Philip Joins his Community!
Philip (pictured left in yellow) said he joined PTI because, “I needed to break out of my shell. I was feeling socially awkward and not sure how to approach new people.” Philip is a 33 year-old from St. Louis City with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), like many of our newer participants entering our program. Asperger’s Syndrome is now classified as Level 1 Autism. In fiscal year 2012, only 12% of PTI’s participants were adults with a Level 1 Autism diagnosis, but in fiscal year 2016, that percentage increased to 36%. This growing group offers unique opportunities, and challenges for PTI to further expand and enhance programming in response to that increased need. This involves PTI staff getting training that is uniquely designed to working with adults with Autism. Both program managers, Jessie Steinberg and Rose Piel are now Certified Autism Specialists.
While Philip sometimes struggles to communicate with others and articulate his feelings, he can see immense progress in his social skills since becoming a PTI participant, and he absolutely loves the program. He states that in the year he has participated in PTI, “I am more confident talking to new people. I always walk up to the Seven Eleven near my house, and lately, I feel much more comfortable talking to the cashiers and getting to know them better.” While this may seem like a small victory, getting people like Philip independently out in their community and having interactions with businesses in their neighborhood is a big deal. Philip now has a place in his neighborhood where his presence is known, a way to practice financial transactions on his own and a place in the community where he feels safe walking to independently.
The PTI staff reinforces and provides coaching for these types of community integration skills. Philip feels that the staff is at the heart of his progression in the program, “I love being around them [the PTI staff]. They have such infectious personalities and positivity.” In particular, he says, “I really like Ray [a part-time PTI staff]; I loved going to the ‘Guys Night Out’ last year. I felt like ‘one of the guys.’”
This sense of belonging is a feeling so many of our participants crave their entire lives. PTI not only provides a supportive environment where that is possible, we also teach the skills necessary to develop that feeling of belonging outside of our programming and in the community.