Fostering friendships on the spectrum

Jul 16, 2023 | Communities

Some of the friends – Aaron, Nick, Austin, Bryce and Isaiah – chatting at the picnic held at Mackay Park.

By Mary-Justine Lanyon

(Photos by Mary-Justine Lanyon)

Last year, Melissa Post created a Facebook group, Lake Arrowhead Friends on the Spectrum, in response to her son Isaiah’s wish to make some friends.

The two had been watching the Netflix series Love on the Spectrum when Isaiah told his mother he wasn’t interested in finding love or a girlfriend. “I just want some friends,” he told her.

In response to the Facebook group, a small band of young men on the spectrum has formed. Last year they gathered at the Lake Arrowhead Pizza Deli, went on a hike at the Heaps Peak Arboretum, ate lunch at the Cedar Glen Malt Shop and visited the Mountain History Museum.

On July 1, the group met at Mackay Park for a picnic.

The mothers and siblings also enjoyed the picnic.

The mothers and siblings also enjoyed the picnic.

Isaiah, Post said, was very excited as the date approached. He told his mother that he couldn’t wait to see his friends again.

“For these young men to come back,” she said, “you know they really liked it.”

There were seven young men, ranging in age from 21 to 27, at the picnic. Several were “old” friends with a couple of new participants. Because most had already met last year, there was an ease about their gathering.

“I love seeing everyone socializing,” Post said. “It took last year for them to get acquainted. Now they just jumped into conversations. They’re real friends.”

The young men were sitting around one picnic table, chatting away enthusiastically. Meanwhile, their mothers were sitting at another table, also chatting.

“This is a real community for the parents,” Post said. “We feel no one else understands our situation.”

One mother said her son agreed to attend the picnic because it would make her happy. Another mother came alone. Her son, who is 18, is too shy, she said, and did not want to attend. But the other mothers encouraged her to share photos of the picnic, feeling that perhaps her son would agree to attend the next event.

Steve Ayala (blue tank top) told the friends about boxing classes at his gym.

Steve Ayala (blue tank top) told the friends about boxing classes at his gym.

Steve Ayala, owners of Apex Fitness Collective in Twin Peaks, came to the picnic to talk with the young men about working out at his gym, where he teaches boxing, a class Isaiah has been taking.

“Boxing can help with anxiety and socialization,” Ayala said. He brought another young man, Bryce, with him who is also boxing. Bryce said that others in the class – who are not on the spectrum – help him.

“I want to make sure it’s an environment where people feel safe,” Ayala said. He plans to offer a special class for Lake Arrowhead Friends on the Spectrum in the future.

Post is planning for the group to go on a hike when the weather gets cooler. Meanwhile, she will continue to communicate with the group and other families with young adults on the spectrum through the Facebook group.




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