Humming A New Tune

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    Casey Thayer, 22, was diagnosed with autism when she was 5. She cannot form sentences or words but communicates through her own form of sign language and humming. People with autism often have habits that help release their feelings of being overwhelmed or frustrated. For Casey, that habit is shredding. Casey, who recently moved from her parents’ Birdseye home to an assisted living facility in Jasper, shredded a piece of plastic while walking along her family’s driveway April 27. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey’s mother, Janice, lit 22 candles on an ice cream cake for Casey’s birthday April 27 at the Thayers’ home in Birdseye. Because of state law, Casey has aged out of public schooling and her time at Forest Park High School ended in May. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey attended her final high school prom with her mother at Forest Park on April 26. Although many people with autism are overwhelmed by loud noise and wild lights, Casey loved to dance and watch her classmates interact. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Janice applied makeup to Casey's face before Casey boarded the school bus at the Thayers' home for the last time May 1. Janice put makeup on Casey nearly every day when Casey lived at home, because it made Casey feel good about herself. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Janice and Casey’s sister, Hailey, watched Casey gently swing at their home April 27. The swing was one of Casey’s favorite things. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey rode a horse named Chief at Freedom Reins Therapeutic Riding Program in Jasper on April 30. Casey attends the riding sessions each week. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey nuzzled up to Janice next to a horse pasture on their farm April 27. "I am losing a huge part of my life," Janice said. A few days later, Casey moved out. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey sat in her favorite chair eating an apple while her family cut her birthday cake April 27 at the ThayersÕ home in Birdseye. The chair went with Casey to her new home in Jasper when she moved. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Doug and Casey made the sign language symbol for "I love you" before Casey climbed aboard the school bus May 1. Casey did not come home after school that day, but was instead picked up by her new caretakers and taken to her new home. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Doug embraced Janice as Casey's school bus pulled away from their driveway May 1. Casey did not come home from school that day, but was picked up by her new caretakers and taken to her new home in Jasper. "I wonder if she realizes it is the last time," Doug said. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey looked at her new home in Jasper from the passenger seat of Janice’s car June 14. Casey now resides with two other residents under 24-hour care but Janice often picks her up on weekends for the day to attend church services or visit family. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    After arriving at her new home for the first time May 1, Casey went to her room and sprawled on her bed. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Janice and Doug visited Casey's new Jasper home to bring some of her belongings May 1. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Casey loves to place both hands on Doug's beard as a textile stimulant, a common desire for people with autism. On May 1, the first night in her new home, Casey did not want to make eye contact or fully engage with her father because she knew her parents would soon leave. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald

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    Above: Once Casey discovered the bench in the backyard of her Jasper home could swing, she stayed there quietly by herself until dinner June 22. Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald