Kyle is a 17 year old young man with an infectious personality. People are just naturally drawn to him. As a teenager with Autism this can be tricky. Kyle has created his own way of getting to know people which he calls a “salami wrap”, where he rolls his tongue and then asks you to do the same. It’s his way of gaining social interaction.
Kyle attends Outreach and Respite Programs at Reena, a non-profit agency which promotes dignity, individuality, independence, personal growth and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities within a framework of Jewish culture and values.
Just like any other teenager Kyle craves independence. All parents want to teach their children fundamental life skills that will ensure they are successful in becoming an independent adult. Kyle’s parents are no expectation. They believe that “you can’t learn to do something you could be great at if you are never given the chance to try it”.
Reena is a place where Kyle can be himself and reinforce his independence, whether it is an activity he is participating in, interacting with his peers or practicing and gaining life skills. Kyle won’t even allow his family to walk him into the building where he attends program. Reena, for Kyle, means independence. It is where he gets to spend time with people his own age; playing sports, arts and crafts, learning new recipes, going to parties, swimming and Canadas Wonderland.
Recently, through a generous donation from the Toronto Raptors, the group was able watch a courtside practice, game and meet a player. While his family was concerned about how being in an entirely new space with new people would impact Kyle, they knew it was opportunity they couldn’t deny him. Going to the Toronto Raptors game would enable him to test out new social skills.
The most impactful moment of the entire game was when Delon Wright joined the group to answer questions. Kyle stepped out of his comfort zone to greet Delon with a “salami wrap”. Watching Kyle introduce himself to someone new, in his own way, was huge. This gentle moment truly touched the staff team at the game who knew it was so much more than just a simple expression.
Jaime, Kyle’s favorite staff member at Reena, who has watched him mature over the years felt that this moment at the Raptors game with Delon Wright “was a great example of how there is no limit to what a person with Autism can do”. You have to allow people to try new things, even though they may fail, so they can learn to do things they could be great at.