SERVING FAMILIES AFFECTED BY AUTISM
As we shared with our readers recently, Wilkinson Corporation (WC) formed eight separate giving teams, four within our WC Corporate team and four within our property management teams. Each team selected their own leader, team name and causes they would like to focus on. Next, they each submitted grant request applications to our grant review committee to simply make sure the causes aligned with our company values, demonstrated specific support for our residents or community members and didn’t directly benefit WC or any of our team members. We will feature one of the selected recipients in each newsletter.
In June, two of our giving teams (The MAD “Make a Difference” Squad and The Bridge Builders) chose to partner with the Lynchpin Foundation. Founded in 2013 by Rob and Erin Lynch, Lynchpin is a local organization in Yakima that was established to empower students and their families to achieve social success. Most of their students/participants are on the autism spectrum. Lynchpin provides a safe, fun place for them to interact with their peers without the threat of being bullied. The organization is made up of a team of volunteers and has cameras in each room to assure the safety of all participants.
Lynchpin has many different opportunities for students to grow socially by creating clubs around students’ interests, allowing them to find people who like the same things they do. They offer a full calendar of events to choose from, of the most popular are Dungeons and Dragons, Nerf League, Minecraft and Chess. They have specific rooms dedicated to these activities as well as a Lego room, an arts & crafts room, a movie room and an air hockey table.
The small social groups provide an opportunity for dynamic, intentional social teaching and practice. The experience feels like a youth group or extracurricular activity to the students involved. Lynchpin offers a combination of direct social teaching and guided free time. Students look forward to the active energetic nature of group time. Parents appreciate the skills children learn in a comfortable, interactive setting and can watch their children through a one sided window. For some parents, it’s the first time they’ve seen their children interact comfortably with their peers.
Lynchpin not only provides a safe place for students to gather, it also educates their families. Students have a 60 minute session with a social educator. Afterwards they have supervised free time while parents get their turn to be the students. Lynchpin also encourages peer mentoring. They believe that students learn social skills not just through direct teaching, but by being exposed to others who are modeling positive social interactions.
Five members of our team delivered the check to Erin Lynch on July 27, 2022 and got to tour the facility. Our donation will help with a much needed computer upgrade for their Minecraft room as well as provide scholarships for some of the students whose families can’t afford the participation fees. Following is a beautiful summary written by one of the team members who toured the facility:
“It was amazing to see the six themed rooms and garage space specialized for students to feel welcome and safe. A therapy labradoodle dog (Russell) greeted us at the door and there were murals made from Legos on the walls as you came in. We even have an honorary place with the Wilkinson Corporation logo made from Lego’s on display! Erin shared a wealth of information about students with Autism and how much of an impact Lynchpin is making in the community. Her facility was packed full of things to do. The first room we entered had a classroom feel to it, used mostly by her social educators to train students in social development. The room had pictures of emotions displayed on the wall. It was discussed that these are there to assist students in understanding their personal emotions and better learn what they mean to other people when expressed. The next room we went to had tables and chairs set up for the role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons and artwork reflecting the theme on the walls. Another room was set up with art supplies and chalk board paint on the wall so students can express themselves artistically. There was a Lego room full of crates of Lego’s and bookshelves with Lego projects. A table displayed a large roller coaster made from Legos. The paint on the walls were custom picked from the hardware store to match Lego colors the students liked best. There were two different rooms set up with computers for individual games that students use as they grow accustomed to Lynchpin and develop security in their surroundings. It was discussed that new students don’t always feel comfortable socializing, and games on computers are made available to encourage introverted students to come to Lynchpin. As they become more comfortable with the establishment, they tend to voluntarily venture off to other rooms that focus more on building social skills.
Lastly, the garage was filled with an air hockey table, bookshelves with a large assortment of games to play, bean bag chairs to sit on, a movie projector hanging from the ceiling, and a corner full of nerf guns hanging from the wall. Erin said that the games and fun she’s able to provide for the students all have an objective of building skills in social development in some way. Some parents of the students are making special concessions just so their child can attend Lynchpin. One such parent had relocated to Seattle but couldn’t find anything like Lynchpin so made a move to Suncadia just so their child would be closer to make the trip to Lynchpin every week. Not all people with Autism mature enough to be average adults, so Erin doesn’t put an age limitation on her participants. Her oldest member is 33 years old. Sometimes she gives tours to families and find parents filled with emotion because of the options that are available for their loved ones. Overall, it was a productive tour, and much was learned!”