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"For the first couple of years of [David's] life, no one really knew" what was wrong with him, recalls Bob Ziff, a U-M professor of chemical engineering. "For many years, our doctor just said, 'Let's just wait and see what happens ... Einstein didn't talk until a certain age.' You keep hoping, hoping."

David's mother, Sofia Merajver, is a professor at the U-M med school. "The big dilemma you always have [as a parent of a disabled child] is that we are getting older," she says. "Someday we'll be gone. And what kind of life would they have if they slept in their childhood room their whole life?"

There was a time, she says, when David would travel with his parents all over the world. "Then one day [after a bumpy flight] he developed a tremendous phobia to airplanes--now he's very limited. A lot of autistic adults have phobias to airplanes."

David lives in the second ICW community, a group of apartments at Woodchase. Jay Fernelius is the community builder there.

"This is not just dump-your-child," Sofia emphasizes. "The staff is not always available, so if something happens, they call us." But David "has more friends, he has more connections here."

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