We consider our son’s community experience a true success story. (Totally unbiased through the eyes of Mom and Dad.) Our Matt, born in Cleveland, Ohio, 1978, has had quite a life journey. His Dad’s professional career was cause for multiple re-locations to different states. Matt, like his dear brother, learned to adjust to each new setting – even though it was difficult for Matt and his severe autism. However, the positive to each move, Matt and his family learned important information each move that was taken on to the next.

While residing in Omaha, NE, Matt was integrated into regular ed classes and clubs as a part of each school day. His language and social skills improved greatly. Plus, in community outings students began recognizing Matt and it made him feel so good to have fellow students telling him “hi” while out and about. We soon learned, the more people that knew Matt in the community the safer and happier he was!

Our family moved to Evans, GA, when Matt was 13 years old. He had wonderful school experiences. At the same time, his mom began to worry what was next for Matt following his school years. She and a friend began visiting different programs throughout GA, trying to determine what might be best for Matt. The last “field trip” was to Georgia Options in Athens. It was amazing to visit individuals in their own home or apartment being supported by companions who truly were devoted to assisting the individual to enjoy typical life experiences each day.

Matt’s severe autism at age 17 became much more challenging. He became toxic several times on medications – medical experts urged that Matt be institutionalized to manage his circumstances. As grateful as the family was for the much needed Gracewood support, it was a very painful family decision. It didn’t take long before Matt was clearly communicating, “Get me out of here! This is not what I want for my adult life!”

We worked hard with folks in the Regional and State offices and finally, 1 and a half years later, Matt returned to the community. This time he tried living in group homes. It was difficult for housemates to all get along and enjoy the same activity at the same time. After 4 years of group home experiences, Matt and his family made the Big Decision to place Matt with Georgia Options in Athens.

Matt’s staff was trained to work with Matt and his autism and bi-polar challenges. He now lives in a cottage in a neighborhood with 24 hour support from GA Options. He has a wonderful life going out and about in the community, attending country concerts, and, best of all, making friends! His companions have done a fabulous job being ambassadors for Matt in his neighborhood. Matt is known and feels a true part of the neighborhood action. He works part time 3 days a week at the Athens YMCA. The YMCA staff and patrons have come to treat Matt like a rock star and of course, he loves it!

So, for a young man now 35 years old, having lived in Athens with GA Options support for 11 years and ZERO hospitalizations. He truly is a success story. We celebrate Matt’s success and truly are grateful for all the support he has received from GA Options!

Phil & Sue Gaffney