right, so he was overthinking everything and having suicidal thoughts,” she says.

Through Lehigh County’s mental health program, Alex moved into an apartment with 24-hour supervision. “It took him quite a while to get used to living away from home,” Michele says, “but it’s been good for everyone.”

Because of his success in the program, Alex has moved to another apartment with less supervision. The Autism Waiver funds the Kaleidoscope program, which supports his employment and behavioral goals, and allows him to socialize in a safe, healthy environment. Kaleidoscope also transports Alex to part-time volunteer jobs teaching seniors about computers and performing data-entry tasks for the local office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Michele is proud of Alex’s accomplishments; she is also relieved that she is working full time again.

“Without these services, he’d be dependent on me,” she says. “You want your children to be independent so they can take care of themselves. And, you want to make sure they have the best life possible whatever their circumstances. It’s really important for Alex to create his own life – the life that’s right for him.”

Thank your legislators for making Human Services funding a priority in the 2017-18 Pennsylvania budget.

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