Allaina: Socialize to Succeed

Allaina has been with us for several years, participating in our programs as soon as she was eligible. Before Allaina began attending our events, her dad volunteered to make sure we offered the type of programs he knew his daughter needed to succeed. Since starting here, Allaina has thrived and dramatically improved her social skills and connections in the community.

Allaina says “I learned about my disability, autism, when I was ten years old. I talked to my parents about it and educated myself. I learned that people with autism often struggle with interacting with others; I did not want that to be me. I learned as much as I could about developing my social skills.”

Her first event was laser tag at Sports Fusion. Nervous at first, she only talked to the other participants when support staff prompted her. She says, “I initially joined because I wanted to make more friends. I would see the same people at events, and I started to get to know them. Interacting with those people made me want to attend more events. Now, I can make friends in unstructured settings.” Allaina is now proud to say, “Now, I talk to everyone. Sometimes I’ll voluntarily ask for someone’s number–I never used to do that.” 

When she started with us, Allaina acknowledges she looked to her parents to take care of everything for her. Now, she makes plans with friends with hardly any help from her parents, something she learned through us. Allaina believes she now has a more laid-back relationship with her parents because they don’t take care of as many things for her.

Allaina says we have shown her that everyone with a disability is unique, opening her eyes to people from other walks of life. Allaina says, “Through Pathways, I’ve learned to let go of what everyone thinks of me and focus on connections with friends. I love the Pathways staff. They are friendly, kind and supportive. They give great feedback, and they are wonderful people to talk to.” 

Allaina now has the confidence to set ambitious goals for herself as she becomes more independent. She has plans to continue her education and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, is working towards getting a paid job by learning vocational skills and continues to volunteer at the Jewish Food Pantry. She also participates in the SUCCEED program at UMSL, which promotes independence through academics, vocational experiences and residential life.

Through Allaina’s participation, she now leads a more confident, fulfilled and connected life.