Stories

A Sister’s Thank You

My name is Grace Lawton and I’m reaching out to thank everyone who attended and supported the 2014 Zumba event this past week. The event was a blast with everyone dancing, eating and having a wonderful time, but for me this event is a lot more than that.

This event supports the program that accepted my brother Jack, and helped him at a time no one else would. Jack is one of the most inspiring, loving and wonderful people you could ever meet. Jack also has autism. He is non-verbal, has self-injurious behaviors, and struggled to learn even the most basic of tasks while growing up. But with his program at CMCS, Jack continues to learn and manage his behavior to live a happy, successful life.

Jack moved into a Cardinal McCloskey Community Services residential home after placing out of his program at New England Center for Children (NECC) when he turned 21. He now lives with three other autistic adults and follows a program that is tiered specifically to his needs. The program uses Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which helps him manage his behaviors and learn to the best of his ability. This program is unique in that it is the only adult residential program that uses ABA in New York State, and without it Jack wouldn’t survive.

Jack has had his ups and downs, just as anyone would adjusting to a new home and a new program, but now living in his group home and following his program for 3 years, Jack has been able to keep his abnormal behavior levels low and has learned new ways of communicating. I’ll never forget the day I walked into my living room to the sound of Jack saying a full sentence. Usually when Jack wanted a snack, he would just grab my arm, take me to the pantry, give me that smile I just couldn’t resist, and point to what he wanted. But this time, Jack spoke to me. He used his iPad to say, “Excuse me, I would like to eat a snack like pretzels, please.” At first I couldn’t help but laugh because the voice was nothing like I imagined Jack’s voice would be if he could speak, but then I found myself very emotional. Learning to speak in sentences is something we learn when we are toddlers, and we take for granted how easy it is for us to do. But for Jack, this is something he worked hard for and learned to do at his DayHab program at CMCS. It is a blessing to be able to talk to Jack this way now, and I am grateful for CMCS and proud of Jack for accomplishing something so amazing.

Jack’s success and progress with his program at CMCS would not be possible without the support of events like Zumba® and others. I want to personally thank all the families and event sponsors, including our Presenting Sponsor FECA, our Zumba instructors and all of the attendees of the event for helping Jack and the other autistic adults live successful, happy lives.

The staff at CMCS and the work they do has made such a difference in all of our lives and much of that is due to the support that you help provide.

As his sister, there is nothing I want more than to see Jack happy and see him progress each and every day. Thank you for making that a possibility.

Sincerely,

Grace Lawton

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