Seth’s smile is contagious. When you first meet him, he will greet you with a handshake or a fist bump. And a smile. It won’t be long before you’re smiling, too.
“What amazes me about most of our clients is that they get up every day with a smile on their face as they begin their routines,” LBSA Executive Director Sandi Gerdes shares. “This is especially true with Seth,” she says. Sandi recalls dancing with Seth at an LBSA party two years ago. “He was laughing and smiling. He has an inner sense of joy.”
Seth’s mom describes Seth as a happy person who likes to laugh, has a good sense of humor, and really likes people. She acknowledges that he’s also challenged with a lot of pain. Seth has a severe form of autism that leads to a significant amount of pain as a result of too much sensory input. She explains, “There is a big misunderstanding about autism. People think it’s a conscious, behavioral thing, but autism is a sensory disorder.”
For someone with autism, processing sensory input can be exaggerated and unpredictable. You may meet someone with autism and they may appear, initially, to be doing well. However, reactions to sensory input can have a cumulative effect. Seth’s mother likens this to a server in a restaurant carrying a massive tray of dishes. “Every sensory experience is like another dish on the tray. At some point, there will be too many dishes and the tray will crash.”
This propensity for sensory overload makes it difficult for Seth to be in the community. Prior to coming to LBSA, finding an appropriate living situation was also a challenge. LBSA is Seth’s sixth placement. His first placement occurred at age six and Seth moved in and out of various group homes until Seth’s mom petitioned for him to get variance to come to LBSA at age 15.
That was five years ago.
Every individual is unique which is why one-size-fits-all housing solutions aren’t effective for individuals with special needs. It is important that a variety of housing options continue to be available. For Seth, the layout of LBSA’s Oak Street campus, with its smaller-sized cottages and quiet physical surroundings, have been a good fit. The people make a difference, too. Seth’s mom explains, “At LBSA there are more caring people in his life. He can walk around the campus and he might run into Eileen (LBSA’s Dietary Manager) or Sandi or another familiar face. Being on a small campus affords him the opportunity for community. It’s a lot healthier life for Seth.”
During the week, Seth attends school each day in the Millis Hall building on the Oak Street campus. In addition to school, Seth loves going for walks and attends numerous LBSA events and activities throughout the year. Seth doesn’t verbalize much, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t social. Through his smile and clear love for people he has developed many positive relationships at LBSA with his housemates and staff. Seth has found community here.
Seth’s mom says, “Seth is happy at Laura Baker. I think he considers this home.”