This weekend marked a great milestone for Matthew. He completed his 100th hour volunteering at The Wildlife Park.
He continues to enjoy his time there just as much as he was during my last post. He’s getting more confident by the day and is learning more than we ever thought possible. Mixing feed, welding, carpentry, landscaping, and cutting potatoes for french fries in the canteen are among some of the tasks he’s been introduced to over the last month. So much more than ‘just’ being with the animals.
The management and staff continue to encourage and praise him, teach him and include him in all aspects of Park life. He’s ‘one of the gang’ and is truly making a spot for himself. They marvel at his commitment as it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed that there hasn’t been one weekend go by that he hasn’t been there at least one full day. I don’t know if I’d have had that tenacity at his age. Yes, granted, I worked but I wasn’t up EVERY day by 7:00.
Now that his academic year is coming to an end he plans to increase the days he’s out there. Mike and I have no issue with that and are quite thrilled that he’ll have something to occupy his time through the summer. We have, however, stipulated a maximum of 5 days/week. He still needs his down time. He still needs to be able to chill out and sleep in. He needs to be able to enjoy his time at home with his gardens.
The skills and confidence he is gaining is second-to-none. With no disrespect meant to teachers (or the school system), the experience Matthew is gaining here so far exceeds anything he could learn in a classroom. He’s finally comfortable and confident with an activity, he’s learning vital life skills that certainly don’t come easily to those living with Asperger’s, he’s making friends, he’s part of a group of people who share common interests and he sees the difference his time there is making (a cut lawn, a built animal pen, a content animal, a clean barn, etc).
Something that may seem so trivial to many has changed Matthew’s world. He has found his nitch. He has found ‘his’ place. We have always said he would, we just didn’t know where or when it would be and in our wildest dreams we could have never predicted the outcome.
Last summer saw a big change in our family during our move and this year I see just as big a change as Matt continues to surpass even his own expectations.
Until next time…