So Much More Than a Waiting Room - 11/16/15
Did you ever think you could form lifelong friendships in a waiting room? Well, that’s exactly what happened to a group of families here at The Autism Project! On Saturday mornings, TAP’s Move & Groove social skills Group 3 meets at our Johnston, RI offices. Our Move & Groove groups are highly structured therapeutic groups, and they earn their name by utilizing motivating activities to increase joint attention and positive peer relations among the participants. While Group 3 begins their Saturday session, their parents congregate in our waiting room for their own weekly social group! The Group 3 families have been together for about seven years now, and both the children (now teens and young adults!) and parents have forged bonds of friendship that go well beyond their Saturday morning Move & Groove routine.
As our Move & Groove Group 3 parents explained, at the time their children were diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, “The Autism Project was virtually the only resource around. It was the only Autism-focused non-profit with a physical presence telling us, ‘Here’s what you can do.’ They even gave us resources to make grocery shopping easier!”
The members of Move & Groove Group 3 truly enjoy the various programs and activities TAP makes available to them. In addition to the group, most of the children attend The Autism Project’s Camp WANNAGOAGAIN!, and also participate in programs that they discovered through TAP. “The Autism Project has led us to other resources – grants, RI-CART, Surfer’s Healing, Figgy’s Art Studio, etc…,” one Move & Groove mother explained. “It’s been an amazing catalyst for a lot of different connections. The Autism Project works tirelessly to interact and partner with organizations all over the state – they really care about giving their families access to innovative and high-quality activities for the kids.”
Commenting on the impact TAP has had on her son, one mother said, “The Autism Project community has given my son experiences to help him have a more ‘typical’ childhood and teenage experience – like pool parties and eating at restaurants. We are connected to more ‘typical’ activities, like Camp. It’s just perfect and it’s made a huge difference for my son. And it makes my husband and I feel good to have our child doing something ‘typical,’ even if it’s adapted.”
All of the parents agree that in addition to the friendships their children have made at TAP, they themselves have built meaningful and supportive relationships with each other. When the Group 3 families aren’t participating in Move & Groove, they often enjoy swimming and going out to eat together (especially to Paula’s Restaurant in Warwick!). Our Group 3 parents shared that the Project was the first environment where their children could meet and safely interact with children of similar abilities, and it was the first opportunity they had to meet fellow parents who truly understood what they were going through. They have gone to workshops together, and send each other ideas about how to handle difficult situations or particular issues. As one father explained, “Not only has The Autism Project been a resource for us, we have become resources for each other.”
According to our Group 3 parents, TAP has made parenting their children through the formative years much more manageable, and has allowed them to keep a good sense of humor about it all (especially during the tough times). The families are all very grateful to TAP for giving their children numerous opportunities that they otherwise would not have had, and believe that TAP always goes the extra mile for the children and families they serve. Without the community they have found at TAP – and the friendships they have made in the waiting room – the parents feel their lives would be more isolated. As one mother said, “My child having Autism has been a journey, and in that journey I have met some of the best people, many of whom are part of this group, along with the staff.”
Did our Move & Groove parents have any closing thoughts? We think one father summed it up best: “Support The Autism Project and get involved if you can. It’s a wonderful place. Oh, and go buy [license] plates!”
A very special “Thank you!” to Move & Groove parents Lisa Palmaccio, Frank Pate, and Sharon Schubert for allowing us to interview them early on a Saturday morning! You are all inspiring!
* Move & Groove Group 3 at a pool party they had together in 2013!
L-R: Nick Parillo, Justin Palmaccio, Joey Schubert, and Anthony DeSimone.