Autism Services Center’s (ASC) reputation for being able to help clients who have difficult behaviors was challenged again in 1990.
Jeff was a teenager living with his parents in rural West Virginia. When ASC staffers visited Jeff for the first time, he weighed nearly 300 pounds, his hair was uncut and he had a thick unruly beard. He had been kicked out of school five years earlier. No one was able to cope with his aggressive behaviors and it was recommended that he be institutionalized. Jeff had not been outside the home for a year. He spent his days in his bedroom and his night time hours were spent roaming the house. ASC appeared to be Jeff’s last hope.
Not only did ASC accept the challenge, but they decided to document the process of transitioning Jeff from his parents’ home to one operated by ASC.* By spring, he had enrolled in an autism class at Huntington East High School and begun a regular exercise regimen that helped him lose nearly 50 pounds during his first seven months with ASC.
When Jeff’s parents arrived for their first visit, they were standing on the porch talking with staff. A couple of clients were nearby. After a short while, they told the staff they were ready to see Jeff. They had not realized that the individual standing right next to them all that time was their son. His parents thought a miracle had occurred.
For the first time in his life, Jeff had been to a swimming pool, a dairy, a bakery, a grocery store. Schooling helped Jeff develop more daily living skills. He was also working on his writing, speaking and number skills and staff were using educational videos as part of his instruction program.
Today Jeff is doing very well. He lives with two other individuals who also have a diagnosis of autism. They live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood in Huntington that is staffed 24/7. He and his housemates play ball in the yard, have “movie night” at the house, and occasionally go out to dinner at a local restaurant. His life today is a stark contrast to the one he led before.
One of ASC’s goals is to empower the individuals we care for to live their fullest life possible. The transformation in Jeff may not be a “miracle”, but is proof that even individuals with severe disabilities and extreme behaviors can improve and make significant changes in their lives.
* The resulting 10-minute video entitled “Out of the Darkness: The Jeff Matney Story” is a brief account of this young man’s struggle with autism and his family’s long search to find services for their son, his progress at ASC, and his remarkable transformation. The major goal of this documentary is to show that no matter how difficult the behaviors, significant change can be made. The film received the 1997 “Media Excellence in Video” award from the Autism Society of America, an award given to honor excellence and dedication in the field of autism. The video also received the 1996 Exemplary Practice Media Award from the Association for the Severely Handicapped (TASH) and an Honorable Mention aard in the 1996 Columbus International Film Festival. It has been translated into Spanish and seen by audiences all over the world. For ordering information for “Out of the Darkness: The Jeff Matney Story”, click here.