Like most families our household is crazy, busy, and chaotic to say the least. On top of the typical challenges a family brings we have a handful of unique routines and rituals that add to our crazy day. Our daughter is 11 years old and has autism.
When she was a very little girl, we had the same visions of ballerinas, birthday parties and slumber parties that most new parents have when they bring a beautiful little girl into the world. By the time our daughter was 3 years old our visions of tutus and squealing girls had turned into a reality of endless appointments, applied behavioral analysis, visual schedules and learning to speak in “first and then sentences”. Our daughter’s diagnosis of autism and eventually, intellectual disability, changed our whole outlook on raising this sweet girl and our entire family dynamics changed.
As school started and progressed, our daughter was a very popular kid. The kids loved to be her special helper,play with her and all her toys on the playground.
As grade 3 and 4 went by, naturally our daughter’s peers interests were changing and it wasn’t always their priority to play alongside her. As the other girls were becoming more interested in sophisticated play and conversations, she was starting to linger in the background a lot and relying on adult relationships for socializing and playing.
Then one day, the email came about a program called Leisure Nights at Community Living London. During our first initial visit to the centre, we were shown all the fun things to do- snoezelen room, smart board, hot tub, and Play Doh. When our daughter realized that she would get to attend alone and that I would be leaving …she was sold! She has the leisure night dates memorized.
Just the anticipation of the night ahead helps us get through our weekend.
For my husband and me it is an amazing feeling to see her run into the building, with a group of kids her own age and be herself, totally accepted for who she is. Her interesting sound effects, movements and speech do not stand out and she thinks she is pretty cool going out on the town with her peers and NO parents.
We don’t only have visions of applied behaviour analysis and doctor appointments, speech therapy, music therapy, and art therapy, we just see our 11-year-old girl just being an 11-year-old girl.
The 3 hours twice a month give my husband and me a chance to have one-on-one time with our 13 year old son, go out for supper to a restaurant other than Pizza Hut (our daughter’s favourite right now) and my visa card loves going to Masonville Mall. It’s a win win for us all. With all the uncertainty autism families are facing right now with government funding and support, the autism spectrum disorder leisure nights program is one of safe consistent support we have right now and we are forever grateful to Community Living London for giving our daughter and our family this opportunity.
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