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Connor: Embracing the Strengths of Living on the Autism Spectrum as He Moves Towards Independence

Image of Connor, Courtney, and Pat posing together at a restaurant in the community.

How does one define an independent life as a young adult with an Autism Spectrum Disorder? While it can be important to acknowledge that there are a number of challenges young adults with disabilities face as they move into adulthood, it is equally important to acknowledge that their hopes and dreams are the same as any other young adult’s: to live away with friends or a romantic partner, to have a job doing something they love, to be able to take care of themselves, and to have a community of friends and family for support. 

As a second year student at Berkshire Hills Music Academy, Connor is working to gain new skills across many areas, including independent living, vocation, community independence, and personal relationships. Connor’s experience at BHMA is similar to the journey that many young adults take at this time in their lives. We sat down with Connor to talk about what he has done at BHMA that will be helpful to him in his journey, and how his individual experience of autism impacts his daily experience.

“My name is Connor, and I have a disability called autism. I live on the autism spectrum. I can still communicate well and the truth of the matter is, I have an incredible memory.  Reading lyrics and recipes helps me to fill my memory even more. Sometimes I need some help, but some things are easy and I get right through it.

The second year at Berkshire Hills Music Academy is more incredible and excellent than the first year. I’m getting to take more classes and work at new places, and a new class that I enjoy is Music & Human Service (MHS). In MHS class, I go out into the community and perform a music program for older adults. We put together themes. A recent theme was classic hits. Other skills I’m learning in MHS are how to communicate with elderly people. You have to be flexible and professional…sometimes other people are doing things you may not be interested in, but you have to do it and that’s called being flexible.  People should know that I love to go out and perform, and it’s a pretty great business for me.

Image of Connor Thompson going through his money management binder in the Life Skills classroom.

I’ve learned cooking, and I like to make BLT’s- I made one today!  I’m very good with money- good with counting how much I’ve saved and how much I’ve earned. My money management teacher has taught me how to deposit and withdraw money at the bank. I also take the bus to go grocery shopping at Big Y. I’m looking forward to learning more about the bus.

BHMA is an incredible environment to learn, sing, to be able to perform and to be professional. In chorus, I like warming up my bass voice and singing out clear. When I sing, I feel energized! In Rock & Roll Ensemble, if I have trouble remembering how to sing a song, my teacher helps me remember the lyrics and we sing in different parts. I also enjoy dance ensemble. I have perfect dance moves.

Image of Connor Thompson, center, posing with his family at the SOMA soccer tournament.

I’ve made good friends at BHMA. I’m an athlete here- I play soccer and basketball. I’m full of energy, and playing sports and performing music helps me to feel better. With my friends, I like  to go out to eat, go to the book store, Planet Fitness, and the movies. I can walk to town by myself or with friends. 

After graduation, I plan to remain a part of BHMA and join the LIVE (Long Term Independent Vocational Experience) program. I would like to work with elders or have a different job.”

Connor’s unwavering optimism and energy brings life into the BHMA community each day.  At BHMA, Connor has taken his love of music to the next level, by participating in classes and work opportunities that allow him to make gains towards a more independent and meaningful life.  Please watch Connor’s performances in the videos below. And, Connor- we can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!


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