BCFR Mission in Action for the McDonald Family

May 16, 2023
Leo is jumping into a sand pit at the Special Olympics track and field practice.
Leo sticks a big landing in the long jump at Special Olympics track and field practice.

I met Leo during a Special Olympics track practice while he stood in line for the long jump. His welcoming demeanor told me he was ready to get his photo taken and share his story with others. He took his turn and flew through the air sticking his landing. After showing him the photo I captured, he seemed impressed with the air he caught on the jump. I walked over to the line of ball throwers just in time to catch his younger brother Finn making a dramatic toss in the air onto the open field in practice for the big event coming up. Leo and Finn have autism and are a great example of BCFR’s mission taking effect for a family.

At a young age, the boys were assigned to Support Coordinator (SC) Kaila Jackson who connected the family with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy which was crucial according to their mom, Jamie. ABA is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. It is typically used to help people with autism and other developmental disorders learn behaviors that help them live safer and more fulfilling lives.

Jamie said, “The attention they (ABA) were able to give us was amazing. That made a huge difference that helped the boys socialize, fit in, and do things they wouldn’t have done.”

Finn rears back preparing to make an extraordinary throw.
Finn rears back preparing to make an extraordinary throw.

Speech Therapy was covered by their insurance when the boys were younger but when their dad changed jobs it was no longer covered.

“That was a huge cost for us out of pocket, and Kaila figured out how to get it covered,” said Jamie. “Now they both talk extremely well and they graduated out of speech therapy. It aided so much and helped them become who they are.”

Recently, they have also participated in EnCircle Technologies classes through BCFR funding which included a “Coffee Shop” class for Leo and a self-defense class for Finn. Leo’s class created the shop concept, decided on what they were going to sell and the shop opened for an evening of business serving family and friends. Finn is small for his age and was being bullied at school. The techniques he learned in self-defense class boosted his confidence and prepared him to face uncomfortable situations.

Leo is approaching his transition to adulthood and his current SC, Tory Sights, encouraged him to participate in the Life & Work Connections (LWC) Driver’s Permit class and the BCFR Career Awareness Related Experience (CARE) program this summer. After taking the Driver’s Permit exam twice before the class, and “it did not turn out so well the first two times,” the LWC class better prepared him to tackle the exam which he is scheduled to take next week. BCFR CARE is a special section of the CARE Program for BCFR clients. Tory referred Leo to the program and helped him find a job that was a good fit. He’ll start working at the Central Pantry in a few weeks and learn skills like stocking the shelves and conversing with customers.

Both Leo and Finn have enjoyed participating in Special Olympics (SO) over the years. According to Finn, “Special Olympics has always been a part of me.”

“They weren’t the most coordinated children,” Jamie remembers. “Now they can participate in school sports but before, they couldn’t do all the regular club sports. They didn’t understand the rules and just don’t blend in like everybody else.”

After many years of competing in Special Olympics, they were both comfortable participating in cross country in high school.

“When I went into this, I didn’t want my kids to be labeled,” said Jamie. “Kaila was amazing and then I switched to Tory. To have people like that in your corner that are willing to come to IEPs with you and just be there as a supportive person. You just don’t have that. And not everybody has a person that you can call and say ‘I’m having trouble with my kid, can you help me?’ And ten minutes later Tory comes up with ten ideas. That’s amazing! My children are so comfortable with her, and Kaila became like a family member after she wasn’t our coordinator. The case managers are just amazing.”