Just What I was Looking For by Sandy Lebon

     It all started with what was becoming the usual response after someone asked, ‘what do you do with the kids now?”  That was a new question for me, since I had recently decided to resign from my 15-year career to stay home with my two young children who were both on the autism spectrum.  When my cousin Mila asked me this question, I went down the line of the services my kids were benefiting from including Early Intervention, speech therapy, ABA services and being in the Boston Public Schools.  I also mentioned taking them to workshops at Boston Public libraries and various other locations. However, I was still eagerly searching for a consistent and family-oriented playgroup where my kids could build lasting relationships.

     That’s when Mila introduced me to First Teacher.  She told me about the Family Play Week that was held in May and all of the activities she participated in with her children.  I learned there was an upcoming Family Play week for July and contacted First Teacher the next day for additional information and to register.  From my first conversation over the phone, I knew this would be a great group to bond with. They jokingly teased me for still having a Hotmail email address that was telling of my age.  Unfortunately, the play week was full, but I registered anyway in hopes there would be an opening.

     I was extremely excited about a week later when I heard there was a cancellation and my family could attend the play week.  During orientation I met First Teacher staff and other families who were participating. We all received a detailed booklet with what to expect from each day of the play week.  It was clear that the activities were well planned out. What I enjoyed most about the orientation was the family participation. Some families shared pictures and stories of their experiences from previous years and offered answers to questions from new families joining the group.

     During Family Play Week we met at the Unitarian Universalist Church where families were able to bond and establish a routine with the children.  We visited the Boston Children’s Museum, Castle Island and the Discovery Museum in Acton. On two separate occasions there were parent-focused workshops at the Church where we were taught new ways to connect with our children and given tips to unwind with Yoga.  In the meantime the children were being watched by the more than capable staff, who did a tremendous job of keeping them fully entertained.

     My main reason for wanting to join this program was to help my two children, ages 3.5 and 2, with their social development.  The staff exceeded my expectations. These adults excelled in their individual roles as caregivers. So impressive was their ability to connect with the families that rapport was established almost immediately.  This familiarity is exactly the community sense I was in search of. Going forward I am hopeful in the idea of this newly discovered community becoming an extended family for me.