April is Autism Awareness Month, so we are delighted to focus on our client Zach, a 22-year-old young man on the Autism Spectrum who has made tremendous strides while living in one of our POINT Program apartments in White Plains. This JCCA program, in partnership with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), offers supportive services for young adults with developmental and learning disabilities.  Participants live together independently in downtown White Plains and engage in a variety of vocational, life skills training, and social activities.

A few summers ago, Zach became involved with JCCA’s Compass Project, which helps teens with learning difficulties learn skills to transition to work and an independent future. Compass found an internship for Zach at a local farm and provided on-the-job supportive coaching.  Last year, Zach entered the POINT community and began living in his own apartment along with a roommate.

“It’s good having my own place. At POINT, we’re taught how to live independently, so I’ve learned to do chores and cook for myself, and I have fun with other kids my age. We have lots of great activities and field trips. We go to sports games, movies, restaurants, museums, and musicals. And I go running with my friends at Achilles International,” Zach says.

Thanks to both the Compass and POINT programs, Zach has developed additional skills that he can use on the job and fine-tuned his interactional and communication skills with coworkers and supervisors. He was thrilled to start working in a preschool at Temple Kol Ami in White Plains. Zach works alongside the preschool teachers and is often seen storytelling to an audience of enthralled and attentive toddlers. “I like telling stories, playing games, and helping the little ones. I try to keep them out of trouble!” The teachers say Zach’s stories, along with his engaging personality, are one of the highlights of the children’s days.

Zach recently began working with one of JCCA’s local partners from the UJA-Federation Business and Professional Advisory Board. He is also a valuable part of the office team at Stark Office Suites. He is excited about going on a Birthright trip to Israel this summer with several of the friends he made through the Compass Project.

When asked about his goals and dreams for the future, Zach answers thoughtfully, “I’m still trying to figure that out.”