Who is Calvin?
Calvin is my son, born July 13, 2000. He is approximately 5′ 9″ and 175 lbs.
What is Calvin’s diagnosis?
Calvin was diagnosed with severe autism at age 3. Other than autism, he has no other health-related issues or allergies, etc.
Is Calvin in school?
Yes, Calvin is currently in high school until age 22 (in Georgia).
Where does Calvin live?
Calvin currently lives with our family in his own apartment our finished basement. The apartment is fully furnished with a living room, bedroom, full bathroom and kitchenette.
What can he do independently (meaning, no one in the room with him)?
- Simple math
- Simple reading (he can read anything, but he may understand what he’s reading)
- Go to the bathroom (pee and poop)
- Wash his hands
- Eat and drink (anything)
- Play on the computer/search YouTube/search Google for things he likes
- Take his medicine
- Wash himself in the shower (he may need someone to tell him to hurry up and finish)
- Get dressed
- Brush his teeth
- Make his lunch for school
- Use a microwave
- Open drinks, cans, chip bags, etc.
- Put dirty dishes, dirty clothes, trash in the proper places when he’s done
What can Calvin NOT do independently?
- He can wash himself in the shower, but he needs to be prompted to “move it along” or he’ll hang out in the shower all day (like many of us)
- Shave his face, but we’re working on this
- Go shopping/spend money — he can count money and they go to Target/Walmart every week, but he wouldn’t be able to go independently
- Refill his automatic medicine dispenser
So Calvin lives independently?
Yes and no. He needs to be prompted for his schedule–for example, he won’t initiate taking a shower or brushing his teeth on his own. We just need to say, “Calvin, it’s time for medicine and brush your teeth,” and he’ll take it from there.
For his safety, Calvin is under 24×7 supervision via cameras and technology, so we can both monitor his environment and setup alerts in case of emergency.
- There is a camera in his bedroom, living room and kitchenette
- We have motion sensors in every room
- We have alerts if he is in his bathroom more than five minutes
- We have water sensors on the floor near the toilet and sink that trigger alarms to our phones immediately if there is a problem
- The door leading outside is locked from the inside and outside with a push-button key code
- The door leading to the basement is locked with a push-button keycode as well
Is Calvin potty-trained?
Yes. The door to his bathroom is always open and unlocked. When he needs to go, he’ll go in on his own, close the door and is completely self-sufficient. The only concern we may be his playing in the sink. However, we have water sensors and motion sensor timers that alert us in case of problem. It’s not a very common occurrence.
Can Calvin express his wants and needs?
While he’s not able to hold a conversation, he is able to express his wants and needs verbally. For example, he loves Coke. He’ll frequently come up to you and say “POPS!” which means, “I want pop.” If the internet connection is down at home, he’ll yell “COM-PU-TER!” which means, “Please fix the computer.”
If he is hungry or thirsty or needs to use the restroom, he typically won’t ask. Obviously, we eat on a schedule, but if he gets hungry outside the schedule, he wouldn’t say anything.
What specific foods does Calvin like/not like?
Unlike most people with autism, Calvin will literally eat anything. I mean whatever you put in front of him to eat, he will eat. In the past 8 years, he has not refused a single food. Some of his favorite things are:
- Mac and Cheese
- French Fries
- Pistachios (he loves shelling them while watching videos)
How does Calvin safely take his medicine on his own?
We have a medicine dispenser that only exposes the current dosage. Every twelve hours, it allows access to the next dose. It’s locked with a key so that he can’t get to any of the other dosages.We have to refill it once every two weeks. When we tell him, “It’s time for medicine,” he knows what to do.
Does Calvin have any aggression or violent tendencies?
Calvin is calm and easy-going most of the time. When Calvin gets really frustrated or upset, and you are in his space, this is the typical flow:
- First, he will put the back of his fist his mouth and bite down — that’s his frustration response–it’s not a threat to you–it’s just like squeezing a stress ball for him
- If you don’t leave him be, he may try to grab your arm or hand and squeeze with his nails
- If you try to calm him down or get closer to him, then he may push you, trying to get you to leave him alone
- He never really full-on attacks or punches– he just wants you to leave him alone
How often does he get upset or frustrated?
Maybe a few times a week. It’s honestly no different than any of us. How often do you get really angry or upset during a week? It just depends.
What does he enjoy?
Calvin usually likes to be alone. He doesn’t really like to do things with others for very long. His favorite activities are:
- Watching YouTube videos (he can search for what he wants)
- Looking through Google images (he’ll search for things that he wants to look at—“pizza”, “McDonald’s”, “elevators”)
- Walking the dogs/going for walks
- Eating pizza
- Playing with magnets/coins
- Going to the park
- Going to restaurants
- Going to the grocery store
- Swimming and playing in/with/near water (see next question)
Can Calvin use a public restroom?
Yes, I’ve worked very hard on him understanding the MEN/WOMEN signs and he now will go to the bathroom appropriately by himself without playing with the faucet.
Can Calvin swim?
Absolutely. He taught himself how to swim around at age 6. He can swim like a fish, backfloat, and throw things in the deep end to dive down to get them. He loves water and it’s one of his favorite pastimes.
Describe the perfect caretaker for Calvin.
- Gets Calvin out of the house frequently with walks, swimming, going to the park or out for ice cream
- Can potentially sit for hours in a nearby room if needed while Calvin is on his computer
- If–and I mean IF–Calvin needs help in the bathroom or shower for any reason, can provide assistance (like a nurse) without feeling uncomfortable . . . can deal with a naked adult male in appropriate situations
- Makes Calvin good and diverse meals–not necessarily veal Parmesan, but not always ramen noodles and mac and cheese either
- Understands that Calvin may have frustrated moments where he may scratch your arm or hand
- Generally patient
If Calvin won the lottery, and could buy a dream home, could he live completely by himself the rest of his life?
Personally, I 100% believe he could with the following caveats:
- He would live near me in case I needed to run over there
- We’d have cameras in the main living areas and door/window/motion sensors like any typical home alarm system
- He obviously can’t drive, so he would need transportation to a “job” or something to keep him busy during the day
- He would need someone to prepare meals ahead of time/buy groceries/have frozen meals ready (he can use a microwave)
- He’d need an automated reminder system to tell him to brush his teeth, medicine, etc.
- I would setup motion sensors and water sensors in the bathroom to alert me if he was playing in the bathroom
- I would ensure that the outside doors were locked so he couldn’t leave, unless there was an emergency that would automatically unlock the doors
- I would connect the door locks to the fire alarms so that if there was a fire alarm, the doors would unlock and tell him to go outside (and alert me)
Otherwise, he honestly could pretty much live completely on his own
Who am I?
I am the parent of a special needs son Calvin, who born in July 2000. The purpose of this blog is to provide technology solutions to improve the quality of life for people with special needs and their caretakers.
For computer people:
I’m a cloud architect, DevOps enthusiast, Raspberry Pi fanatic and a developer for over 20 years, with expert skills in Python/Node/C#