Editor's note: This is one of four stories on Boone County Family Resources. The other installments include a look at the agency's growth and need for expansion, the history of the agency and its work, and how the agency has helped Max Lewis.
COLUMBIA — Isaac Pasley had been driving with a learner's permit for two years, but his mom was still uncertain about him taking the wheel on his own.
"He was sure," Karen Pasley said. "But I just wanted some way to know if he was ready to do this on his own."
Because Isaac Pasley has Asperger's syndrome, concentrating on more than one thing at a time is difficult. Driving is a continuous act of multitasking, including watching traffic, maintaining speed, checking the rearview mirror and operating turn signals.
"I just wasn't sure if he was ready," Karen Pasley said.
She expressed her concerns to Isaac Pasley's case manager from Boone County Family Resources. Susan Thompson has been working with Isaac Pasley since she started at the agency about two years ago.
It turned out that Thompson had already been assessing the situation, Karen Pasley said. Thompson contacted an occupational therapist from St. Louis who provides driving assistance for youth with disabilities and people recovering from strokes.
Boone County Family Resources paid to bring the driving specialist to Columbia. Isaac Pasley was assessed for his short-term memory, vision, body awareness and other skills, his mother said.
The verdict: Isaac Pasley was close. And with two weeks of exercises the specialist recommended, he was ready to drive on his own, and his mom was ready to let him.
"It gives me a sense of freedom," Isaac Pasley said. "I get to be on my own. It feels like I'm in control of my life."
His independence is convenient for Karen Pasley and her husband, Jeffrey Pasley, who, like most parents, are happy to be relieved of chauffeur duty. But learning to drive was also a critical step in Isaac Pasley’s larger goal of learning to take care of himself.
For Isaac Pasley, getting his driver's license in June 2011 was just the latest "feather in his cap" that Boone County Family Resources has helped him earn, his mom said.
The agency also has provided job placement assistance (Isaac Pasley now works part time at a Columbia office and retail store for Boy Scouts of America), helped send him to a sleep-away camp for kids on the autism spectrum (he had a blast) and connected him with social opportunities through a biweekly game night (he can't pick a favorite game, but he does like the card game Uno and the board game Sorry!).
Isaac Pasley is now applying to colleges as far away as St. Paul, Minn. He hasn’t decided what degree to pursue, but he is leaning toward actuarial science or a similar discipline, such as economics, statistics or accounting, he said.
"I'd say that if I had to look after myself for even a day or week, I could do it, even though there's still some stuff to work on," he said. "Yes, I do have the confidence."