"His life has changed; it's more fulfilling now."
Told by his mother, Jackie
He’s only 16 years old, and my Josh has survived cancer, seen his brother injured in a violent shooting as an innocent bystander and has done it all with autism. He’s a real miracle.
I was blessed to have a lot of support early on when Josh was diagnosed at age two. But I was protective. People are cruel to people like Josh, and my mindset was that he wasn’t going to go anywhere without me or our family.
Josh’s teachers and case managers recommended St. David’s Center’s Adventure program for many years before I even considered it a possibility for my son.
I can look back and reflect now, but before he had St. David’s Center, he had so much pent-up energy that he needed to expend. I thought as he got older it would calm down, but it didn’t.
Josh would come home from school each day anxious and agitated. While he interacted with his school peers, he didn’t have friends of his own. Our family, my other kids and their friends were his whole world.
I finally let Josh start at St. David’s Center, but just for one day. I took him there, stayed and watched. When we came home, he said, ‘St. David’s Center tomorrow?’ He loved it. Since day one he has wanted to go back.
Josh has now participated in Adventure for a full year and increased the number of days per week he goes to the Minneapolis summer and after-school sites, which are both close to our home. It’s such a comfortable and loving environment there, and his independence is growing.
They’re teaching him structure. When Josh goes out, they teach him to follow the rules. It’s things like being calm, don’t touch and hold hands with the other kids. He can get overwhelmed on outings, and they’ve really helped with that.
For example, if he’s touching too many things, the staff say to him, “Hands in pockets.” Or if he’s being too loud inside, they’ll say, “Quiet voice.” So they teach him, and he tells me at home what they say. Then I use it, and it works.
I now see that St. David’s Center is a partner to me in being Josh’s mom. Adventure is giving him a chance to experience the life of a 16-year-old. He goes to prom with St. David’s Center, has learned to make his own lunch, interacts with friends, and he experiences new activities in the community.
His life has changed; it’s more fulfilling now. He’s growing into a teenager. He has friends and says all their names. He comes home and tells me stuff about them and his day. It’s great. Sometimes I feel like Josh is just like any other teen, and that makes me happy.