The Austin Saunders' Story
Imagine having to seriously consider putting your 14 year old son in an alternative living arrangement because caring for him in your own home has become nearly impossible. That was the situation Paula and Mark Saunders found themselves in just a short time ago. Their 14 year old son, Austin, is severely autistic and the daily demands of his care and therapies were so great that Paula and Mark had trouble keeping up with them by themselves. Despite having extended family nearby, the physical demands of caring for a growing child (a child who had already become taller than his mother) were too much for the Saunders to manage without help.
Through their caseworker at Washtenaw County Community Support & Treatment Services, the Saunders’ heard about the Children’s Waiver Program and was referred to Community Living Network. This program serves children like Austin who have developmental disabilities with challenging behaviors and/or complex medical needs. This vital program provides the necessary supports the Saunders so desperately need.
The Children’s Waiver includes services, therapies and products that Austin needs to help manage his Autism. Services like music therapy and occupational therapy and specialty sensory equipment are now provided to help Austin live a full life. The Waiver also covers diapers and additional medical expenses through Medicaid.
In addition to these therapies and supplies, the program allows the Saunders to hire their own caregivers who come into their home to help care for Austin. The highly trained staff that the Saunders have hired have quickly become part of their family. In fact, one staff member recently invited the entire family to attend their wedding.
The newly expanded Saunders family has started doing a lot more things together including activities they never thought possible. Paula and Mark’s younger son Garrett is an avid and accomplished baseball player who plays on a travel baseball team. Before the Children’s Waiver Program through Community Living Network, traveling as a family to one of Garrett’s week long baseball tournaments was just a dream. However, thanks to the Children’s Waiver the Saunders were able to hire one of their caregivers to assist them while the entire family traveled to Myrtle Beach for a combination baseball tournament and five day vacation. In the past, most of their activities resulted in one parent staying home to care for Austin while the other traveled with Garrett to his activities. For the very first time ever they were able to share quality family vacation time together.
Austin’s sensory needs make attending many normal activities impossible. Having the caregivers has allowed the family to do more together and to relieve some of the physical stress in caring for Austin. They are now able to manage caring for Austin at home. Life is good for the Saunders family.