Zachary’s Story: Independence for a Family

Zachary and his mother, Sheila.

For Zachary, his apartment at The Springs is more than his home, it’s a symbol of independence he and his family were unsure was attainable in his adult life. Now 30, Zachary is living with a diagnosis of moderate functioning autism. His parents, Sheila and Alex, live just down the road, and have been in the Arlington area since the mid 80’s. They’re happy to have finally found a suitable living situation for Zachary in their own community.

Sheila had been looking for an independent living situation for Zachary for two years without success. When she heard about The Springs at a community event, she felt a weight lifted. “It was advantageous that The Springs was under construction. Over time, we would walk by the construction site and say, ‘this is going to be your new home!’ and he would respond with ‘live at Zachary’s house!’”

Seeing The Springs under construction gave the family time to prepare Zachary mentally. While initially concerned about the transition from living at home to living independently, the move has been smooth and relatively easy.  Zachary spends time with his parents on weekends, but he enjoys having his own space. Because of his Autism, Zachary must have full-time caretakers to help him with daily functions. “With his aides, it’s more like hanging with peers,” said Sheila, “It’s not like hanging with his senior citizen parents.” His aides work with him to complete regular chores and are growing his skills around the apartment to further his independence.

Zachary at work.

Zachary has two caregiver aides who occupy the second bedroom of Zachary’s apartment. Tajuana covers 4pm-9pm and Lauren covers 9pm-8:30am, when Zachary goes to work. Since October of 2015, Zachary has worked as a computer recycler through ServiceSource. His main duties are taking computers and other electronics apart to prepare them for recycling. This position requires a lot of dexterity and acumen, and Zachary loves a challenge. He is happy to go to work every morning.

After work, Zachary enjoys the working side of those electronics he spends all day taking apart. He spends most of his evenings doing research on the internet, reading articles and watching videos about animals – especially tigers. He also loves action movies and pizza, which Tajuana says he would eat every night if he could.

Aside from his job, Zachary also participates in therapeutic recreation through Arlington County. He participates in weekly art and swim classes and goes on outings in the community. Several of his paintings are displayed in his apartment. When asked what goals the family has for Zachary over time, Sheila said “We are where we always hoped he would be. We’re extremely thankful.”

“For people with disabilities, they want freedom, they want independence, they want a quiet place to call home.” Living at The Springs, in his own apartment, means Zachary can have a life not so unlike his young adult peers. But it’s not just Zachary’s independence that comes from his home at The Springs, it also allows Shelia and Alex to regain their independence.  “So, it’s not just for him, it’s for the whole family.”

Original artwork of two giraffes by Zachary.