“Throughout the past year of working at Club GiGi, I had never heard one of our participants, Thomas, say more than one or two words at a time. He is a very happy, friendly member of our group, but when we all share about our weekends, he typically chooses not to speak out loud. However, Thomas began writing down jokes to bring to Club GiGi. The first couple of times he brought jokes, he preferred to whisper them into someone’s ear to have them repeat aloud to the group. Over time, however, he gained more confidence and was able to tell his jokes a bit louder so that everyone could hear. He had us all laughing so hard one time that many of us were crying from laughter, including him! There was one week that Thomas did not bring in any jokes, so I was worried he might not choose to talk. However, he imitated one of his favorite characters, Mr. Bean, in a loud and silly voice. Even though he did not share what he did the previous weekend, I was happy to hear his voice! Just last week, he was able to tell the group, in a loud voice, that he would be walking dogs with Sidney after Club GiGi. Everyone was so excited to hear Thomas talk, and some people even clapped for him! It was the first time we had really heard Thomas talk and share something exciting in his life!
Club GiGi is a very welcoming, open place for participants to come and share about their lives and feel appreciated by one another. The participants love the unstructured nature of the social group that allows them to express themselves however they want. Some weeks, they choose to color, and others they choose to dance. It is always so rewarding to see friendships being built, skills being learned, and seeing their big smiles every week!
Natalie (Fantastic Friends at Club GiGi Program Leader)