40 Blocks of Love

A few weeks before Easter this year, and unbeknownst to us, one of our neighbors sent an e-mail to the neighborhood that our son, Jack, was turning 21 years old on Easter Sunday. Jack, who has lived his entire life in the same Arlington, Va neighborhood, has autism due to a rare genetic condition called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). Jack’s TSC and it’s associated epilepsy along with his autism have made it very difficult for him to communicate, and thus he is not able to speak. However, with the help of Elizabeth Vosseller’s Spelling to Communicate program at Growing Kids Therapy, we discovered shortly before his 16th birthday that he has been listening all these years and can read and spell out his thoughts, by pointing to each letter on a letter board. Our neighbor’s email noted that “Jack’s parents and caregiver take him for several walks each day and work tirelessly to give him his best life.” She suggested that the neighbors all put out “Happy Birthday” signs in their yards on Easter for him. Since Jack’s family tends to walk the same route each day, some of the neighbors contacted people they knew along the way to see if they would put up signs, too. A lot of those people didn’t know our family personally, but had seen them walk by for years. They in turn contacted their neighbors, in an attempt to make Jack’s birthday walk special.

Spelling to Communicate, S2C, I-ASC

The night before Easter, several neighborhood children decorated Jack’s sidewalk with chalk drawings, and late into the night people put their signs up. There were about 60 houses along the route that had signs, chalk drawings, streamers and balloons out for Jack. By the time most neighbors got up, Jack had already finished the route once, and his dad was trying, unsuccessfully, to get him to go back inside – because Jack, with a huge grin on his face, wanted to stay out and look at all the signs (every single house on his block had at least one sign up, and a majority of houses for a four-block radius did, too). The next day, we put up our own yard signs saying “We asked Jack how he felt about the birthday signs and he told us “TERRIFIC”  “TREMENDOUS” “You’ve made me joyous”.

Spelling to Communicate, S2C, I-ASC

One neighbor noted, “All the time I spent making our signs with my family, watching the neighborhood kids decorating the sidewalk that night, and the joy everyone felt in doing something unexpected and kind, has made this my favorite Easter.” He added, “while thanking another neighbor who organized her neighbors to make signs even though they didn’t personally know Jack’s family, she said ‘OhmyGod!‘ It’s been the best thing we’ve done since the quarantine! It was therapeutic!”

Spelling to Communicate, S2C, I-ASC

Another fun fact from that day…Around 2PM on Easter, a group of 20-somethings came wandering onto our block. They had seen all the signs up for Jack’s 21st Birthday and wanted to meet this kid. Obviously, he must be having a RAGING KEGGER, and maybe, just maybe, he’d give them vodka shots.

Mara Flynn, Parent – Virginia

Jack, Nonspeaker

 

 

 

The mission of I-ASC is to advance communication access for nonspeaking individuals globally through trainingeducationadvocacy and research I-ASC supports all forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with a focus on methods of spelling and typing. I-ASC currently offers Practitioner training in Spelling to Communicate (S2C) with the hope that other methods of AAC using spelling or typing will join our association.

2 responses to “40 Blocks of Love”

  1. Kathryn bush says:

    What a kind. Loving, caring group of people that make such a beautiful neighborhood…..
    So thankful that my Grandaughters live here.

    • I-ASC says:

      Thanks Kathryn!
      Truly a great neighborhood and wonderful story to share. We wish all neighborhoods were like that!

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