Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Place for Bobby

Julia & Bobby
by Julia Chalker

When Bobby was a young boy, the public schools didn't have special programming for autism and there were virtually no programs around that worked with these children. My mom traveled to Denton daily, sharing carpooling duties with other families to attend the Center for Behavioral Studies at what was then North Texas State University. There were no programs in the Dallas area. 

Autism Treatment Center was founded in 1976, and Bobby has been treated there since the beginning. For years the program was housed in a church in Richardson. The school opened their first residential group home within the next few years. ATC’s founders, administrators, teachers, and other staff members helped Bobby grow from a nonverbal, self-abusive boy, to someone who was able to express his needs, follow simple commands, and perform basic academic tasks. 

When Bobby hit adolescence and began to exhibit more volatile and aggressive behavior, ATC provided housing in their group homes, beginning with weekend respite, for Bobby. My mother was a single mom and there were no respite services available at that time, so ATC was a godsend to my family. When Bobby grew older, they helped him develop his vocational skills and supported him in various employment situations.  ATC was a pioneer in services for individuals with autism. 

I believe that Bobby is a part of ATC’s history, having been there as long as he has through childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and now approaching middle age (can that be true?!?). Remarkably, of the group of original children treated at ATC, all but one are still in the program, and the other individual has passed away. 

My family is very grateful to Autism Treatment Center for the years of care they have provided Bobby and all the others treated there. Bobby’s life, as well as the life of my family, could have been much different if they had not been there for us.  Bobby has had many caring and dedicated teachers and group home parents that have provided for his needs and helped him to be as independent as he can be and live a quality life.

Waiting lists today for services like Bobby receives can be 10-15 years long and parents are advised to get on waiting lists for services upon receiving a diagnosis. As a Transition Specialist who regularly tells parents about these waiting lists, there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful that Bobby is in the situation he is in. 

P.S.  Here's a list I wrote on an airplane on the way home from vacation with Bobby a few summers ago. Spending 24 hours a day with him for a week straight made it easy to reflect .  I just felt like putting it in writing.

10 Great Things About Bobby

10. His great taste in music and the joy he gets from listening to it.
9.   The way he winks and smiles at me periodically (always makes me smile).
8.   That he has no filter and sometimes says things everyone else wants to say ("Be quiet Phoebe").
7.   How his being kind of OCD helps me remember things I might otherwise forget.
6.   How he says "I am happy" and "I love you Julie" and truly means it.
5.   How he can't get my children's names right after 15 years (although he remembers lots of other weird random things from the ancient past), but that is okay.
4.   How clean and neat he is (my kids especially like it if he happens to pick up after them!).
3.   The silly weird things he says (I want to go to John Lennon's house, Susan Tallmadge has two little eyes, Bobby does not want to ride horse again).
2.   He is such a hard worker and has been so successful at his job at the hospital.
1.   That he practically slams the door in my face when I take him to his house because he is ready to get back into his routine/life!

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