Editor’s note: This month’s Self-Direction segment highlights Matthew Magilavy.
Mathew’s journey in Self-Direction began in 2010 when he was 21 years old. With tremendous challenges and deficits such as limited communication and social skills, Matthew’s Mom couldn’t imagine or foresee the growth and achievements that lay ahead, due to Self-Direction.

In Matthews words.

I have been creating art since I was about 5-years-old. I don’t think of it as “Art”. In my mind, I am re-creating and engaging with my favorite animals, birds, toys, and characters. When I see a movie or video that I like, specific scenes stay in my thoughts. I can always see them and so I draw them from my memory. If there is a character or animal that I want to interact with, I make a sculpture of it from electrical tape.

My other hobbies include studying birds—especially birds of prey. My favorite bird of prey is the Golden Eagle. My favorite non-bird of prey is the red-wing blackbird. I have many bird feeders in my yard and the red wing blackbirds visit often. I love to watch them. I also love white tailed deer and have been fascinated by them since I was a very young boy. When I lived in Lexington, MA, there was a family of deer that lived in the woods behind our home. I would stare out the window and watch them. The Holtsville Ecology Center has white-tailed deer and I have been making weekly trips there with my comhab staff.

I like to exercise. I always want my support staff to take me to the gym where I can use the treadmill and exercise bicycle. Sometimes, I walk on the indoor track and use the fitness machines. I’ve also enjoyed Spin classes. During the week, I participate in: Boot Camp on Monday evenings, Track practice on Tuesday evenings, Swim Team on Wednesday evenings, and Yoga on Thursday evenings. I am very busy.

What is your favorite thing about Self-Direction?

The one thing about SD that I like the best is that everything I do is centered around my interests. Although my schedule is very structured, there is the ability to make last minute adjustments based on the weather and how I’m feeling. I have wonderful relationships with all the staff and they understand my needs and preferences. They make me feel relaxed and confident. I don’t have to worry about unexpected problems.

What advice would you give others who are considering SD?

The advice I would give to others considering Self- Direction is to try it. It is a wonderful way to try new activities and broaden your base of experience in a non-threatening manner. Your life can be filled with the people and experiences that make you feel happy and safe.

Final note from Mom: Thanks to Self-Direction, my son leads a full life. He has routines, interests, hobbies and a new found confidence in himself. In nine short years, he made a special place for himself in our community and in the hearts of those who know him.