Every Day is World Kindness Day at Hopebridge
November 12, 2019
November 12, 2019
“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.” – Maya Angelou
World Kindness Day is November 13, but at Hopebridge, we have seen our autism centers’ team members, kiddos, parents and local communities display the most beautiful acts of kindness every single day. On this particular day, we want to share a few of our favorite stories that embody the goodness within those who surround us.
Rather than getting stuck on what children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) cannot do, here in our centers, it is our job to showcase what they can do, as well as provide them the tools to flourish into their best selves. While these kiddos excite our team daily by taking on their goals, there are some especially heartfelt moments that take us by surprise.
For instance, Hopebridge ABA Trainer Jayne Sparks recently witnessed an unexpected moment between two girls in her center and could not be more proud of what she saw. One of the girls, Kaura, earned some reinforcement time in the TV room, complete with video games. Another little girl, Daisey, walked into the room and Kaura said, “hey, please come play with me,” as she pulled up a chair beside her. Daisey sat down and watched her play since there is only controller. Shortly after, she pointed to the TV and then the controller to signal she wanted to play. Kaura handed her the controller and offered her a turn to play.
This is huge! Kaura gave up part of her own reinforcement time to hand it over to a peer…all on her own without any encouragement. Sharing is part of her plan of care, so this was not only a nice gesture, but also a great accomplishment. She has been working very hard on her sharing skills and seemed to handle it effortlessly in this scenario. Kaura is going to make more friends, enjoy more settings and become more independent because she can and is willing to share.
As a bonus, Kaura’s act of kindness made Daisey’s day. She made her new friend feel included and knows her wants can be heard, even without using her voice.
“Little” moments suddenly become very big here in our centers. While all our Hopebridge heroes work to make a difference in these children’s lives, there is a special act of kindness (or rather, many acts that culminated into one big special memory!) that stands out in our center.
It started with Hopebridge kiddo, Kyran, who has some feeding challenges that stem from ASD. Food – along with most anything associated with it – has been a struggle for him throughout his young life. From the time he started solid foods, Ky seemed to have aversions to nearly all options and mealtime became a daily battle. In addition to other challenges, Kyran could not tolerate being around others who were eating and would not step foot into a lunchroom at school.
What’s a parent to do in this case? His mother, Hannah, enrolled him in applied behavior analysis (ABA therapy) and feeding therapy at Hopebridge, among other autism-related services. When he started at the Richmond center he only had five preferred foods, but with help from his therapy team, he broadened his palate to 15 foods within six months! He also began to feel more comfortable around others eating in front of him. This was huge, since even meals with his mother used to end in meltdowns.
While developing Kyran’s personalized plan at Hopebridge, Hannah and his therapy team mapped out specific life skills and outings, one of which included going to a restaurant. When the time came to embark on the goal after months of therapy, he and Hannah were joined by their own personal Hopebridge Hero, BCaBA Lorraine Burwell Woodruff.
And guess what? Thanks to the support from Lorraine both inside and outside the center walls, along with the deep care of his mother, this happy kid had a smile on his face the entire time.
“To watch Kyran’s therapist sit across from him with tears in her eyes and tell him how proud she is of him…I love that feeling. I love that he has so much support aside from me. There are always people cheering him on for these moments,” said Hannah. “That is the biggest reason we’ve seen so much progress with Hopebridge. The people who work here genuinely care about what they’re doing. I can let them take the reins with my son because I trust that they deeply care for him.”
The reach of the Hopebridge community goes beyond our center walls and sometimes it takes a special act of kindness from those around us to tie it all together.
Like other activities that many of us take for granted, sitting in a salon or barbershop chair to get a haircut can be a stressful experience for families touched by autism. Our Hopebridge team understands this challenge and is accustomed to working toward this milestone for those who need a little extra help.
In this story, one of our centers took therapy one giant leap further! Clinic Manager Jayson McCord and Assistant Clinic Manager Carissa Hess intended to help these kiddos and their parents beyond the normal realm of therapy. They combined their own motivation with the kindness of Jayson’s sister, Kayla McCord of Fades by Kayla in Kokomo, to create a special day for the children and parents in the center. Having previously worked with special needs children during beauty school, Kayla understood these kiddos would need extra care and offered to travel to the clinic to provide her services at no cost to their families!
“I know these parents struggle with what can be such a small thing and it can be tough to find someone willing to take the extra time to have this done,” said Kayla.
The hair-cutting event was set up to be as stress-free as possible to show the children that it does not have to be a negative experience. The team prepared everyone in advance to ease nerves and spark excitement. Kids received their new ‘dos wherever they were most comfortable, whether it be on the floor or a beanbag, and they could watch and listen to all their favorite things at the same time. They took breaks and took turns holding the tools to ease anxiety, if needed. Post-cut reinforcers included candy, a prize box, fun photos and a ton of praise.
“If we can do one thing to make life a little easier for these families, we aim to make it happen. It brought me joy to see the relief and enthusiasm from parents when they saw their kiddos after their haircuts,” said Jayson.
It is stories of people like Jayson, Carissa and Kayla coming together for some equally great and strong children that keep inspiring us each day.
What acts of kindness have you observed in our centers? Please share your stories with us on Facebook and we hope you’ll join us in paying it forward!