By Mary-Justine Lanyon
When Isaiah Mata was watching Love on the Spectrum (a Netflix series) with his mother, Melissa Post, he turned to her with a comment.
“I’m not interested in love or a girlfriend,” Isaiah, who is on the autism spectrum, said. “I just want some friends.”
That triggered an idea for Post. She created a Facebook group and invited other young people on the spectrum to join her and Isaiah at the Lake Arrowhead Pizza Deli.
Friends on the Spectrum was born.
That first gathering – held on March 29 – was a huge success. While some of the young men who attended were happy to socialize with one another, others chose to play arcade games.
The group decided to continue meeting on the last Tuesday of the month. The young men voted on their next activity: a hike on the Sequoia Trail at Heaps Peak Arboretum.
They met there on April 26. The participants came from Green Valley Lake, Twin Peaks and Cedarpines Park.
Before starting the hike, Mike Post led several of the young men in Brain Trivia, an icebreaker game, to help them feel more comfortable with one another.
Then the young men took off ahead of their mothers with Mike Post in the lead. That gave the mothers a chance to chat as they walked and listened to their sons laughing as they walked ahead.
“Isaiah wanted to do some activities with other young adults his age,” Melissa Post said. Most of the young men are around 20. Post would like to restrict the group to young men – and women – over the age of 18.
After the arboretum hike, the group headed off to the Cedar Glen Malt Shop, where the young men sat together and visited; the mothers did the same.
They were still deciding on their next activity – which will be on May 31. Some ideas include going for a Duffy boat ride on Lake Gregory, visiting the Mountain History Museum and having an outing to the movies.
“It’s easy,” said Melissa, “for people on the spectrum to fall into their own space. They socialize in high school but after that there’s not much for them. They tend to stay by themselves.”
One of the young men, Nick, said he had had a job but “it was hard to make friends there. Everyone was 20 years older than me.”
At the end of the hike, Nick and Isaiah struck up a conversation, much to Melissa’s delight.
“Isaiah was so excited to get together with his new friends,” she said.
Even only having met once before, Melissa noted, “they feel safe around each other. They bonded right away. They made an authentic connection.”
And it wasn’t only the young men who made connections. The mothers agreed it will be wonderful to have another person to talk to who understands exactly what they are going through.
Melissa added that she waited for Isaiah to want to do this – to get together with other young people with whom he has things in common.
“We’re going to plan things that interest them,” Melissa said. “Things they can look forward to.”
Other families with young adults on the spectrum are welcome to join the group. Email Melissa Post at [email protected] for information on upcoming events or follow their Facebook group: Lake Arrowhead Friends on the Spectrum.