Rene’s Story

Cooking is a life skill that many may take for granted. It’s not just one skill, however; it involves several, from budgeting and grocery shopping, to following recipes and using kitchen tools and equipment.

It’s something that Rene not only enjoys but has gotten quite good at, thanks to the help he’s received from Aspire. A 22-year-old student at Northeastern University, Rene was eager to take the next step in his life by moving out of his parents’ home into an apartment with roommates and live independently. What he lacked were the skills and confidence to do that, safely and effectively. He also has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which can affect his time management abilities. He’s now increasing his level of independence, thanks to enrolling in Life On My Own (LOMO) from Aspire. Totally customized to each individual’s needs, this breakthrough program helps people with intellectual or developmental disabilities build skills so they can live completely independent lifestyles in their own apartments, with or without roommates, or in a group community.

Rene already had experience with Aspire’s life-changing programs as a child thanks to attending the Belle Center of Chicago, a non-profit serving kids with disabilities in Chicago that is now a part of Aspire Kids. Confident that Aspire could help him take the next step, he enrolled in LOMO in 2016. He’s been working one day per week ever since with Aspire Life Consultant Victoria (Tori) Saxum on techniques helping him acquire skills in such areas as cooking, healthier eating and budgeting. Rene enjoyed making pancakes and eggs, so Tori suggested they start by cooking other breakfast dishes. “Rene has more abilities than he gives himself credit for,” said Tori, “and he set a goal of cooking a meal for his entire family.” He’s already accomplished that goal by making his mom’s favorite crockpot recipe – teriyaki beef. It was a huge hit with his family, empowering Rene to move beyond recipes with a few ingredients to more complex dishes such as chicken parmesan pasta, which Tori described as “simply delicious.” Under Tori’s guidance, Rene started to learn a variety of different cooking techniques and master a wide range of kitchen appliances. He’s also adding side dishes to enhance the main course, gaining invaluable time management skills in the process. By combating his dependence on eating out by making meals on his own, Rene is seeing another positive change – more savings in his bank account!  “I still eat out a lot,” he admitted, “but I’m a lot more careful on how much I spend.” He credits Aspire for his success. “Tori’s amazing,” he said.  “If you need help or guidance, I highly recommend Aspire.”

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