I've been meaning to write a post about this for awhile and wanted to provide an update on how this transition is working out. A lot has happened since I wrote my original post a year ago. I'm still getting use to the area and I miss my friends in California dearly. This is when I realize that moving is a process that doesn't happen overnight. Whether you are autistic or not, it is a stressful process of rebuilding your identity in a new place as well as starting off from scratch in rebuilding your social networks. However my disability magnifies the challenges of adjusting to change as well as establishing social connections. So it is with this post that I will begin talking about all the things that have happened in the past year.
I've got a job as a paraeducator for the local school district. I was surprised that I got hired for a full time position right away since it is a small district and you have to start out as a substitute. I did bring a job coach with me for emotional support since job interviews can be stressful. However once I began the job, I realized that I did not need a job coach since I was doing really well. It has been an adjustment in learning to work with new kids as well as dealing with new co-workers. There are times that I feel exhausted after work. However, I feel that I am making a difference and I feel that I am a role model to the students.
In terms of disability resources, I found it to be very limited since it is a more rural area. For instance, I went through a lot of turnover in terms of support workers in being my companions in the past year. This was due to various reasons like illness, children, work/life balance etc. In recruiting potential candidates, I found that the pool of qualified people that I can draw from is a lot smaller compared to living in a big city like Los Angeles. It is only relatively recently, that I was able to find two people whom I felt were a good fit for the companion position.
Another difference between the disability communities in Los Angeles and Sequim is that there is a lack of understanding in regards to autism spectrum disorders. It seems that the supports and services cater to the needs of those intellectual disabilities. The one and only nonprofit that caters to those with developmental disabilities has classes and day programs but most of the participants don't have have intellectual disabilities or Down syndrome and are a lot older than myself. . A lot of the participants don't work and did not benefit from the interventions and opportunities that I received as a result of growing up in big city. I've also noticed that the principles of self determination and the power of choice and control are not widely discussed in this area compared to L.A.
In the year and a half since making the big move, I would have to say that I am slowly getting use to living in the countryside and enjoying the more slower pace of life. The past year has been full of major highs and lows and I felt very homesick. However, I've made trips back to L.A. to see my friends to help ease the transition. On a major positive note, I found out that I qualified for state services this past summer. I am very shocked but also relieved in knowing that I have a safety net of support services for the future. Would I consider living in Sequim forever?Probably not considering that there are not enough resources for people with autism or developmental disabilities in this area. However, I wanted to see how living in a small rural town would be for me.