April 1 was not April Fools for us. It was a day that we, as a family, had been working toward since 1999. It was the day that our son, James Wilson, became an employee at Cascade Valley Hospital, in Arlington.
James was diagnosed with autism in 1999. Our goal has been for James to have a purposeful, meaningful life. That is something that all parents want and hope for their adult children. Our plan was adjusted to meet James’ future needs. We planned for his adulthood, all through his childhood. We taught him skills early on, that would carry-over into adulthood. James volunteered in the Arlington community at the Sno-Isle library, Kids Kloset, and, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. The last four years, he has been volunteering every Sunday evening at the Cascade Valley Hospital Café. Since paid employment is so rare for a person with an intellectual disability, we were hoping for James to be able to continue to volunteer once he had “aged out” of the school system. This would, in part, allow him to have a purpose in life. Jola Barnet of Cascade Valley Hospital, saw past the autism, and understood that James had the ability to become a valued member of the Cascade Valley Hospital team. Ms. Barnett attended James’ Individual Education Plan in November of 2013, and gave our team the opportunity to prepare James for paid employment as a kitchen assistant. The very next day, James began daily training.
A team collaboration consisting of Jola Barnett, Cascade Valley Hospital Administration; Donna Peery, his Arlington High School Special Education teacher; Alicia Moes, his job coach; Jolynn Rothrock of Sherwood Community Services providing a community based assessment; Arlington School District administrators, Connie Reiss, Special Education Director, and Diane Kirchner-Scott, Assistant Superintendent — all were instrumental in obtaining this quality-of-life goal.
It is with the greatest sincerity that we say “Thank you!” to all who encouraged, supported and helped James to become the most independent adult possible.
We believe that this success story can be played out over and over again if business owners and corporations are willing to look beyond the disability … and see the ability.
Jay and Carrie Wilson