When she was two months old, Hillary lost her sight. Throughout her childhood and into her adolescence, it was apparent that she had some social issues. She had temper tantrums at home and school, and she could not manage her anxiety well. In social situations, she had difficulty getting along with others; she would often go off topic and focus on one of her interests. With all of the tension at home and school, Hillary was as frustrated as her family and others.
In 2009, Hillary was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and joined the Adult Community Autism Program in 2010. Since then, Hillary’s life has changed for the better. She has worked on her social skills with support staff, and not only can she carry on a conversation, but she now has friends to converse with. She is at home in the community, whether she’s shopping at the mall or chatting with friends at Café di Luna downtown. Hillary enjoys attending support group meetings for people who are blind, as well as for those who have autism. She has even given speeches about her disabilities and how she has overcome the challenges she has faced.
Hillary has earned the nickname “daredevil” because she enjoys trying new and exciting physical activities. In addition to working out at Planet Fitness, she takes Special Olympics speed skating lessons and has gone sky diving. She would love to try other thrilling activities like climbing and bungee jumping.
She has worked at Goodwill for several years, and is currently working with ACAP staff to continue her current volunteer activities, as well as find new ones for her to continue to develop her social skills, work skills, and resumé. She has volunteered with Bunny People and currently volunteers at Mission Central, where she puts together relief kits for victims of natural disasters and others who are experiencing difficult situations. She would like to volunteer at a retirement home and use her acquired social skills to talk to the people living there.
Hillary describes her overall mood during her childhood as “grumpy.” Now with all the progress she has made on her own and with ACAP’s guidance, she radiates optimism. When she’s having a bad day, she has learned to discuss her feelings with support staff and family members, and she can effectively manage any frustration and anxiety. As a result, her family life has greatly improved.
Through ACAP, Hillary continues to work on her goals to become independent and continue to engage and participate in new community activities.