A Place to Belong:
Jonah’s Story

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Jonah, an out-of-the-box kid

From early on, it was clear that Jonah needed more support than his school and parents could provide. Coping with a combination of sensory and communication challenges, his frustration often boiled over in outbursts that caused stress for everyone–Jonah included. A bright and creative child, Jonah desperately wanted to connect with his peers, but social interactions felt confusing and fraught with anxiety.

Jonah’s mother, Deb, learned about The Brookline Center’s Social Skills Groups through a friend. These groups help children with autism spectrum and related disorders build critical social interaction and communication skills, connect with peers, and enjoy a sense of belonging, while also providing parent education and direct collaboration with schools.
Deb enrolled Jonah at the first opening. In the weekly sessions, Jonah and his peers played games like the “Cupcake Challenge” that required group problem solving and creativity. Some activities seemed simple on the surface, but required skills—like turn taking—that did not come easily to Jonah. The tools he learned were invaluable, and the friendships he formed were “expansive,” says his mom.

Deb benefitted as well. She attended several parent workshops on topics like navigating school recess and using praise to increase independence. The friendships she made were just as important as the content: “It was a relief to find other parents who understood my situation and who saw Jonah as a whole child, rather than a set of problems.”

Jonah has made tremendous gains. He still struggles in some social situations, but he’s learned how to calm himself when anxiety spikes and handle peer interactions more confidently. Deb hopes that her son’s skills will allow him to feel fully accepted at school one day. Until then, Jonah has found a place where he fits perfectly for an hour every week and a group of friends who are always eager for the next play date.

Names have been changed in this true story.