We just received this lovely email from the single mother of a young man with autism. She and her son, have been helping with painting and cleaning the ACRES house (we really appreciate their help!) She writes:
"Whenever I take him somewhere new or start a new routine, usually fights with me to stay in the car and struggles vehemently to persuade me to go home. But now when we pull up to the ACRES house and I say, do you want to go see your friends, he actually smiles so sweetly and follows me into the house! Yesterday he actually preceded me through the front door! That may not seem like a lot to you, but to me, it is a HUGE triumph.
We are happy together, and very fortunate that I am able economically to stay with him full time and take care of his needs without working outside the home to provide for our finances. We are happy and keep our days occupied for the most part to keep Him somewhat fulfilled. But what we lack - very much so - is companionship and social time with others. That includes mom too! I go days without hearing another adult voice. And when I am fortunate enough to bump into another human being for chat time, it is usually for less than five minutes before He is tugging on me to move on. I wonder how many single moms out there are in the same boat, navigating somewhat successfully, at least not entirely capsizing, but still, largely alone! Shawn feels this aloneness too, as I can see quite clearly in his enthusiasm to dress in raggedy paint clothes and spend - for His timetable - a significant chunk of time just watching others getting covered in paint, decorated with dust, knocking debris down from the ceilings into their hair, etc. - what must he think of all this craziness! But he comes to see you all again... ...for the smiles and the kindness that flows out of everyone that says hello and acknowledges that he is there! Kind of like the bar in CHEERS!
Truly, what a profound and beautiful function ACRES will serve if it is does nothing more sublime than to become a CHEERS in the life of those who are on the more severe end of the autism spectrum - a place where "everybody knows your name." There are many others out there, they are the "invisible" ones on the autism spectrum, the ones you never see in church (they stand hidden in a corner in the cry room for infants or in the back so they can fidget freely and easily "escape" after the first five minutes of too many people and sounds), or never seen in the grocery stores (their moms use Click and Pull at Sam's Club to avoid any extra time under the harsh lights and bustle of a busy store), they are for the most part invisible - but what a miraculous thing it would be if they all found a home in ACRES - a kind of predictable, welcoming "Cheers" hangout where they felt no pressure, and could just come by for whatever time they could endure in their comfort zone.
To just hear their name called out in a simple hello, maybe accompanied by a hug and the warmth spilling over of a smile, for no other lofty purpose than to just watch others, absorbing their joy and excitement through osmosis. That is a lot of what the more severely autistic world is like, absorbing little bits of love through osmosis from others who have the motor control and abilities their bodies do not to do simple activities like putting in a garden, cooking a simple meal, etc. But they do get joy and love out of just watching others perform these tasks, and being included in the round table of life's "Cheers."
I hope that is what unfolds in the ACRES journey ... and truly it is unfolding ALREADY! You will not see many of the "davids" in your prep time of the house -- they shy from any disorder and chaos. Power tool sounds are painful, the echoing of footsteps on uncarpeted floors are all "sandpaper moments" for a sensorily overloaded autistic, but oh how much ACRES will shine in the days ahead! It does not matter whether we make strawberry jam or are occupied chopping off micro-green tops, what matters is that ACRES will shine as a CHEERS haven of shared friendship moments ... where everybody truly knows your name! I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It will have a profound impact on many, many families."