Living life on his own terms with HandiCalendar
Sam is like many other 24-year olds. Recently out of university, he wants to start a career and is looking for work. In his free time, he plays games with his friends, does volunteer work and pursues his passion for photography. He is also autistic.
At the age of four, Sam was diagnosed autistic /ADHD and it was strongly recommended that he go to a special school. His mother Sandra was hesitant, feeling that a mainstream school would be better for him in the long run. In the end, Sam attended a special school, but it became clear to educators after only a month that his mother was right: mainstream school was a better fit. Beginning with intense speech and language therapy, Sam continued to receive one-to-one support throughout his school years eventually taking A levels in information technology, photography and graphics.
Sam taking his graduation. Here he is together with his mom Sandra.
A young man with a keen eye
One characteristic of autism can be a heightened sensitivity to colours, shapes, patterns and light. In Sam, this manifested itself on his phone – he had a real gift for photography.
To pursue what had become a passion, he was given a camera, which had the added benefit of helping to get him outside in spite of his fear of flight insects. His photographic skills quickly developed to the point where he was accepted to the Rochester University of Creative Arts based solely on the strength of his portfolio.
Today, Sam, like other graduates his age, is taking his first steps towards making a life for himself in the adult world.
HandiCalendar, myAbilia, structure and washing powder...
Creating structure is important in everyone’s life, but for people with autism, it is crucial. What Sam lacks in natural ability to organize and initiate activities, he makes up for with practice and special tools.
One of these tools is HandiCalendar – an icon-based app that helps structure daily life in a way that really works for him. It not only helps him remember to shower, take his medication and keep his appointments, it also structures tasks visually with a logic that makes sense to him.
Before HandiCalendar, Sam had a much harder time staying on track. Doing more than one thing at a time was unthinkable. Even things that he often managed to do himself like remembering to eat, required more effort on his part. HandiCalendar not only simplified daily tasks but made it easier to initiate new tasks.
Sam using HandiCalendar for structure while he is cooking
“For example, when it comes to washing his clothes, “explains Sandra, “I can add a reminder to his HandiCalendar using myAbilia, a webservice where I can add tasks and images to his calendar remotely.
I can upload photos of the washing machine, the washing powder and the correct compartment to put it in. Using these kinds of photos as icons in his reminders makes the task so much easier for him.
Before HandiCalendar, just the thought of having to find the washing powder made the task harder to do and much harder to initiate.”
And the photos make a difference in many other things as well. For example, before HandiCalendar, shopping was a challenge. Product or brand changes were a source of much confusion. With HandiaCalendar, it’s easy to upload new photos to make identifying what Sam needs to buy much less stressful.
Cognitive benefits and Comic Con
In the two years that Sam has been using HandiCalendar, Sandra has seen a noticeable change in Sam. He seems to have a greater awareness of the concept of time and he seems happier and more independent.
In February, Sam went to Comic Con in Wales, his first trip ever on his own. Here too, HandiCalendar helped him with practical details as well as giving him a sense of confidence.
The trip went so well that Sam has plans to attend other Comic Cons in the future.
Sandra and Sam visiting London photography exhibition
Sam’s new found independence has even made it possible for Sandra to go away for a weekend with her husband.
“Not to mention peace of mind for me, HandiCalendar has been a godsend both for Sam and for us as parents and full-term carers...” adds Sandra.