APC Stories #5

Our Autism Personal Coaches have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Mikayla Butler comes to us from a lifetime spent working with individuals with special needs. From her part-time jobs in college to her work with the special education department in a public school system, Mikayla has worked with families in clinical, educational, and home/community settings her entire career. She says, “Coaching embodies all the experiences I had in the past into one job.”

Mikayla knows there is a real need for APC’s services. Over the past 11 years, she’s seen the scary cliff when clients age out of services (in Ohio, this often happens at age 22). She says, “Whether people are in public schools, a private, or clinical setting, there are no more services offered and information is hard to find. It’s up to parents to figure it all out, and that leaves people vulnerable to being ‘stuck.'”

APC offers resources, support, and motivation to keep moving. Mikayla says, “we do it all with our clients: job coaching, support, connect clients with peers. We don’t just come into your home and hand you a report about what you should be doing. We go with you through the steps, teaching and implementing skills that will benefit individuals and families for a lifetime.”

Mikayla uses active listening with her clients, connecting details and offering positive feedback to seize opportunities for change. She also loves to use visual aides and templates as starting points. She says, “The problem solving template has been a great tool with lots of clients. It has allowed them to self report, take control of their problems, and find solutions on their own.” Mikayla is always there to guide clients, but revels in the sense of accomplishment they feel with self-discovery.

Clients and colleagues tease Mikayla about her go-to icebreaker: a game of Monopoly Deal, but she says the game is “a fun way to talk, break the bread, and form that coaching relationship. Plus it’s a really fun game!” Establishing trust is crucial, because it helps coaches understand underlying reasons behind behaviors that might be inhibiting change.

One of Mikayla’s favorite success stories comes from a client who was slow to make progress at first. He was in college and hesitant to allow Mikayla to be part of his home life, school life, or social life. Mikayla wanted to tap into his social sphere but he was not interested. She says, “I respect someone’s wishes, but I also know that it is hard to make an informed decision if you do not have all the experiences and knowledge available.”

Because the client was struggling to make friends, Mikayla waited patiently until they met someone who would be a good match for him both personality and interest-wise. Mikayla gently suggested the 3 of them meet together in the community, and then at the client’s home. They continued meeting as a trio and she says, “Once I felt confident they did not need me there to facilitate, I suggested they meet alone.” In the months since, the client and his new friend have been getting together consistently, and Mikayla offers support, such as creating a conversation jar to help make sure the pair is making connections without her there. “Both of them have reported to me that their time together is something they enjoy and want to continue.”

Mikayla remembers their first meeting when she asked him if he ever thought he would have a friend. The client said, “No, and I don’t care. I don’t need anyone.” Today, this client texts his new friend, drives to his house, and even invites him to family cookouts.

Are you or a loved one struggling to make friends or strengthen your social connections? APC can help! Contact us today to get paired with a coach.

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