MEETING CHALLENGES

By Chris Eversole

Jeremy Eaves thinks differently, and a Mustang High School team and his parents have embraced his differences.

With their help, Jeremy is due to graduate from high school this year.

Jeremy has autism. He is intelligent, has great comprehension, reads and writes, but he processes information and expresses himself differently than most of us.

“Getting things out is the hard thing,” said Steve Wilson, a paraprofessional assigned full time to Jeremy. “When he said four words in a row, I about fell over.”

Everyone in the high school knows Jeremy and Steve. Students and teachers see them as Jeremy runs from class to class – free to express his energy – with Steve following behind.

Mustang High School senior Jeremy Eaves has a big support team, which includes his sister, Jodesi; his mother, Trina; and Steve Wilson, a school district paraprofessional. Photo/Chris Eversole

Jeremy takes special education classes.

“It’s important to present information in a way that interests him, and then he does very well,” Wilson said. “He can do anything he wants to do.”

Jeremy enjoys surfing the web. He’s fascinated by Google Maps, rap music and the “Lawrence Welk show.” He loves to talk about food, and he sometimes cooks.

Jeremy has gone to Mustang schools since kindergarten. “We really lucked out with the schools,” said his mother Trina Eaves.

“Moving to the school district was the best decision we could have made.”

Steve, who also is the president of the Mustang Public Schools Foundation, became a paraprofessional after he sold his ServiceMaster franchise, which restores damaged homes and businesses.

He has been paired with Jeremy since he was a sophomore. “Today, he is much calmer,” Steve said.

Society struggles to help people with autism, Trina said.

That was even more true when Jeremy was diagnosed with the condition when he was 2½.

Doctors and other professionals had limited suggestions about how to help Jeremy, who initially had limited self-control.

Some people suggested institutionalization.

Trina would hear nothing of it, and she took it upon herself to educate herself about autism.

When speakers came to town, she went to lunch with them, eager to learn everything she could about helping Jeremy.

One thing she learned was about how to talk to people about Jeremy.

“I say, ‘He’s perfect. He doesn’t have a problem,’” Trina said.

As time went on, she started assisting other parents.

“It’s amazing to help them,” she said. “I love seeing them move beyond the survival mode.”

She now is the program director for Autism Oklahoma. Her work includes helping many family support groups across the state and planning activities, which include art and video groups and summer camping opportunities.

Trina plans to help Jeremy develop a business after he graduates.

“He’s going to be a fine adult,” Steve said.

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