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Matteo takes charge

His routines upended, one Perkins student finds opportunity to grow

Mateo racing while holding a tube connected on the race line.

For 18-year-old Matteo, who’s visually impaired and on the autism spectrum, routine has always been central to his well being. So when in-person classes were suspended in March, his teachers and parents weren’t entirely sure how he’d respond to such a disruption. 

“I’ve known Matteo since he was about 12,” says Erin Calder, his speech language pathologist.  “And this sort of change in routine would’ve been really difficult for him back then.”

Soon enough, though, it became clear that remote learning brought with it a chance for Matteo to take initiative — the initiative to manage his own schedule and routine, to learn new technologies, to do things more independently and to better respond to challenges. 

Indeed, it hasn’t been easy, but today, Matteo is thriving in large part because, in his mom Michelle’s words, he has taken the “initiative” to do so.

“To me, this whole experience speaks volumes to what he can do,” says Michelle. “It’s really exciting.”

In Matteo’s words? 

“I’m doing good,” he says, enthusiastically.

And the ways in which he’s thriving are many. 

In particular, he’s really taken to the technological aspects of remote learning. For English, he’s been using a Braillenote Apex, which delivers materials in Braille. In other classes, he uses both his iPhone and laptop — as well as the two totally different assistive technologies in each — to access virtual communication tools like Google Classroom and Zoom, both of which he installed and taught himself to use.

“He’s not afraid of technology,” says Kate Crohan, Matteo’s adaptive technology teacher. “Matteo is really comfortable just giving things a try.” 

And given his aptitude for technology, they’ve also been working on other tech skills that will transfer well vocationally, including typing proficiency and speed and how to attach files in emails and name them in a way so they’re easy to locate on one’s device.

“These are all things you might need to do in a workplace,” adds Crohan. 

Meanwhile, like his peers, Matteo is still taking on schoolwork in all the usual subjects, and as he had been on campus, he’s continuing to excel academically. But today, his teachers are additionally impressed by how well the long-time Perkins student has adapted to the disruption of his previous day-to-day habits.

Specifically, Matteo has become increasingly proactive in scheduling his own meetings with teachers and creating a new normal routine for himself. 

“He’s been so good with his schedule, staying on top of it and advocating for himself when a conflict arises,” says Calder. “The fact that he’s been able to adjust to it so well is so impressive to me. He’s very mature now.”

As for Matteo himself, he’s really enjoyed continuing with piano lessons while learning remotely. He also looks forward to daily musical sessions that are well attended by his peers, giving him a continued opportunity to just hang out with his friends and sing songs. And when it comes to returning to campus, he says he’s most looking forward to getting back into the kitchen for cooking classes. He misses his cooking teacher, he says. 

Until then, though, Matteo knows what he needs to do to stay on track. And now more than ever, he’s taking the initiative to get it done.

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A women helping a visually impaired student walk with a cane outside.

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