Posted by Jon Federman

Path in the WoodsCindy* is a 32-year-old woman who has so much going for her. Recently divorced, she is working toward becoming a certified American College of Sports Medicine personal trainer and has a bachelors' degree. Cindy is sharing a three-bedroom apartment in Brighton and is volunteering with several organizations including the Harvest Co-op, Boston Athletic Association, and JF&CS. Her future looks promising, and she has worked hard to get to this point.

Cindy came to the Adult Autism Spectrum Care Coordination and Coaching program in March 2012, after a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. She was referred to JF&CS by a private vocational counselor who recognized that her needs were far more complex than merely finding employment. Like many of our clients with similar diagnoses, Cindy struggled to hold on to jobs due to her challenges with interpersonal skills, and family life became increasingly complicated and overwhelming. Cindy and her husband separated and soon found themselves getting divorced. She needed to find a place to live immediately.

JF&CS worked with Cindy to develop a service plan so she would see some quick results. With the help of her coach, program coordinator Shayna Fel, LCSW, Cindy completed applications for MassHealth, SNAP, and housing during her first sessions. In order for Cindy to take a more active role in obtaining her benefits, she followed through on agreed upon tasks between sessions – from collecting necessary documents to obtaining bank information. Cindy's involvement and cooperation in her work with the Care Coordination and Coaching program would be vital for her to grow and gain independence. She also recognized that creating a united team of providers, including a psychologist and speech and occupational therapists, would be the best way to truly meet Cindy's needs.

Cindy identified needing help with learning how to shop on a budget, pay bills, live with roommates, and travel on public transportation near her new home in Brighton, an apartment she shared with three housemates – all skills necessary to establishing a meaningful and purposeful adult life. Shayna and other members of Cindy's team provided guidance and specific skills training. Together, they worked on time management, daily living, and communication skills. They also worked towards adding more routine into Cindy's life and together came up with a plan for Cindy's future.

Cindy was referred to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), which has provided funding for study materials and the examination to become certified as a personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine. Now, Cindy is working in two ongoing volunteer positions as a trainer – at the YMCA and also here in the JF&CS CHAI Works physical fitness program. She recently started to look for a paying job in the field of fitness and is very appreciative of Shayna, JF&CS, and all who have collaborated to help her live a more independent life.

"This is a life-changing program. It offers critical help in day-to-day stuff. The things that need to happen get done when they need to. I look forward to Thursdays because we get to have these conversations. I've been able to do everything I said I wanted to do," says Cindy.

Although she still has more work to do, Cindy can now look towards the future, determine her goals, and figure out how she is going to get there.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Jon FedermanJon Federman is the JF&CS Staff Writer. A practicing attorney for more than 15 years, he is thrilled to bring his legal and persuasive writing skills to the JF&CS Marketing Communications department. Jon has a BA from Tufts University and a JD from Boston College Law School. In his spare time he is an exhibiting photographer and an award-winning cartoonist. Jon lived in London, England for five years before returning to Boston in 2011.