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Zech and Life-Changing Literacy by Holly Hedger

Throughout my autistic son Zech's school years, we moved often. Each state's special education experience differed. During Zech's later high school years, it felt like the education system had given up. Placed in a vocational training program, where he mastered the ins and outs of cleaning toilets, Zech graduated with minimal literacy skills. 


Our years of maneuvering through the special education system gave me a profound respect for the exceptional educators and ethical agencies we met along the way.


Years later, at age 35, Zech's lifelong goals of gainful employment, obtaining a driver's license and living independently remained unmet. So, while living in Williamsburg, VA, we sought out a literacy program that would help. The Literacy for Life organization welcomed Zech with open arms. Zech completed assessment testing, and we were placed on a waitlist. From our first interaction with Literacy for Life Human Services Coordinator Mary Lynch, Zech and I were respectfully treated with an expectation of literacy success.


Months later, Mary called with the good news that a tutor had volunteered to work with Zech. Karen loves education and compassionately cares about her students. Zech was matched with a tutor who changed his life.


Karen, a retired teacher, bonded with Zech almost immediately. Initially, the tutoring took place individually for one hour twice a week via Zoom. About 12 months in, another student, who had been waiting for a tutor, was keen to join. Zech continued one weekly individual Zoom meeting with Karen, and then the three met in person once a week. After consistently working with Karen from January 2022 till May 2023, with a total of 98.75 instructional hours, Zech's reading grade level advanced by two years, according to results attained from CASAS GOALS Reading assessment.


Literacy for Life unconditionally accepts anyone into their program as long as the client's needs are within the scope of service. Literacy for Life will suggest other programs to clients, but only if they perceive the disability as too severe. Literacy for Life's programs, exceptional volunteers, and the literacy success of many students are related to the intuitiveness of Mary Lynch.


Today, now living in Florida, Zech enjoys gainful employment at a local grocery store. He continues to work on his literacy skills, anticipating that he will accomplish all his goals in the years ahead.


State and local literacy agencies offer valuable literacy resources. However, parents, caregivers, and educators play a vital role in the literacy success of an autistic adult. Given the proper support, poor literacy will not quench the goals or dreams of autistic adults, no matter what their age.


It only takes one compassionate agency or individual to change the life of an adult with autism.

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