Allen and I love going to the park. I should say that he loves going to the park more than me and I love it because he does. It became our “go-to” place since the pandemic dramatically shortened the list of places we could go safely, and living in an apartment doesn’t exactly give us a lot of outside access.
While there, we often see an autistic young adult with his aide at the park. Allen loves to wave and say “hi” now from a safe distance. One day when I was at the park by myself going for a walk, I got to talking to this young adult’s aid, Rick. I learned the young man’s name was Ryan and that he loved to go on walks, play games with Rick, he lived in a group home and would be going to speech therapy that day.
I told Rick that my son was autistic and as we continued to chat, learned that both Allen and Ryan were very particular about certain lights needing to be left on or off in the house, their incredible attention to detail (both can see a tiny speck no one else would notice), their love for music and most interestingly, that we both had similar goals for Allen and Ryan.
Even though Rick is Ryan’s paid aide, he truly cares for him. He also told me his own children have disabilities, and his patience, compassion, and understanding were very apparent. He said that before Ryan was placed with him, he had behaviors with other caregivers but not with him and that maybe not enough effort previously was made to match him with the right fit. He also aimed to increase Ryan’s flexibility by taking him to new places and try new things. I was delighted to hear that his goals for Ryan were so similar to my own.
Allen is very routine and schedule oriented. I always aim to “mix it up” a little. We still follow the routine he enjoys, but I add an activity that is new and unfamiliar. We will try a new park before going to his favorite, we will try a new game before playing Connect Four, we will take turns choosing books at bedtime, so he is exposed to new books, including his favorites of the moment. Not only do I see more flexibility and less rigidness, but that he is starting to enjoy the new experiences. This is one of the many goals I have for Allen and is in my queue.
We all have goals for the ASD kiddos/adults in our lives, whether we are an aide like Rick, who cares deeply for Ryan, or a mom like me who wants the best outcome in every way for her child. Finding ways to keep track of the ever-growing and ever-changing list and progress is another goal of mine. I would love to see the progress Allen is making on all his goals and keep me on track in helping him achieve those goals.