What does it look like to be a part of Jayden's Place? Below is an interview with someone who is already participating.
My only granddaughter, Nicole*, used to live near me but in March she (and her parents) moved to Europe. I was glad that they were going to have this experience as a family together but I was going to miss them. I liked to take Nicole to church with us. She was enjoying the youth group. We were becoming an extended family along with my other four children, who are as yet unmarried. After they left, I missed picking her up and doing things with her, as well as doing things with her parents, my daughter and her husband. In the summer, we were Nicole’s childcare. I would read to her, take her bike riding, swimming or walking the dog, even just being together in the living room or on the deck. One of our favorite pastimes was watching squirrels run around the deck. One day, we were watching one squirrel chase another. I told my granddaughter that I had never seen a squirrel lose its balance. Within seconds one of the squirrels fell out of a tall tree. We looked over the railing. Had he survived? We laughed when we heard a little rustle and the squirrel popped out of the leaves and raced back up the tree.
In the fall, six months after part of my family moved away, an acquaintance called to see if I could help a friend of hers. The woman, Nora, had a high-functioning autistic son who needed after school care twice a week, every other week. The boy was 13 years old, about the same age as my much-missed granddaughter, and was in seventh grade at a nearby school.
I called the mother then went over to meet them one afternoon. They were living in a townhouse that was identical to one that our family had lived in for 17 years, so as soon as I saw the house I felt immediately home. Nora greeted me warmly and I felt an immediate connection. Her son, Aaron, was sitting at a table with his back to me doing his homework. He was a dear person with special needs. She introduced us, and he turned around. He was happy to meet me and I could tell that he was a polite and friendly boy. He had good eye contact. We agreed to give it a go.
What kinds of things do you do together?
The first time he came to my house, I picked him up from school and brought him home in the car. I asked him to wash his hands, and had to check to make sure he used soap. We sat on our deck and ate peanuts, cracking the shells in the afternoon sun. Sometimes we walk around together, and he likes to climb to the highest point of the trail we’re on. He has a lot of physical energy, and loves to walk. He will sometimes get ahead of me, and turnaround and come back. Sometimes he wanders in the backyard and plays tetherball by himself. I started hitting the ball with him. He likes to watch it wind up the pole, and then release and unwind again. He loves the tire swing; he gets in the tire swing in a horizontal position, and needs to be pushed. He outweighs me, and is taller than I am. We have been bike riding together in the pool parking lot, and also in my neighborhood which is quite hilly. First, I made sure he knew how to put on the brakes. That day I asked if he knew about Jesus, and about how Jesus takes our sin. Sometimes, I play the piano and he will lie on the couch and rest and listen to the music. He eats snacks at my house too. Some days we will go to the public library and find subjects he is interested in. Our activities tend to be physical activity, snacking or resting.
How much time a week are you spending with him?
Every other week, 6 hours, split between two days.
How has it impacted you?
I look at it as if I were spending time with Nicole, my granddaughter. I used to work with those with cognitive disabilities at a nearby training center before my first child was born. We also had a special needs Sunday school class once. This time allows me to share myself and my faith with people who are very real and without guile. Aaron is transparent, very matter of fact and open. He is not pretentious. I am a caregiver, who knows how to be in charge when needs be. I am aware of his preferences and allow him those when appropriate—his safety is paramount. I feel joy from seeing him free and happy in the fresh air. My family takes walks around local trails with him sometimes too. It is like family time.
How has it impacted his mother?
To show her appreciation for us, Aaron’s mother made a nice birthday dinner for my husband’s birthday. His mother also comes to a Bible Study at our house on weeknights; she is ministered to by the entire group.
How has it impacted him?
After long days in school, he can exercise, breathe and rest. He is a happy 13-year-old. He can spend time outdoors, in a safe environment, with someone who enjoys being with him and taking walks with him and playing the piano for him.
*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.