|Jimmy in 2007|
|Reagan kids 2011 Holiday Photo|
In one of my first blogs, I wrote about the loss of Jimmy's smile - a giggly happy natural smile. Our family pictures tell a story of a young boy losing his way into a world autism full of confusion and illness. Over the years, the lost natural smile was replaced with an unnatural forced flat smile - even that smile was rarely present. His natural smile has been absent until recently. Holiday photos show a different human being. I often wonder why the change? Is Jimmy's art making a difference? I am sure that it is. Clearly, he is less trapped in the world of autism. But why? Might it be his sense of purpose and pride that his art has given him? Is his art responsible for bringing back that beautiful natural smile. Certainly, this is part of the equation. Erik's Ranch and Retreats is an organization that aims to make the equation Purpose + Pride =Function work with their innovative model for young adults with autism . Jimmy will be part of their pilot project this spring.
Equations are logical and make sense to me. Although many equations seem complicated, others are much simpler or the solutions might be more obvious than we might think. Kathryn Nordberg and the folks at Erik's Ranch and Retreat may have found one of those obvious solutions to what many have thought to be a complicated equation. The question is how to help young adults with autism flourish and thrive by leading a life with purpose, pride and function.
Purpose is a word meaning an object to be reached; a target; an aim; a goal; a result that is desired; an intention. Purpose's basic concept is an individual's voluntary behavior activity awareness. Wikipedia
Purpose is important for all of us. Yet, people with autism are less likely to find jobs that focus on their interests and abilities. In fact, they are less likely to find jobs period….leaving them dependent on others. Since Jimmy was diagnosed 16 years ago, I've said my goal was to make him a tax payer….that would mean that he had a job and purpose. Erik's Ranch and Retreats will help develop purpose for people with autism that lend themselves to their strengths.
|Jimmy and Karen Kaler at Eastcliff hanging his work Girl with Leaves|
Kathryn Nordberg's son, Erik, loves horses. He rides weekly, cares for horses and thrives in this environment. Erik is autistic and struggles to communicate. Through Erik's Adventures, Erik's Ranch and Retreats will help Erik develop his skills taking guests on trail rides - a career many typical human beings enjoy. Jimmy creates and shares his art. His work is enjoyed by many including University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and his wife Karen. They recently purchased one of Jimmy's pieces for the University of Minnesota President's residence, Eastcliff. Creating art speaks to Jimmy's strengths and help minimize his weaknesses. Jimmy will be part of Erik's Adventure's pilot project this spring where he will take guests to see his art on display. Through this program, Jimmy will work on weakness like communication skills. He is motivated to share what he loves - his art. So, he is more willing to work on what is difficult for him, like language.
Pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one's own or another's choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging. Wikipedia
Pride in what one does is important for a sense of self worth. Being satisfied in a career choice creates a sense of joy and accomplishment. People who feel good about what they do and who they are stand up straighter, look others in the eyes and have confidence. People with autism, if they do have career opportunities, are unlikely to be offered something that they love. Erik's Ranch will help identify strengths in young adults with autism helping to create meaningful careers that will create a sense of pride in these people. Everyone deserves this opportunity.
Function is an action or use for which something is suited or designed. Webster Dictionary
Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle , wrote extensively on the topic of happiness and its pursuit. Plato used the word flourish in his definition and Aristotle wrote that "happiness is a self-sufficient state of the active individual" http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-ethics/. I believe that happiness is the Function that humans beings are suited and designed for. Thousands of years after Plato and Aristotle wrote, these simple ideas are still true.
I hope for happiness for Jimmy. This means that his life should have Purpose, Pride and Function. I believe that Kathryn Nordberg and the folks at Erik's Ranch and Retreat are hoping to do just this for young adults with autism. Hats off to Kathryn and her team as they develop their model to help young adults with autism flourish and thrive finding solutions to the equation Purpose + Pride = Function