Submitted by Alysha Donko, Laurel Okanagan

Edited by Gabriela Torres, Community Engagement Department 

On April 2nd, individuals around the globe gathered to raise awareness for Autism on World Autism Awareness Day. This year, we want to celebrate awareness, understanding, and acceptance of individuals with autism throughout the entire month of April by creating a mini blog post series featuring stories submitted by Laurel consultants across B.C.

Laurel Behaviour Support Services provides individualized behaviour support for over 300 children and adults with autism or other intellectual disabilities. Laurel’s focus is to help individuals reach their full potential and to empower the families and support teams who care for them.

Our first story was submitted by Alysha Donko, a Behaviour Consultant in the Okanagan. It tells the story of Raeya who underwent a large life transition caused by a big move into a new home. To learn more about Raeya and her journey, read below!


Introducing a Little Raeya Sunshine

Meet Raeya! She is 26 years old and enjoys taking part in a variety of activities like watching Disney movies, making crafts, reading, writing, drawing pictures, and using the computer. Aside from these fun activities, there’s much more to Raeya than meets the eye. Her story is one of growth and transition and begins a couple of years ago when she lived in a small homeshare suite. In this living situation, Raeya faced quite a few challenges. It was difficult for her to interact with others and venture out into the community to try new things. This was because Raeya often felt frustrated when she faced unplanned moments and unexpected changes in her daily schedule and routine. When Raeya became frustrated, it was difficult for those who cared about her to watch because they could see how it limited her options of places to go and things to do. These feelings of frustration caused Raeya to spend most of her time at home, watching Netflix instead of exploring all of the wonderful places that surrounded her.

Even though this was a difficult time for Raeya, she triumphed over these challenges with the help of a growing support team! Raeya was introduced to amazing new support staff and a behaviour consultant with Laurel Behaviour Support Services. At this time, everyone came together to help Raeya make some big changes in her life, resulting in Raeya successfully moving out of the homeshare into a supported independent living arrangement where she thrived. Though her family worried about this big transition, Raeya exceeded everyone’s expectations and fostered the independence she always had within her! With full staff support and a schedule tailored specifically for her, Raeya quickly claimed ownership of her new space and lifestyle changes. She began referring to her new home as “Raeya’s house” and even created a special area in her living room just for her writing and drawing and another area for listening and reading her Disney books.


Raeya’s New Home and Activities

Once Raeya fully settled into her new home, her next steps were to try out new activities. Her support team helped her achieve this by incorporating a few of her favourite things into a full and balanced weekly schedule that suited Raeya’s needs and interests. This individualized support has provided Raeya with a multitude of opportunities and encourages her to be more actively involved with others and her community. Some of her new experiences include helping create a monthly meal plan, cooking and baking with her support staff, and going out to the movies. Whenever Raeya bakes delicious sweets she never fails to say “stirry up!” to her support staff so they can get a quick start on their baking together and when she goes to the movies, she makes sure everyone is quiet before the film starts by whispering “shhhh!” Whenever returning home from an activity-filled day, Raeya stops before entering her house and knocks while exclaiming, “and she knocked on the door!” Not only has Raeya learned from her daily activities but truly enjoys having fun while doing them.

Today, Raeya is almost fully independent in her routine, her self-care skills have grown immensely and she actively participates in completing chores to take care of her house. Raeya has also become more independent in her community. One of her favourite weekly activities is going out to rent a movie from Leo’s Videos where she chooses the video she wants to watch and very comfortably interacts with the employees at the store. Her next goal is to independently make a purchase at a local Tim Horton’s. Raeya’s support staff is very proud of her for her increasing ability to act independently and is excited to help her continue achieving her goals when trying new things on her own.

Raeya’s new living situation and increased independence has also helped improve her relationship with her family. She now spends more time with her loved ones and looks forward to weekly lunch dates with her step-mom and visiting family during the holidays. Even though Raeya enjoys spending time with her family, she always looks forward to returning to her own ‘home sweet home’ or as she likes to call it, “Raeya’s house.”


A Whole New Raeya


With the help of her support team and family, Raeya has improved many aspects of her life and has achieved a new level of independence while learning new skills! It was only a couple of years ago that most people only knew of Raeya’s challenges and obstacles. Back then, what everyone did not have the gift of seeing is her loving and gentle personality, sense of humour, laughter and beautiful singing. Living in her new home has helped bring out all of these special attributes and has enabled Raeya to live life to the fullest. Both her dedicated support team and family are so proud of Raeya for her accomplishments and look forward to seeing her continue to reaching her goals in the future.

Meet Alysha! Check out this short video of Alysha, a Behaviour Consultant representing the Okanagan region who let us know about all the things that inspire her. 

This year, not only are we celebrating and encouraging awareness, understanding, and acceptance of individuals with autism, but are highlighting the wonderful work our Laurel Behavioural Consultants do in the process.