Piecing it Together: Single mom opens Wareham store for folks with autism and those who love them
The Standard Times - 6/29/2019
Jun. 29--WAREHAM -- On her new store's Facebook page, Jessica Roy posted about her eight-year-old son who is nonverbal autistic having a "meltdown" that turned into laughter once he put four weighted rice packs on himself that he took out of the freezer.
Most items in the store, called Piecing it Together, are tested by her eight-year-old twin boys Brandon and Jason. Brandon is nonverbal and Jason began talking about 10 months ago. When parents or caregivers visit the store to purchase something for a loved one with autism, Roy understands.
Through the store that opened at the end of March, Roy, a single mother of four children, said she wants to bring awareness to autism and build a network of support for other parents in a similar situation.
"There's not enough awareness," Roy said. "People don't understand."
During a weekend church barbecue, one of her sons tried to take a raffle item that someone had won. She told him that he couldn't do that and apologized to the person, noting he doesn't understand, but she said she got a look.
In another instance, someone tried to give one of her sons a high-five, but he didn't understand what they were doing, she said. They were met with, "What's wrong with him?"
Piecing it Together at 171 Marion Road Wareham, is a judgement-free zone where people with autism are able to try out items before they buy them and parents can be at ease while they shop.
"Every child with autism is truly different," Roy said, adding that people need to educate themselves.
Training on special needs is lacking, she said. A library in another town called her recently to speak about children with autism who have meltdowns and how their staff can handle them, she said.
Prior to being a business owner, Roy worked at Comcast doing billing and sales for a couple years.
This new job allows her to bring her kids to work if she needs to. Before, there wasn't a store she could bring the boys to without them getting into trouble, she said.
"I wanted somewhere that parents could come, have all their resources in one spot, and the kids can play with stuff and not break it, not worry about it," Roy said.
The store carries items such as weighted animals from Quebec, compression sheets, weighted lap pads and chewelry, or jewelry that's safe for kids to chew on. It's all made to bring people comfort.
Older kids need items that will help them stay focused and sit still, but are discrete enough so they don't get in trouble or made fun of at school, she said.
As she opened the store, Roy started a parent and caregiver sensory support group hosted at the Wareham Free Library. The next one is set for July 11 at 6:30 p.m. Roy has also held free craft events at her store. On Aug. 25 from 1 to 5 p.m. she's holding a sensory Santa toy drive with the Wareham Police Association at Salerno's Function Hall in Onset. The tickets are $25 and Roy asks guests to bring an unwrapped sensory item.
The store is typically open from 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., but as a single mom running a store on her own, sometimes Roy said she has to close. But she posts on the store's Facebook page to let people know as soon as she can. On June 20, Roy told customers that she finally got a genetic appointment for the boys after a two-year wait.
And the name of the store just about says it all.
"That's pretty much what it's about is piecing it together, the little pieces of life with them, you know, and trying to make it work," Roy said.
Follow Aimee Chiavaroli on Twitter @AimeeC_SCT
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