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Caregiver honored for work with Autism community

Updated: May. 4, 2021 at 3:40 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Happiness comes in different forms. For 30-year-old Jamie, being outside is one of them. He enjoys walks and doing farming activities around the house.

Jamie has autism, and for his sister, Ann Flippin, the goal is to create the best life possible for her younger brother.

“He’s got a lot of talents and it’s just finding what he likes and running with it, but It’s been a struggle to find services that really work for him.,” says Flippin.

This struggle isn’t unique, especially when 24-hour, round-the-clock care is the norm, not the exception.

“It’s hard to find service providers to provide the level of care that individuals like my brother needs because the rates are so low,” said Flippin.

Adult services for people with autism are limited and there’s an extensive waitlist for Medicaid waivers to get individual care throughout the day.

“There are over 12 thousand people on the waiting list and 3 thousand that are already in crisis so we’re one of the fortunate families to have one of those waivers that allows him to live in the community,” said Flippin.

Rachel Matthews is a behavioral analyst with the Faison Center in Henrico, a space for children and adults with autism.

“I have the boys early in the morning and in the evenings, and they have daytime care so I can go to work,” said Matthews.

She lives with and takes care of Jamie and his housemate, Trey, who’s also on the spectrum.

“I’m grateful that I can offer some relief for at least a couple of families who didn’t know what would happen to their child. it’s just so important for them to know that if anything does happen to them or if the time comes and they’re no longer here, that their child is cared for and not just their basic needs and wants but that they’re loved and supported and they’re able to live their best life,” said Matthews.

The boys are like her kids, and like any parent, love doesn’t come with a price tag.

“She’s not getting paid to do it, she’s just doing it because she loves them and sees them as a family. We’re very fortunate to have her, I wish everyone with autism had a Rachel in their life,” said Flippin.

Rewarding Rachel with the NBC 12 Acts of kindness is a small way for Ann and her family to show their appreciation.

$300 dollars in cash and a $50 dollar gift card to Mexico restaurant. These two women are bonded by not only a love for Jamie, but a love for the entire autism community, having witnessed the struggles firsthand.

Rachel watched as her mom adjusted to raising a son with autism.

Ann is now the Executive Director of the Autism Society Central Virginia.

Constantly advocating for families facing a tough reality, as children with autism get older so do their parents, and that’s when things become even harder, financially, physically, and emotionally.

“That’s our family’s biggest fear, what’s going to happen to our loved one when we’re no longer around anymore and that’s why there are siblings like me, who are passionate about helping,” said Flippin.

Happiness comes in different forms, and for Jamie having his independence, living with Trey and Rachel is where he’s the happiest.

“Yes there are times where being with Jamie can be challenging but he always makes it worthwhile,” said Matthews.

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