Sep 13, 2013 0 Share

Special Connections

Black and white silhouette illustration of man and woman giving high-five.

Last Thursday, we met with Cody’s case manager, program manager and supervisor at his day program for his quarterly review. I figured everything would go as normal—there wouldn’t be much new to discuss and the meeting would last maybe 15 minutes. Little did I know what was in store.

The possibility of Cody having a one-on-one aide to accompany him during his time at his day program had once been discussed in hopes that it might help keep him focused on the assigned tasks. However we opted to wait to see if that would be needed after Cody had more time to become acclimated to the program. But we learned Cody was already pretty much receiving one-on-one assistance—not from a staff person but from another client.

Cody has formed a unique friendship with a lady whose name is Laura*, who also participates in the program. We were aware of the friendship, and that as time goes by it continues to flourish, but we were not truly cognizant of how beneficial it would be for both of them.

From the start, Laura took Cody under her wing and soon they were inseparable as best friends often are. But their alliance is one which goes far beyond just a couple of people who like to hang out together. I was thrilled Cody was finally making friends. But I was ecstatic when I learned how supportive they are with each other. And because of it Cody’s advancement in the program is developing at a much more rapid pace than Bill and I thought possible.

It turns out Laura has managed to convince Cody to try things that no one else has been able to persuade him to attempt. Cody has never been really keen on crafts. Drawing on his computer is about the only exception to the rule. I’ve tried to interest him in trying different media such as making model cars, ships, submarines and airplanes, making his own T-Shirts with iron-on transfers and much more. However in spite of my endeavors to cultivate his curiosity I couldn’t get him to take the bait. But somehow Laura can.

A few years ago, Bill and I took Cody on a day trip to a local theme park. The park had carnival rides, junk food stands and employees dressed as colorful characters from the 19th century, performing comical skits. Of all the attractions at the park there were only a select few that Cody showed any interest in at all.

Recently the group from the day program went to the same park. Imagine our surprise when we learned that Cody and Laura had a ball riding all the rides, watching the craftsmen make their goods and exchanging lively banter and laughter with the nearly 7-foot-tall man who plays the part of the old-time undertaker who follows unsuspecting customers around taking their measurements behind their back while everyone else privy to his antics is having a good, hearty laugh.

In general, Laura engages in keeping Cody on task, and the staff says Laura is benefiting as much as Cody in this partnership. She is assuming responsibilities beyond caring for herself—and handling them quite well. But what is it that Laura does that can persuade him to focus on things no one else can?

As we were wrapping up the meeting, Cody’s case worker and program managers mentioned how they saw this as an opportunity to challenge Cody to step up a bit closer to the plate. He’s been attending the program on Mondays and Thursdays each week but they felt this was a good time to add another day to his schedule. And to add a higher level of structure and consistency to the plan, they thought three days in a row would be a good thing.

On Wednesdays the group attends a ceramics class. The staff feels that with Laura there, Cody has a good probability of being able to focus at a higher level and thereby increase his fine motor skills and perhaps develop a genuine interest in the craft.

*Name changed for privacy.