Tucker’s Transition: Autism as an adult
The college search isn’t easy for parents sometimes.
“We tried to present it to him as college,” said Clark Howell Sauls
But when the campus seems to shine with love, the choice for these parents got a little easier.
“That’s what we wanted for Tucker. Somebody that would love him,” said Clark Howell Sauls.
“We’re gonna get you somewhere that you can go and not just be sitting here all day long, bored,” said Theree Sauls.
Tucker Sauls certainly isn’t bored.
“People talk without talking,” said Amy Reagan, who runs Cornerstone at Wesley Glen.
Diagnosed with autism as a child, Clark Howell and Theree Sauls have been with Tucker for his entire 22 years.
“He was extremely frustrated with the fact that he could not communicate,” said Theree Sauls.
Tucker is considered non-verbal, so he doesn’t talk much.
“You can get a yes, no out of him when you need to see,” said Clark Howell Sauls.
But he’s enjoyed life, especially in high school.
“All of those people at the high school were so loving, especially the students,” said Theree Sauls.
Tucker had a problem though–the state ended his final year early.
“It was a lot more of an adjustment for him than we really wanted,” said Clark Howell Sauls.
Federal money only pays for Tucker’s education until he’s 22, and he hit that during his senior year.
The family asked the Jones County School Board to let him finish in July of 2014, but it didn’t work.
“We fought the fight, and we lost, and we’re just trying to make the best of it,” said Clark Howell Sauls.
The family’s loss helped Tucker win a new place and new friends.
“That’s what we do–we teach them to be as independent as possible,” said Reagan.
Wesley Glen changes things for Tucker, who now transitions to a new part of life–as an adult with autism.
“The treat them with dignity and respect and you know, they love them,” said Clark Howell Sauls.
“He fit in pretty quickly,” said Reagan.
Reagan makes sure Tucker develops his life skills and interests.
“They get to choose when they start, what they want to work on,” said Reagan. “They have a team that comes together that works with the individual, loves the individual, and he has a say too in what he likes.”
Tucker can spend the day playing basketball to train for the Special Olympics, or using technology in the media center.
“People tend to put limitations and say they’re just little people and say they can’t do that,” said Reagan. “Yeah, they can.”
And Tucker does overcome his limitations, as do other adults with disabilities at Wesley Glen.
“And you go up to the next level and you see that light bulb moment when they get it in their face,” said Reagan. “And that self satisfaction and that is so rewarding for a teacher. We’re a staff of teachers. And money can’t buy that.”
To Clark Howell and Theree, the change seems to have gone well.
“Just meeting new people and being happy where he’s at,” said Clark Howell Sauls. “That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
But the question is still there.
“Any parent of a special needs child, the first thing–the first and foremost thought is who’s going to take care of him when I’m gone?” said Theree Sauls.
Places like Wesley Glen have the answer for the Sauls and other parents who have kids with disabilities.
“That’s my biggest goal for him is to make sure he’s in a comfortable place living happily when I go so that I know he’s taken care of,” said Theree Sauls.
Tucker may not say much, but his progress at Wesley Glen speaks for him.
“With his big smile, he’ll rock back and forth when he’s happy, he points when he needs things, and I guarantee you when you come back in a year you’re going to see even more, even more expression,” said Reagan.
His parents can’t wait.