Programs for Adults with Autism

April 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Many local programs are designed to help children with autism, but families will tell you there aren't many places in the Valley geared towards 'autistic adults'. In tonight's Children First preview, we look at one center that's a perfect fit for a young man who thrives on creativity. Jason Irwin has fun in his puppetry class. The 29-year-old is autistic but he also has a sense of humor.

Jason shows off one of his puppets, "My name is danielle. And what do you do danielle? Danielle keep biting people with a puppet?"

Jason is a student at UCP of Central California. The Fresno center serves 250 adults with physical or mental disabilities. "We modeled our program after the semester system at a community college campus where electives are changed every semester," said UCP Executive Director Jamie Marrash, "they would prefer to be called students rather than clients or recipients."

Autism affects how Jason communicates, but he can express himself with a paintbrush in art class. "He would only participate maybe 15 minutes no more than 20 minutes and walk around the class," said Marrash, "now he's participating he's focusing he looks forward to coming to class."

When it comes to fitness, watch out! Jason produces exercise videos in UCP's performing arts program. "He liked me so much it became an everyday thing; but at first I was like oh this is really a workout, he's making me really exercise," said UCP Art Teacher Latoya Riddlespringer.

There is a catch however! A lot of his videos are geared towards pregnant women! UCP staff members patiently improvise. "It's kind of Jason's humor he's always had that unusual sense of humor and it doesn't surprise me but you got to shake your head at it," said Jason's father Butch Irwin.

Jason's natural gifts include a photographic memory. He writes music notes by hand, though he has very little musical training. Jason's instructors believe he has written an original tune called The Peek-a-boo Song. "we've checked everywhere and we think that the melody is original so then there's another thing he's done he's written an original song," said Performing Arts Director Steve Souza.

Jason can add role model to his list of credits. He'll soon star in UCP Clubhouse, a children's TV show similar to Sesame Street. It's kind of geared towards kids with disabilities made by people with developmental disabilities.

You may not always know what's going through his mind but one thing is clear, Jason shines under the spotlight at UCP.

If I had to describe Jason I would say he embodies creativity, that's Jason.

For more information on UCP of Central California call (559) 221-8272.


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