David enjoys people. He is fun and curious – and after spending a minute or two with him, you’ll be answering questions and smiling.
“He has a sparkle when it comes to talking and being with others,” says David’s dad, Zach. “He’s hilarious and shows an interest in others, which makes him really enjoyable to be around.”
Like many children with autism, life has been a roller coaster ride. David experienced challenges from an early age. And like so many families who have a child with a developmental disability, finding resources and ways to support their child can be time consuming and exhausting. Zach says they knew from an early age that something wasn’t right. “Before David was a year old, he started missing milestones. Initially, it was a struggle. We didn’t want him to be labeled, and it took us a few years to face the facts.” No one wants to be labeled. Yet the disappointing reality is that for families with a loved one with a developmental disability, with labels come resources.
Once someone has access to resources and is “in the system,” the next challenge is finding the right services and resources. Every person is unique, which makes one-size-fits-all service solutions ineffective. This journey for the right fit can take years. For David, school and other group settings were a challenge. “They (public school system) weren’t necessarily equipped for someone who wasn’t high functioning,” Zach recalls. “Many times, we received calls from the school office saying I needed to come pick David up from school because they couldn’t keep him safe. There were moments where it felt like a full-time job.”
Over the years, group living settings have proven to be a challenge for David as well. David is fascinated by lawn mowers, leaf blowers, small appliances and anything that is mechanical. David would often elope and find local garages or sheds that would be kept unlocked, creating an unsafe situation for David and a scary situation for people/neighbors who found him on their property. Over the years, Zach knew he needed to find a different living environment for David because of these issues. He heard about Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA) through the grapevine and spent numerous years on the waiting list. In 2018, David moved into his cottage on LBSA’s Oak Street campus.
It has taken effort and coordination on the part of David and his family working together with LBSA staff and local law enforcement to get these issues under control. LBSA staff have responded to local neighbors and police inquiries over the years. Megan Olson, who is one of LBSA’s QDDPs (Qualified Developmental Disability Professionals) and works closely with David, says that things have really improved for David over the last year. “We found a day program that is a good fit.” In addition, Megan attributes David’s recent success to LBSA direct support staff. “Household Director Elii Garcia and her team have made a big difference. She trains her staff really well, and they are so good at working with David. He seems to enjoy his time at home more now and is less in need of leaving campus.”
Today, David attends his day program five to six hours per day, five days per week. He enjoys going out to eat, going for walks, bowling, playing basketball, going to movies and listening to music. Adele is his favorite.
Zach says he feels very good about David’s situation. “It’s fantastic. I’m so happy he is at LBSA. I feel pretty strongly that it is one of the top places in Minnesota.”