Teen With Autism Volunteers With Program That Helped Him

The quest to understand what was holding Colin Coffey back began in a small room in Carrollton.

"When Colin was between age 2 and age 3, we realized something was not right," Colin's mother Connie said.

Doctors diagnosed Colin with autism. His parents decided to enroll him in the Walden Model program at Easter Seals, an organization that provides services to help people living with autism.

"From the first time we walked in we could see it was a very positive environment," Connie Coffey said. "We really felt like it was a good place for Colin."

The Walden Model is a new program designed by researchers at Emory University to help pre-school kids. The idea is to use a child's natural curiosity and interests to teach academic and social skills through play.

A few of these programs exist across the nation, but there is only one in Texas. That's at the Easter Seals office in Carrollton. Colin was the program's first graduate and now he wants to give back.

"Last summer, we realized Colin has a lot of skills," Colin's dad Ken Coffey said. "One of things we were thinking about was why can't he volunteer at the same center that helped him so much."

So that is exactly what Colin is doing. He volunteers in the same classroom where he learned how to thrive with autism.

"He's getting that social interaction with the teachers he's grown up with,” Ken Coffey said. "He's got a purpose and he's gaining the skills of showing up to work and he has a reason for being there."

Colin, now 15 years old, wants to be a zookeeper. His dad doesn't see why not.

"I don't want to limit him by saying, 'What's his upside?" Ken Coffey said. "This program has proven time and time again he hasn't reached that."

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