Richie is a 25-year-old young man with special needs who lives in a May Institute residence in southern Massachusetts. Before COVID-19, one of his favorite things to do was to go to the store and pick out the soda, chips, and candy that he loves. He also liked to buy items such as Styrofoam and toilet paper that he could manipulate with his fingers until they became sand-like in texture.
Until March, Richie attended a day program in Raynham and enjoyed regular shopping outings. When the pandemic made it impossible for him to leave his residence, however, he became frustrated and his problem behaviors increased.
Richie’s mom and May staff members decided that if Richie couldn’t go to the store, they would bring the store to him!
“The idea for creating a store at Richie’s group home came up during a telehealth call with his neurologist,” said Brittany Roy, Assistant Director of Residential Services. “At the end of the call, his mom went out and purchased a stock of the items that he would typically buy at the store. I bought a shelf to display the items on, and we set him up with a store in the garage that he could visit often.”
Almost immediately, Richie was acting out less frequently. The next challenge was trying to get him to wear a mask – something that will enable him to go back out into the world again when the time is right. The new “garage store” has helped with that effort.
“Richie is doing so well with wearing his mask while going to his store,” says Emmalee Mello, Assistant Program Coordinator at Richie’s residence. “In the beginning it was a struggle to get him to wear the mask even for 30 seconds while going into his store in the garage. Each time he went to the store, he would keep the mask on for longer and longer. He is now up to wearing the mask for 5-9 minutes, depending on how long it takes for him to choose items from his store.
“One day, Richie wanted to go to the real store. So, he put on his shoes, went into the kitchen, grabbed one of his masks from the kitchen, went to the door and said, ‘store for paper.’” At that moment, I realized our hard work and his hard work has paid off. He now knows that anytime he wants to go to the store, whether it be the garage store or the real store, that he must wear a mask. I'm very proud of him. The beginning of quarantine was not easy for him, but he has adapted so well!”