From receiving care to starting a career: Devereux’s CAAPP program provides hope
Ten years ago, Erin Clemens was struggling with day-to-day activities, relying heavily on family and friends to help guide her through life’s challenges. Going to college or finding employment seemed like unobtainable goals.
Then, in 2008, her parents turned to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.
Clemens’ parents enrolled her in Devereux Pennsylvania’s Community Adult Autism Partnership Program (CAAPP). The program provides individualized and innovative community-based support services for adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other disabilities.
Facing fears; receiving support
Clemens was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when she was 15-years-old. When the time came for her to start receiving services from Devereux, she felt both relieved and anxious.
“I had been struggling for so long and needed help, but I was also worried about how much say I would have in what help I’d receive,” Clemens explained. Her fears dissipated over time and she realized she did not need to rely as much on family and friends. Clemens had Devereux Pennsylvania’s CAAPP team to support her with specific life skills including communicating more effectively, and organizing and prioritizing tasks.
“It’s really great to have someone I can contact and ask, ‘Can you help me figure out how to do this?’ Especially, when I need that kind of help almost daily,” she said.
A path to a more independent life
Clemens said the program has provided her with the skills needed to increase her independence and improve her overall quality of life.
“Since working with Devereux CAAPP, I have learned that I am capable of doing things. It might take me a little longer, and I may need some support sometimes, but I am able to do more things on my own,” Clemens said.
She has since earned her driver’s license and found a job with the same organization that has helped her lead a more fulfilling, productive and socially connected life. She works part-time for Devereux Pennsylvania’s Center for Autism Research and Education Services (CARES). The school provides services to students, ages five to 21, who have been diagnosed with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Programing focuses on teaching each student based on his or her unique strengths and needs.
A bright future ahead
For Clemens, who has moved out of her parents’ house and into her own apartment, Devereux has given her hope. She still utilizes the organization’s services and is now learning how to successfully navigate college. She is studying and, taking it one class at a time. And while she will eventually earn her certificate in early childhood education, Erin has her sights set on becoming a dog trainer. “I hope to transfer the skills I learn into a career working with animals.”
“There seem to be a lot of people on the autism spectrum who end up falling through the cracks. They work so hard to function in the world that they are seen as ‘too high functioning’ to get the help they need,” Clemens said. “But CAAPP reminds me that I am worthy of being included as a functioning member of society.”
If it weren’t for Devereux’s CAAPP program, Clemens said she likely would still be living with her parents and possibly unemployed. As for going back to college? She would not have even tried, she said. “Devereux CAAPP has absolutely helped get me to where I am today. From the moment I began receiving services, I have continued to progress,” she said.
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