Building a life as an adult with autism

26-year-old Kyle Dumers runs NC Soap Opera with his mother

Kyle Dumers makes and sells soap for NC Soap Opera. He delivers food for Meals on Wheels. And he enjoys riding the train at Pullen Park in Raleigh. He is also a 26-year-old with autism.

Dumers’ mom, Karen, started NC Soap Opera as a way for Kyle to gain independence and interact with the community. Dumers said she began to think about Kyle’s future after talking to an elderly neighbor who had a daughter with Down syndrome.

“I realized when talking to her this person is going to be me maybe 40 years from now,” Karen said. “When talking to her, she told me her fear was she would die, and she wouldn’t know where her daughter would live, what her daughter would do without her. That was very eye-opening to me, because I never thought about that.”

Kyle and his mother make soap and other household products to sell at farmers markets and festivals.

“He wants to get married,” Karen said. “He wants to have a family. He wants to be able to support them. That [elderly neighbor] is responsible for Soap Opera, because she really did open my eyes to what it could look like 40 years from now.”

With the help from the Autism Society of North Carolina, Kyle works with Kurt Rundle every weekday. Rundle assists Kyle in his day-to-day activities, which can include managing operations for NC Soap Opera, volunteering, cleaning his room and helping Kyle maintain a budget.

He said working with Kyle has opened his eyes to what people with intellectual disabilities can accomplish.

“One of the problems of society is we pigeonhole autistics as incapable,” Rundle said. “That is just my assumption of society where if they were involved on a day-to-day basis of what they were capable of it’s incredible. I learned not to underestimate the abilities of people on the autism spectrum. They are capable of more than we expect from them.”

Rundle said Kyle achieving his dreams of marriage and having a family will be a challenge but does think it’s obtainable.

“It would need to be the perfect person and the perfect situation,” Rundle said. “The challenge would be some of the social interactions when it comes to disagreements. On the positive side, he is a very generous person. He will bend over backwards to help people. Is it possible? It’s possible. It would be a challenge finding the individual. That would be a tough one.”

Right now, Rundle and Karen are challenging Kyle to be more self-sufficient, especially with the business.

“I want to get to the point where Kyle is more independent,” Karen said. “I’m not sure how independent he can be, but he’s doing pretty well. Hopefully one day Kyle will have it solid that he won’t need me, because there will come a day where I won’t be able to do this.”

Karen said she enjoys the time she spends with her son and seeing his personal growth.

“As far as parenting Kyle goes, it’s at most perplexing but also the most rewarding thing,” Karen said. “He’s my best friend.”

“Who is?” Kyle asked.

“You are.”