A route to com­mu­ni­cate

Thomas Flynn’s pa­per route is help­ing him so­cial­ize with peo­ple

Northern Pen - - FOCUS - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS FORTEAU, NL

De­liv­er­ing news­pa­pers is help­ing Forteau car­rier Thomas Flynn de­velop his skills in more ways than one.

Ac­cord­ing to his mom, Thomas, who is autis­tic, has been demon­strat­ing im­proved so­cia­bil­ity since he started his North­ern Pen pa­per route in June 2016.

“All the other kids were get­ting jobs for the sum­mer and he didn’t re­ally have any­thing,” says his mom, Judy.

His par­ents de­cided that he could try his hand as a news­pa­per car­rier.

Thomas started with 20 news­pa­pers ini­tially, but has since ex­panded to 38.

Judy says they de­cided to set 40 pa­pers as a max­i­mum so it wouldn’t be too much for Thomas to han­dle.

“Within two or three weeks, he re­mem­bered ev­ery place, ev­ery name,” says Judy. “His mem­ory is phe­nom­e­nal.”

She ex­plains when Thomas goes to each door, the cus­tomer will en­gage him in con­ver­sa­tion. And now, more of­ten Thomas is start­ing to re­spond.

Judy is even find­ing he will some­times ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tion with other peo­ple.

“I no­ticed that the first time he re­ally ini­ti­ated con­ver­sa­tion was on his pa­per route,” she says. “He asked a ques­tion. Thomas al­ways talks to meet his own needs. But, rather than want­ing some­thing, he was ac­tu­ally telling cus­tomers about their pa­per and ask­ing them ques­tions.”

Judy at­tributes this im­prove­ment in Thomas’ so­cia­bil­ity to the in­ter­ac­tions he’s been able to have through news­pa­per car­ry­ing.

She ex­plains it al­lows him to get out in the com­mu­nity more and learn about the peo­ple around him.

“Things that Thomas didn’t no­tice two years back, he’s start­ing to no­tice a lot more,” she says. “He’s started pay­ing at­ten­tion more to other peo­ple rather than to ob­jects.

“Go­ing door-to-door, he be­came in­ter­ested in these peo­ple. And he wanted to know things about them.”

Fur­ther­more, adding to the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Thomas now counts up his own money at the end of the week and de­posits it at the bank.

The Flynn fam­ily was away for the sum­mer but Thomas is pick­ing up his pa­per route once again this week.

And, ac­cord­ing to his mother, he’s ex­cited to give it an­other go.

Thomas will re­lin­quish the pa­pers next year af­ter he grad­u­ates from high school. The fam­ily plans to move to St. John’s with him.

PHOTO SUB­MIT­TED BY MAISIE GROVES

Thomas Flynn of Forteau is autis­tic, but his mom says since he started de­liv­er­ing news­pa­pers he is learn­ing to be more so­cia­ble.

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