Graham, center, says Chapel Haven has helped him embrace his disability.

This week, Chapel Haven Changes Lives is proud to feature Graham H., 28 and one of the original residential students when the Chapel Haven Asperger Syndrome Adult Transition Program in 2007.

Graham has achieved a lot since he came to Chapel Haven from Atlanta. And one of his biggest pieces of advice to those who are new or considering Chapel Haven?

Embrace your disability! “Be open about why you are here or what your disability is and people are very accepting here,” he says.

That attitude has helped Graham gain his own apartment, some fun jobs, one college degree and another on the way, and a nice circle of friends.

Graham has earned an associate’s degree in human services at Gateway Community College. He is currently enrolled at Southern Connecticut State University, where he majors in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Concentration in Psychology and Therapeutic Recreation. He participates in the Active Minds Club at SCSU, a mental healthy advocacy club, helping with fundraising events and activities.

Graham has had some rewarding jobs. He had a great job at Eli Whitney Museum, helping kids do hands-on building tasks. He also worked for a summer as an assistant camp counselor through the New Haven Parks and Rec program. Graham also completed a year at Yale-New Haven Hospital through Chapel Haven’s PAVE Program. He described the program as hard but he is glad he did it!

Gina Apicella, Supervisor of the ASAT Program, has worked with Graham as his advisor. She says, “Graham is a motivated, active, kind-hearted gentleman. He is always open to my insight and guidance, and has made my job very rewarding in many ways.  Graham is a staple in our ASAT community and his enthusiasm for gaining independence is commendable. “

Graham came to Chapel Haven from a more restrictive program in Utah that he described as a very controlling place with staff always supervising the student body. “They didn’t allow the level of independence that was right for me. Chapel Haven was a much better fit.” He completed his high school degree there.

Then his parents found out that Chapel Haven had opened a new program specifically for high-functioning adults on the autism spectrum and Graham enrolled. He joined Chapel Haven in the summer of 2007 and graduated two years later with enough training under his belt to move into his own apartment within walking distance to the Chapel Haven campus.

“Graham has flourished at Chapel Haven,” says his father, David. “One of Graham’s strengths has always been his persistence. He has rightfully been frustrated at the imperfection of programs to support him in his particular needs. Chapel Haven has been a beautiful match for him, and he has taken great advantage of the support there. He has become a much more confident individual who owns his identity. We are proud of his growth and his achievements, and look forward to great things in the future.”

Graham did a one-year internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Asked what he likes most about Chapel Haven, Graham said:

  • Staff who are patient and understand what’s best for him
  • The chance to improve his skills, especially in vocational training. Graham had a great job coach who taught him a lot

What has been hardest? Graham says:

  • managing his anxiety, a continuing area of challenge. Graham says he has matured and learned to control his thoughts.
  • And while he has made many friends at Chapel Haven, Graham says it’s still hard to maintain connections outside of the CH circle.

Thanks for sharing your story, Graham, you are awesome!