Hi, my name is Jamie Gareau. I met Sheila a few years ago, soon after my son Alex–who has Down syndrome–was also diagnosed with autism.
At that point in Alex’s life his father and I felt like we were kind of going nowhere–and literally we could hardly bring him anywhere. A simple trip to the grocery store for us was an ordeal. Alex was having a really hard time adjusting to the world around him. It was hard to watch our son and not be able to help him. We were an active family, we loved going out, socializing with people, enjoying the outdoors but we couldn’t go anywhere with Alex. It almost felt like we were housebound.
I met with Sheila at our home, and it was during this dark time, and as we were sitting there and I was crying–and my son was crying–I thought Sheila was just going to think that I should be committed. She told me that I was an amazing mom, that we would get through this, and that Alex’s behaviors weren’t the end of the world. I think we live in a society that’s still so preoccupied with the normal, with children behaving a certain way in public, with being seen and not heard, and seen to be perfect. Sheila got me thinking, Who cares if people are looking at you? Who really cares what they’re thinking about us? So from the moment I met her, it was like Sheila gave me permission to let Alex just be who he is.
Along with that precious gift Sheila also started working with us and with Alex. With her compassionate philosophy, glass half full of hope and a bucket full of strategies, she gave me all these tools that helped Alex be a part of the world and to help shape the world for Alex.
About four months later I asked Sheila if she’d heard about these Gym Buddies and Small Talk groups and whether Alex might be a good candidate for them. Turns out these were Sheila’s groups through Infinite Resources Inc. She welcomed Alex into them with open arms.
The moment Alex started Gym Buddies is so huge for me. Of course I couldn’t leave him there, even though Sheila told me I could leave–not at first–so I stuck around and watched the staff with Alex. It was amazing. Even though he’s nonverbal they always treated him like someone who had something to say. This isn’t just Sheila; the whole IRInc staff has always treated Alex with respect, dignity and love.
This is our fourth year with IRInc, whether it’s Gym Buddies, summer camps or structured play dates. Today Alex is so happy to go to Gym Buddies and play with his friends. When we pick him up from these activities Alex has a little more spring in his step. We can tell how good he feels about himself, how proud he is. That feeling stays with him, and it’s made me realize how important it is for him to have this place–where he can shine.
The Plugged IN Community Centre Organization wants to ensure that there is always a place for children to be acknowledged, accepted and connected to the community – to shine!
Today Alex is a child who can sit at assembly at school with 300 cheering kids and though he might cover his ears and give a couple yells, he doesn’t panic, he’s not afraid of the wide world. I 100% believe this would not have been possible without the support of the IR Inc team.
We also have two younger children, both neurotypical. We’ve been able to include our daughter in camps and play dates with IRInc and we’ve seen that these are also benefiting her. She gets to see her brother in a different light, and to see the respect he gets from IRInc staff. She brings that home and I think it gives her the confidence and understanding to love her brother too. Come September she would like to drop out of her dance classes and join Gym Buddies instead–at her request. She loves the positive atmosphere and the opportunity to just be herself with peers. What I’m trying to say is that IRInc hasn’t just been good to Alex. They’ve been life-savers, and they have helped our whole family.
In the future it’s my hope that this incredible company can continue to grow, can expand and help other families. I also hope that Infinite Resources Inc. will be around to keep helping Alex with the challenges he faces.
With the support of the community, through donations and contributions to PICCO, many families just like Jamie and Alex will be able to continue to utilize programs like IRInc’s and so many more with in this inclusive and for community facility!
**Imagine if every day, every time you went out with your spouse or parent nobody would talk to you–they would always ask the person with you how you’re doing, what you’d like to do, what you’d like to eat–how frustrating that would be. Wouldn’t you want some place to go have fun and live life with respect and dignity. Sheila and the wonderful individuals she’s recruited–they just get it.
Sincerely Jamie Gareau